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It’s More Than Just A Ribbon

I’ll never forget the words I once heard from the farm owner of a show venue. “Well Emily, if a ribbon means ‘that’ much to you , I’ll give you a ribbon.”

Back story .. I signed West and myself up for a dressage show on my birthday last winter. We went, and we won. I waited and sat around forever for my ribbon. When I finally approached the farm owner, she told me that since the class didn’t fill all the way, she wasn’t giving ribbons. As you can imagine, I pitched my best fit.

Aside from the fact that I paid good money, I trailered my horse there, I rode my test, and I EARNED that blue – it’s so much more than a ribbon.

What that farm owner didn’t know is that my horse was diagnosed with EPM only a few short months prior. This was his first blue ribbon since coming back into work and competition. She didn’t see how sick he was, or the financial burden of treating his illness. She didn’t see all the work my vets, farrier, and chiropractor put into bringing him back to health. She didn’t see the countless hours of training and conditioning it took to get his body ready for competition again. She didn’t know what the last several months had been like for us.

Maybe it’s an older woman, who finally got back out there after a bad fall that scared her so bad she didn’t ride her horse for a year. Maybe it’s a nervous teenager trying the equitation for the first time. Maybe it’s a senior horse’s last time competing, or maybe it’s a young horse’s first. Maybe it’s someone’s first recognized event. Maybe someone has been saving money for months and months to be able to compete just once. Maybe it’s someone stepping out into a brand new discipline. Maybe it’s the “worthless” horse, finally doing a bit of good. Maybe, like my situation – a horse you weren’t sure would ever compete again, having his comeback moment. Maybe someone drove across the entire country to compete at that specific venue. There are SO many reasons for a $0.50 ribbon to be worth so much more to someone.

Just like with everything else in life, we all go through our own riding struggles. Maybe it’s a personal issue, a health issue, horse problem, finances, the list goes on. Being able to overcome the problems in our daily lives and get in the ring with our horses is worth celebrating. A white ribbon hanging on the wall could mean more to someone than any blue ribbon ever will. Every ribbon is special, and every one has a story.

I save every single one of my ribbons. I can tell you when and where they’re from, what horse they’re from, and all about that particular day. There’s just something about looking around at a wall full of ribbons that makes you feel good. Not only that, but I find that they keep me encouraged and motivated. The greens make me want to work for the yellows, and the reds make me want to push for the blues.

Ribbons are a physical reminder not only of a specific day and accomplishment, but also of all the hard work that went into winning it. I know not all ribbons mean the world to everyone, and that’s okay. However, we need to let people celebrate their accomplishments – no matter how big or small – because we have no idea what they went through to accomplish them.

In short, yes – ribbons do mean ‘that’ much to me. I cherish each and every one. Not only because of the work and circumstances that went into winning them, but because one day when those horses are no longer around, the ribbons and memories will be.

*Cover photo ribbon is NOT from the venue I reference in this post.*


  • Elisa Eslow

    I completely related to this because this happened to me one my mare, Ruth who was rescued only 2-3 months prior to that first show. The gal that was handing out ribbons didn’t want to just us our 2nd place ribbon because there was only 2 of us in this class and we couldn’t even finish because it was the last class of the day and she was super sore standing around and from competing in just 3 short classes. That ribbon meant EVERYTHING to me because of that special horse & special ride. I was working to pay off my entry fees to my mentor who offered to cover them for me. I was in exactly that situation & it was so embarrassing and frustrating that I had to explain “I just want the ribbon”. Please can I have my ribbon that my rescue mare just earned? I remember saying that. I’ll never forget those 4 ribbons from that first show! She is now retired. We only ever got to compete in 1 show before we found out she has chronic lameness issues… thank you for writing this! It’s important & everyone should be conscious of “earning that ribbon”.

    • Nicholle

      This was so heart warming and so true! I have won championships and have a lot of ribbons… but the one that has meant the most to me, was the 6th place ribbon my horse and I won in my first rated show. We competed against 72 riders. That green ribbon hangs proudly in my office.
      Darn it, I spent thousands of dollars to earn that 75-cent ribbon! Lol

  • Tracy Patton

    Yes! Well said. It’s NOT the EGO that the ribbon represents, but that after 5 years of rehab, tears, wanting to give up, financial burden, trailering to multiple vets and LOVE- that I want to display my 5th place ribbon along with my 1st place ribbon for FLASH. He will never, ever be able to compete again but he has been my BEST mentor, trainer, teacher and companion. He has tried hard for me and has been patient and loving. He deserves the same from me.

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