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When I was a kid I had a pony that was also the family lawn mower. He would graze certain spots and keep the yard well groomed. His name was Red.

The pony was my escape from the pressures of my single digit years. Things like having to eat stuff I didn’t like, my sister had the toy I wanted at exactly the same time I wanted it, having to go to school when I already knew enough, and parents that didn’t understand that they were often stubborn when it came time to negotiate.

Red was a good friend with one drawback. He had a better friend, a mean and protective chicken that would attack when I approached my short legged partner. Fortunately one day the chicken simply disappeared. According to dad these things happen though I certainly wasn’t disappointed. That evening we had a wonderful celebration dinner of a small turkey.

On the days that it was Red’s job to mow the yard we would tie him with a long rope to a stick in the ground. He’d graze a circle around that stick and then we would move it, letting him mow another spot. It made catching Red easy when I needed him. I could grab the rope near the stick and reel him in. It was like catching a fish that was already on the hook. Then I’d snap the reins to each side of the halter, turn him loose, swing on and enjoy the ride. Though the ride only lasted 30 feet or so when Red would find a new place to mow. It made me stronger. Red had a heavy head.

This stick in the ground was called a stake. This stake kept my pony confined to a specific place. This particular stake was mettle with a loop at the end for tying the rope. Dad would drive it in the ground with a hammer, hook Red to it and walk away. Red stayed. I always knew where to find him. That’s what a stake does, it makes you stay.

There’s tent stakes, securing a place to stay and boundary stakes, marking where property, fences or gardens were to be placed. In horses there are stakes races, stakes competitions and even a stake race where you run around a pole and back. In life you can go on a stake out, pull up stakes and have a stake in it. There’s tomato stakes, poker stakes, stake your reputation on it and have a lot at stake.

In the time of Native American battle there was a tribe of Sioux that would stake themselves to the battlefield. They determined where the battle would be fought. It happens here. It happens now. No turning back. The outcome was yet to be decided, yet these warriors were obviously committed with no concern of the results, win or lose. That’s serious belief in your mission. No way out and don’t need one. Death was an honor in defeat when the battle came to you and you defended the ground you were staked to. They were winners even in loss. They usually won. Obviously.

Often times when training horses and competing we stake ourselves to the outcome, doing whatever it takes to be successful and do what needs done, things that others won’t to increase the odds of achieving a goal. Too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry? Too early, too late, too busy, or too tired? Too sore, too pressured, too broke, or too nervous? Too bad. As one of the great barrel racers of our time once said, your money is now my money. She was staked to the battlefield. Right here, right now, every day.

Obviously not everyone is that wired to win. Many horse enthusiasts have no desire to compete. It takes a special kind of warrior. Yet even if riding is purely for the enjoyment, the level of advancement and personal achievement is totally connected to what’s at stake. If you’re riding for fun, stop worrying about the results or even if your horse rides well. You’re not staked. Yet if you have a goal of achieving something big, or just want your horse to be better, drive one in the ground and commit. Winning doesn’t require luck, it simply takes being more ready. And a good horse doesn’t hurt.

So getting back to Red. Perhaps I learned something from the stake. Some may ask was he anything more than a lawnmower and kids pony. No. Yet Red was the one that I won my very first trophy on, in the first competition I was in. Was it luck? You decide. I learned a lot about commitment and effort. I had put in the time, do the work, and fight the chicken. Still do. Do you?

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