Pretty is as Pretty Does

“Pretty is as pretty does.” 

My mom used to say that all the time. It was her way of reminding me that sometimes something that looks good really isn’t. As a side note, she applied this saying to horses almost as much as to people. And I guess that’s what had me thinking about a conversation I had with an equestrian friend of mine recently.

My friend was lamenting her difficulty in placing well in a specific class at a horse show where riders are judged primarily on appearance. Now before you get to thinking it’s like some kind of beauty contest, it isn’t. Equitation classes are – or should be – judged by who has the most correct and effective position on the horse so yes, it is about judging “the picture” but not exactly in the way you might think. One can look great but poor horsemanship almost always shows through and is penalized. Regardless, my friend ended her story with, “I know I don’t look like an equitation rider.”

I stopped her right there. What does an equitation rider look like? In fact, what does an active participant in (insert any sport here) look like?

At this year’s State Track Meet, one of the fastest boys in the 800 looked more like a small football player than a speedy track athlete. One of the top distance girls looked like she would be more comfortable on the soccer field. As a high school coach, I can tell you first-hand that these kids come in all shapes and sizes. And for the most part, they don’t stop themselves from doing something because they don’t look like a sprinter or a shot-putter or whatever event they want to do. They just do it.

I think that is a solid lesson for all of us. That someone doesn’t look the way they “should” in order to compete at his or her best in the sport of their choosing is a concept that has baffled me pretty much forever. Not only is it silly but it’s limiting and applying self-imposed restrictions to the things we enjoy doing is not a good way to live.