July 16, 2015 admin

PURPOSE: Four Steps, Each Three Feet Long

by Claire Larson

Age 17. Oregon

Four steps, each three feet long, can make all the difference. These steps are crucial in a “course-walk”, equestrian jargon for going out onto the course to analyze the best path for horse and rider to take. The technical aspect of this course-walk is based on the fact that every four steps roughly equate to a horse’s stride at the gallop. As a very young girl, I found this fact quite boring and irrelevant when my trainer would shout, “Two strides between those fences, Claire, not one!” as I shot like a missile out of the saddle and through the air leaving my pony standing there, just as baffled as the trainer. Needless to say, I quickly learned the importance of paying attention to the details of the “course-walk”.

I see my life as a show jumping course.


Years later at an important competition, my coach drew a parallel between riding and life. Walking in between two fences in the pounding Oregon rain to calculate the number of strides in a seventy-two foot line, my coach said, “You know, Claire, a show jumping course is kind of like life. In order for it to be what you want, you need to have a plan and ride each stride with passion and focus. Not every stride will be smooth, but at the end, you want to feel like you did not miss a beat.” Her words have echoed in my mind ever since. It was a defining moment as I realized that I could still stay true to that fearless little girl while also executing a carefully planned and focused ride.


I vividly remember the ride after that course-walk. Eager as always, I wanted to get into the arena and demonstrate to my coach that I was truly inspired by what she had said. Riding into the ring, I swear my horse could sense this light that had illuminated in my head. His whole demeanor was amped up as his weight shifted back and forth. The connection between my hands and the bit in his mouth showed me that he was seeking cues to take off.  I was completely ready to harness this energy and put together an unforgettable round. My horse and I worked together to meet each obstacle with just the right momentum, flying over each fence powerfully. The buzzer sounded the victorious tone. It was evident that the intricate details of my “course-walk” combined with fearless teamwork between me and my horse had made it possible to face daunting obstacles.

I want to be present every stride, every step, and every beat of my life.


I see my life as a show jumping course. There will be times that I fall and have to pick myself up and instances that feel out of my control. Yet, I am going to face life’s difficult challenges in the same way that I navigate and skillfully clear large obstacles. The combination of my fearless mentality and meticulous preparation is essential in my life both inside and outside of the arena. I am confident that I can embrace my future with boldness because I can always draw on the foundation that I have built in my life’s course-walk. I want to be present every stride, every step, and every beat of my life.

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