By Howard J. Cormier, LSU AgCenter Southwest Regional Equine Agent
We have recently completed the 2018 La. 4-H and FFA Horse Show season, and winners will now go on to compete at the Southern Regional 4-H Horse Championships in Perry, Georgia. As a 4-H instructor, an observer of the 4-H competition, and a competitor myself in the La. Equine Council Ranch Riding event, I want to share some of my observations about what it takes to be a consistent winner.
Everyone has their own ideas about how to succeed, but most winners will agree about some basic assumptions. First of all, it takes hard work. One can win by luck, but that doesn’t offer consistent success. To be a winner means that competitors will dedicate themselves to the goal on a long-term and consistent basis. They must ride when it’s hot, cold, rainy, dry, dusty, late, or early. And they must be willing to lose as they learn. They must be willing to start from the bottom to make it to the top. I always compared winning to climbing a ladder. Almost all individuals climb a ladder the same way- starting from the bottom rung. In my years of coaching 4-H kids and some adults, I have seen the results of winning without effort. It leads to disappointment when the kids expect to win again, and they don’t. If it comes easily, without much effort, the results and euphoria will be short-lived, and the lessons of hard work and perseverance will be missed. The same lessons apply to us as adults.
Many times, competitors simply go through the motions of working to win, without having a goal in mind. If you are working because someone else is making you, such as a parent, spouse, or other person, your chances of reaching your goals are greatly reduced. YOU have to want success enough to do whatever it takes to win- legally. That last word has trapped many would- be winners who want to take shortcuts. If winning is the only goal, without self- improvement and character development, the win will be hollow. Just look at the kids who win because mommy or daddy or a hired hand does all the work. It doesn’t mean anything. Anything illegal almost always comes back to haunt to doer of the deed. Getting a reputation as a cheater is worse than not winning.
So what about hard work? You must have goals, and a reason to work. You have to study the game or event you are interested in winning. You have to know what to do to improve. You have to take care of details, like grooming your horse, cleaning your tack, proper dress for the event, good nutrition, and knowing the rules. If you feel that you can’t win because the judge is unfair, or the system is rigged against you, maybe you need to try something else. Most judges I know want to reward the best performances, regardless of who is in the saddle. That’s not to say that a sour attitude doesn’t hurt your chances to win. If you are rude or disrespectful during a pre-show clinic, don’t expect the judge to be able to forget that rudeness when you compete. He/she is only human, and will be mindful of your attitude, even before the actual class begins.
Ask questions if your performance and results don’t match up. Try to video your run. Ask the judge for his reasons for your placing, if that is allowed. Most times he will be happy to help you, if time permits. Perhaps a friend can point out your mistakes to help you. It’s all about eliminating your errors until your run is flawless.
Don’t focus on beating someone else. That can lead to jealousy and ill-feelings. Focus on beating your last performance, and cheer for your rivals, as you hope they will cheer for you when you win.
Try to act like a winner, regardless of how you place in the competition.
Competition is not easy. You are putting yourself out there for everyone to see how good you are, or how good you’re not. You are opening yourself to critique, and sometimes, to criticism. Most of those who criticize are not competitors themselves. Competitors are traveling the same course you are, even if they’re ahead of you. If they offer advice, consider it and if it can help you. Just because they beat you at one show doesn’t make them a better horseman. It only means they beat you that day.
If someone is trying to help you, whether for free or for a fee, it’s up to you to practice. Most coaches want you to succeed. If you brag about not riding or practicing since the last lesson, they will lose interest in helping you, even if you are paying them. Don’t waste their time and yours by not practicing. You will soon lose their support and enthusiasm for trying to make a difference for you.
Finally, eat right, avoid bad habits beyond moderation, get enough sleep, and say thank you to those who help you. And by the way, if you only ride to enjoy friends, a pretty day, or a peaceful trail, that’s fine, too. Be safe!
Story by Amelia Kent
Farmers and ranchers have had the spotlight of national media attention for the past several months, and not necessarily in a positive light. Of course the trade negotiations are a recurring story, whether it’s the impacts of NAFTA or trade wars with China. As our margins are already tight, and we’ve already experienced market declines based on speculation, I hope these trade talks settle in a few short-term battles rather than a long-lasting war. But trade isn’t the only topic bringing attention to farmers and ranchers. Thanks in large part to a Centers for Disease Control Study released in 2016, numerous stories and articles by many of the national and international media outlets have covered suicide rates among farmers and ranchers.
Upon reading these articles, I found myself simultaneously unsurprised and taken aback. Yes, our farm incomes have fallen upwards to 50% since 2013. Some market prices are exactly the same as they were decades ago. The dairy industry is facing a compounded challenge of low prices with an unfathomable oversupply. In a conversation with a dairy farmer, he compared the 1% oversupply that led to the dairy buyout in the mid-1980s, to today’s surplus in excess of 12%. We all know exactly how tough the farm economy is because we live and breathe it every single day.
Yet, I was surprised by some of the suicide-rate comparisons. Although the CDC retracted the study and is now recalculating it with more accurate numbers, suicide rates in rural areas are exponentially higher than in urban areas. The study found rates among farmers, ranchers, fisherman and loggers, presented as one group, was more than double that of veterans or emergency workers. When you think about the variables we have no control over, such as volatile markets, weather, or a natural disaster destroying the crop, the stress farmers carry is intense on a good day. Furthermore, the access to mental health professionals tends to be lacking in rural areas.
Another hindrance farmers and ranchers face is cultural. Dr. Mike Rosmann, an Iowa farmer, a psychologist, and one of the nation’s leading farmer behavioral health experts, has developed the agrarian imperative theory. Through years of working with farmers and ranchers, he’s concluded people engaged in farming have a strong urge to supply essentials for human life, and to produce these goods at all costs. When farmers can’t fulfill this purpose, they feel despair. The same drive that blesses farmers in good, successful years, exacerbates the struggles of bad years. Dr. Rosmann worked with Sowing Seeds of Hope, which connected farmers to affordable behavioral health services. This program became the model for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), which was included in the 2008 Farm Bill, but not funded.
A friend relayed a conversation he had with a young farmer. This farmer conveyed how very concerned he is with the current economic outlook for agriculture, and how overwhelming that stress is. He also remarked that his father views this current situation with the outlook that if they made it through the 1980s farming recession, they’ll make it through this one too – almost a cautious optimism in spite of the younger farmer’s worry. While I was a child in the 80s, through the lenses of my child’s eyes, I do remember how stressful it was for my parents.
Now is a very real time we need to be available to our friends, neighbors and peers. If you made it through the last hard time in farming, and now see someone facing this challenge for the first time, lend an ear or offer some words of encouragement. What helped you get through the last struggle? I’m sure those words of experience are helpful to the younger generation. If you’re facing this farming recession for the first time, check on your farming friends. More than likely, you’re sharing some of the same challenges. Those challenges get easier when you know others are in the same situation.
Amelia Kent and her husband, Russell, raise beef cattle and hay in East Feliciana Parish. Amelia is a past chair of Louisiana’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, is currently a member of the - Partners in Advocacy Leadership program with AFBF, and serves on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Find them on Facebook at Kent Farms; or on Instagram and Twitter @kentfarms_la.