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My First Mustang Challenge | Participating in Teens And Oregon Mustangs 2023

One of my recent life philosophies emphasizes seizing the moment rather than waiting for the perfect timing. Events can be canceled, changed, or cease to be available, underlining the importance of taking action. In 2023, I made the decision that this year would be the one where I participate, entering as an adult, in the Teens and Oregon Mustangs competition.

Initially, I anticipated that the journey would revolve around the horse, and indeed, it did. However, it wasn't just about the horse. Competitors were given a little over 100 days to transform wild mustangs from wild to willing, preparing them for a competition that showcased their handleability from the ground and their training level under saddle.

As the days unfolded, the journey evolved into something much more profound than merely training a horse. It became a journey of facing fears, maintaining consistency, recognizing flaws within myself, and embracing the art of patience. The experience transcended the realm of horsemanship, delving into personal growth and self-discovery.

Despite a litany of excuses I had crafted to justify my non-participation in previous years, the core reason ultimately boiled down to fear. It was a fear of failure, a fear of judgment from others, and a fear of venturing into uncharted territory with something I had never done before. It wasn't until participating this year that I came to the realization of the true nature of these fears.

I am deeply grateful to Teens and Oregon Mustangs for providing this unique competition opportunity, and to my horse, Coal, for being a willing partner in this endeavor. Even without the defined timeline and the competitive aspect, the journey would have undoubtedly been rewarding. However, as the journey unfolded, it became apparent that the structured timeline and competitive environment led me to face personal challenges more profoundly than I ever anticipated. This unexpected depth of self-discovery turned out to be more valuable to me than I could have possibly known.

Meeting other trainers behind the scenes at the competition was a real highlight for me. Connecting with people who share the same love for horses added a special touch beyond the competition setting. It didn't "feel" like a normal horse show. Everyone that was there had started on a level playing field and had faced their own struggles throughout the time alotted. The energy behind the scenes was not so tense, and competitors cheered eachother on, creating a supportive atmosphere that made the whole journey even more meaningful.

I want to encourage anyone contemplating a similar challenge to take the leap. Fill out that application and give it a try – you'll undoubtedly grow from the experience.

-Leilani Nichols

Strides Horsemanship Owner

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