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sketch of blanketed thoroughbred

Arrive ready

I’m not a big fan of horse racing, but I am a big fan of horses. I have a friend who runs some horses and she does right by them. When their running careers are over she gives them a try in a new job, usually as brood mares, and a permanent home. She’s pretty unusual in the field.

Recently I went with her to the track with one of her currently employed athletes. She’s been running well and is due for a win. Her condition is great. She’s a seasoned professional. She gets a little keyed up before a race so she gets the equivalent of soothing herbal tea and quiet time before tacking up. She knows her jockey. She knows her job. The race went off well — she broke clean from the gate and ran swiftly.

I can relate to this horse whose barn name is Buttercup, incidentally. She’s not young (for a race horse) but she’s not finished either. She doesn’t give up. She does her work. My friend says she doesn’t get a lot of respect from the race handicappers – so her odds of winning are usually set to be pretty long. Fourteen to one the night I was there. Not good but not horrible.

#2 racehorseIt took me a couple of days to see the parallels. My work is in top form. I’m not young but I’m also not finished. I, too don’t give up. And if there were odds posted for the self employed mine too probably wouldn’t look too great these days. I’m in the middle of a pretty bad run of luck when it comes down to it – financially that is. Like Buttercup I’ve been training well. I show up ready. I don’t give up. I’m also due for a win, or at least ready to finish in the money.

That night she ran a mile in the rain with six other horses. The conditions of the race were such that the horses were all well matched by the numbers. They tore around the track in a fairly tight group until the home stretch when one horse pulled ahead. It wasn’t Buttercup. She came in fifth. Out of the money. A portion of the purse goes to win, place, show and fourth. She did beat two other horses though.

Usually there are a whole bunch of reasons why a horse doesn’t win. Too muddy. Too dry. Got boxed in. Stumbled. Got caught in traffic. You name it. So I asked my friend. She gave a very rare answer in horse racing. She said “The other horses were faster.”. Yep. I guess so.

sketch of carrotAnd Buttercup. Her reaction? Nonplussed she did not act at all defeated. She was satisfied with her work and was ready to go home. Wow. Now that’s an attitude to embrace! That’s the great thing about most horses — such poise. So balanced. Such equipoise.

Now, my friend may choose a different set of conditions for her next race (slower horses, lol?). Or she may try a different track surface (dirt instead of poly). Reasonable moves. And when Buttercup is done running she’ll try her in a whole different career. I think she’s proven she will do well in that.

The Lesson

So there it is, delineated clearly how one might handle one’s career, its defeats and eminent change with equanimity. For me, a hard worker who has been feeling particularly defeated lately for a whole variety of reasons, the reality is I’m probably just running in the wrong races. Time for some changes.

Things to Remembersketch of apple

  • Not winning shouldn’t change you
  • nor should winning
  • Not winning might change what you do next, that’s all
  • Conditions don’t define you they just outline the job at hand
  • Your work doesn’t define you – how you do it does
  • You are not less for not winning
  • A horse who tries is a good horse and a good horse has other options

My friend is in charge of her horse’s career moves. You and I are in charge of ours.

True Confessions

This post was originally begun as a rant from a depleted trier about how unfair the handicappers (in my case clients, readers, network users, visitors to my online stores and blogs) have been towards my work lately. Now it’s true, I have been turning out some of the best most top-notch work of my life in every quarter and though I have moved people significantly ironically the inflow of cash towards my efforts has never been so anemic! Humbling stuff for one who still sees herself as a Derby contender. But clearly its time for some changes. Conditions or career, not entirely sure, that’s what I have yet to work out.


Have the handicappers got your odds right? If not it might be time for some hard questions:

  • Are you in the right line of work?
  • Are you bearing down on a breakdown?
  • Are you training well?
  • What else can you do?
  • What are your positive traits handicappers don’t evaluate?
  • Are you willing to try?
  • If your best isn’t good enough to win under certain conditions what conditions can you change?
  • What else are you willing to learn?

Ex-race horses go on to have successful careers in many other areas and disciplines:

  • dressage dancers
  • eventers
  • hunter jumpers
  • trail buddies
  • therapy horses
  • breeding stock
  • etc

What happens next depends on the choices the steward makes. We, you and I, are our own stewards.

Creative Consideration 

My favorite race horse of all time - 100 starts - no wins - forever beloved.

Give yourself a race horse name. Then choose your barn name. (A barn name is more like a nickname).

Choose a horse in the upcoming Kentucky Derby and follow his (or her) career path as we get closer to the race. Here’s a handy reference to the Derby prep race. Let that horse be your stand in for your race career. Keep track of how you feel about your namesake’s career moves, accomplishments and defeats. Think about how you would do things differently. Find the parallels between this wonderful beautiful athlete and yourself. Know that no race defines you. It is a major win to come in first in the ‘run for the roses’ that is true. But even some of those former champions have fallen on hard times. Remember – you are your own steward. Its up to you to make good choices.