In my experience, most competitive sports encourage the participants to strive to be the best that they can be. Blue ribbons, gold medals and gigantic tiaras are all symbolic of winning first place – you know, being THE BEST.
Apparently my kid never got this memo.
As with most other 4 year olds, one of the most important deciding factors in all facets of life depends on COLOR. Color is important when it comes to picking which carousel horse to ride at the carnival, which flavor ice cream to enjoy on a hot summer night, even which pair of underwear to wear on any given day.
At her very first horse show (as a fresh 3 year old), Lily won the coveted blue ribbon in leadline. This turned out to be just fine and dandy with Lily because on that day, her favorite color was blue.
Things changed the following Spring when our first official HORSE SHOW SEASON kicked off with the first show. It was at that first show that Lily caught a glimpse of ALL of the ribbon colors up for grabs – and they just happened to include her new FAVORITE COLOR OF ALL TIME – PINK.
If you are unfamiliar with standings versus ribbon colors, they are as follows: first (blue), second (red), third (yellow), fourth (white), fifth (pink) and sixth (green).
At some shows, usually the rated shows, exhibition shows, etc they might add in a seventh (purple) and eighth (brown) place, but that’s pretty rare.
Our horse show season began calmly enough. But at show after show, week after week, the pink ribbon continued to elude Lily. At first, she didn’t seem to mind too much. She was easily distracted by winning other ribbon colors to add to her collection and she loved the trinkets (lollipops, small stuffed animals, etc) that frequently accompany the ribbons for the leadliners.
Then the season started to go downhill.
Show after show Lily would miss that damn pink ribbon by one place. At one point she had 11 white ribbons (4th place) and 9 green ribbons (6th place) – it was as if the pink ribbon began to mock her.
On Memorial Day weekend Lily had the coveted honor of riding in the illustrious Devon Horse Show (and if I ever get my act together I will write a post about it). She claimed her baby blue colored (ahem, Devon Blue) ribbon – a participant award attained ONLY by riding in Leadline at Devon. And what did she say to me? “I’d like a pink ribbon more than this one.” *GASP* Clearly not my child.
As the summer drew to a close, there was still no pink ribbon on Lily’s wall.
The mood got ugly.
I started to pace the fence each week as Lily rode in her various classes, occasionally reassuring my fellow horse show parents, “Oh no! Don’t worry! We’re going for pink! We don’t want to win first place!”
Still no pink.
As the weeks wore on, Lily went from congratulating her friends who won the pink to glaring at them uncontrollably. There was no smiling for non-pink ribbons. At one show we found her at the prize table, lovingly petting a pile of pink ribbons that were destined for other riders.
These were dark, ugly days.
After the show pictured directly above, Lily hit rock. bottom.
Here’s what rock bottom looks like on a 3 year old:
October was drawing to a close.
By this point in the season, everyone from our barn was well aware of the Quest for the Pink. Other parents joined me each week as placings were called out, sharing in my disappointment when the pink was pulled ever out of our reach.
I was a mere stone’s throw away from bribing the judge when finally, FINALLY, on a glorious Sunday in late October, this happened (listen for the chorus of cheers when the ribbon is actually handed to her):
Then she met with her adoring public:
It was a banner day all around. To see the proud sense of accomplishment radiating off of Lily, to watch her adorable friends congratulate her because they knew how much this particular ribbon meant… and to understand that achievement does not always mean coming in first – it means tackling a goal no matter how big or how small.
The months that we endured grumpy-no-pink-ribbon-Lily gave us many (MANY) opportunities to talk with her about good sportsmanship, patience and how to deal with disappointment. Lily went on to win more ribbons that year, longer ribbons, a first place ribbon… but to this day, it’s her pink ribbon that commands the prime center location on her display of ribbons. And that one ribbon will no doubt be saved forever, carrying with it a horse show memory that will be hard to beat!
We arrived home that afternoon and Lily’s first stop was to show her beautiful pink ribbon to Pretzel (who I daresay was QUITE impressed).