“Take advantage of every opportunity,” is something we can all take a moment to reread again. As a professional dressage rider competing internationally at only 20, I’ve faced the many highs and lows of resilience and hard work, and experienced the risk and reward of taking a chance. Each individual athlete is on their own journey, but to succeed, you must learn to recognise the opportunities this wonderful sport brings – big or small – and take the leap out of your comfort zone in order to better yourself.

I have always been a huge opportunist, on and off the horse. Life is just too short to miss out! From pursuing all sorts of sporting codes to a National level through primary and secondary school, to hopping on a plane to Asia for a month with World Challenge at 15. Leaving home at the age of 17 to work and train under my wonderful coach and mentor – Vanessa Way, to taking a huge step across the ditch into a top level role with Gymanji in tow not long after turning 20. Between all of this, my two businesses – Musical Freestyles by Lucy & Raupo Creek Dressage – also became established. For sure, my teenage years have been extremely jam packed, more so than your average 20 year old, but through taking opportunities like the above, I’ve learnt how to work hard, gain resilience that is second to none, and of course push myself far past the limits.

While one person seeks the opportunity to ride under the New Zealand flag, another may seek the opportunity to get out and ride a Preliminary test at a Premier League. Everyone has their own ideas and goals they’d like to achieve, however a common flaw in these progressions is sitting in a place where you feel familiar and safe – often due to fear of failure or lack of self belief. Because of this, opportunities are given up or missed. We are quick to question ourselves, “what is the worst outcome? What will happen if I fail? What will everyone think?” This creates a fear around the opportunity before you even have a chance to face it. For me – fear should never be part of the equation. No one is perfect, not everyone can win. A failed opportunity does not define you as an athlete or a person, it actually arises a new chance to learn and improve.

On the other end of the scale, those sitting within their comfort zone with their eyes closed may miss the benefits of taking that small step forward. Moving internationally to pursue a head rider position was something I had dreamed about, but by no means had planned to happen this soon. Of course taking on a large opportunity like this is terrifying! It’s not a simple decision or task, in fact it’s almost like leaving your old life to start over. However, the way I looked at it was not only was it a huge opportunity for my riding career, but also a chance to gain so much life experience. As someone who is so passionate towards the sport and my future as an athlete, although scary – this was an opportunity I couldn’t look past. I would rather give it a bloody good crack, than step back into the comfort zone to only regret ‘what could have been.’ Take the chance while you have it, you never know where it may lead.

My biggest advice to any rider is to ‘give it a shot.’ The only chance we have to achieve our dreams is to take a risk, so put yourself in a positive, self-growth mindset – take that step forward to achieving your goal and learn as much as you can along the way, whether that be through failure or success. You can do anything when you put your mind to it, so believe in yourself and make great things happen!

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