The Will to Win

Leap 273
Leap 273, by Roz Young, RozArt

This post is two stories in one, but if you have the time, I think you’ll find it worth your while.

The first story is about the power of art.

In 2014, I was preparing a post to celebrate the coming Chinese New Year – the Year of the Horse. It was predicted to be a tough year, but with planning, discipline, and determination, you could succeed. Horse imagery figured strongly: the horse as the dutiful worker, the dependable transport, the carrier of warriors into battle. Planning and discipline were represented by the idea that you must first train a horse before you benefit from the work it does. As much as the rider is in command, the horse has a mind and a will of its own, so the rider is at the mercy of the horse as well.

In addition to determination and the rest of the qualities, there’s something I believe to be inherent to success: the will to win. This is a spiritual state that arises, perhaps, from our circumstance and from our faith. I understand it as a focus of desire, the intensity of which can change our world. Some people come to it easily, and despite their shortcomings, manage to succeed; others, in spite of their advantages, struggle to find the way.

I wanted to exemplify this mindset somehow – for example, to give the reader a chance to endure a demanding competition, and to win. The idea of a horse race seemed to represent well the themes of the year and the symbiotic relationship between horse and rider, so I wrote a narrative that put the reader in the saddle for the two minutes it would take a thoroughbred to run a mile and a half.

For the artwork, I searched through almost a thousand images of racetrack scenes. Nothing came close until I found the watercolor Sassy. My eye went straight to the chestnut on the railI knew she was going to win no matter what it took. Somehow, she embodied the conviction that winning is everything. I contacted the artist for permission to use the image and learned the incredible story behind the painting.

The second story is about a horse.

The artist, Rachel Parker, had depicted a scene not from her imagination but from a real event – captured in a snapshot given to her by the man who commissioned the painting. He had taken the picture while he watched from the stands.

He told her that at the time, he had a daughter who was gravely ill. There were treatments available, but he couldn’t afford the fees. His daughter was his entire world, and he feared that if he lost her he might not survive, so he made a decision. He withdrew his savings and bet everything he had on a horse.

He wasn’t a gambling man, and had never bet at the track before. But he had done his research and chosen with care. The stakes were high: Sassy wasn’t a long shot, but no horse is a guaranteed win. He placed his bet and climbed into the stands to watch. At some point in the race, he caught sight of her against the rail and snapped a picture.

Sassy won.

The prize money was enough for him to give his daughter the medical care she needed. She recovered completely. A couple of years later, when Sassy’s racing days were done and she was up for the slaughter auction, he outbid his competitors and brought her home. He built her a stable and corral in the backyard.


I realized after I heard the story that the artist had painted the scene in the photograph from this man’s point of view. When I look at the image, I see the race through his eyes. I feel what he must have felt as he watched his horse in the final backstretch, knowing that everything he cared about was riding on her win. I can imagine the state of his spirit – how in that moment he was focused simply and completely on what had to happen because nothing else mattered.

When winning is everything, you will win.