Team MG Members can view all four rounds of my final, and recap of the competition, including live commentary, in the Team MG private Facebook group. Join here to get access.
I’m Kelsey Gascon, Michael Gascon’s wife, trick rider, horse trainer, and a fierce competitor. I just competed in my first ever colt starting competition.
I didn’t take home the ribbon I wanted, but I still won.
You see, I’m constantly struggling between the pull of my competitive side and what I’m learning as a horse trainer.
If you haven’t met me, I’m an INCREDIBLY competitive person. I love to compete, and I love even more to win (as long as I deserve it – no cheating here!). I love it so much, I create mini competitions at home, like that time last year Michael and I pulled unbroken 3-year olds from the field and gave ourselves 7-days to make them the most broke horses on the property.
So this weekend I went to the Everything Equine Expo to compete in my first female-only Colt Starting Competition with one goal in mind: to win.
The format of the competition was that we had a mare who had never been handled in a round pen. Each competitor had to catch the horse. Then, over the course of four one-hour sessions spread across two days, we had to catch, gentle, break, and prepare our horse for a finalé. We could only work in the round pen and the indoor. On the last day, we would show off our mounts over an obstacle course in the indoor.
Keeping Your End Goal In Mind
The mare I drew was a feisty blue roan. Once I caught her and started working with her, I realized she didn’t have as much forward as I would have liked. She was the type to stop and get stuck when she didn’t want to go. And so – like all good horse trainers – I tweaked my approach. Instead of teaching her the stop and the back early on in the process, I instead focused on rewarding every step towards forward motion.
I did this to make her a calm, confident, forward-thinking mount for whatever her future held. The horse trainer in me wanted her to be soft and move where I told her on a completely loose, gentle rein. And the horse train
I chose to ride for what the ultimate goal was: to make this mare a kind, competent, and brave mount for her new owner.
And it lost me the competition.
The Struggle Of Being A Horse Trainer – And A Competitor
You see, that’s the struggle with being a horse trainer and a competitor at the same time. Could I have made a different choice and set myself up better to win the competition? Probably.
But making those different choices would have potentially set this mare up for a lifetime of struggles and fighting with her riders.
And the horse trainer in me just couldn’t do that. So, I took home 3rd instead of 1st.
What Good Horsemen Do When They Don’t Win
After I finished and listened to the announcer read my 3rd place finish, I didn’t sulk. I didn’t complain.
But I did get every piece of feedback I could.
I discussed – at length – what I could have done differently to win with people who were watching from the outside. I reflected on their feedback and ideas. We identified a few moments I could have changed my approach that may have better set me up to get forward motion without sacrificing the stop and the back buttons.
I would have taken her out of the round pen on our second ride, and ensured that she could go-go-go. And I would have set up my redneck round pen and worked her through pre-kindergarten of the MG Method before I even tried to halter her.
But hindsight is 20-20, and now I know that the next colt start I do where I have a horse with less “go” than “Woah”, I try something different.
This weekend I could have made a few different decisions. And if I had, I might have even won. Though in all likelihood, I would have set the mare up for a future of challenging training.
And the horse trainer in me couldn’t let that happen.
The little mare is totally set up for success in her future career – just look what she did in her first 48 hours!