"The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? (Common App essay)

The alarm heralding the dawn becomes redundant as a mix of dread and excitement has kept me up all night. It’s 5 am. Today I will compete in my third Junior National Equestrian Championship in Pune at the National Defence Academy.

I’ve determined that today will be different. My first Junior National in Kolkata in 2014 began and ended catastrophically. I leased a horse, Legal Steps, who I rode for the first time a day before the championship. It was an unwise step, as I didn’t have the chance to connect with him. The day of the competition, Legal Steps bolted towards the surrounding woods. Did he sense my fear? Despite managing to get control of him, I realised the futility of continuing as he would remain uncooperative. Withdrawing from the event, I lost all confidence.

Yet, when peers suggested that I was fearful, that perhaps this transpired because I was a girl, I found these explanations unsatisfactory. I began recognising the root cause of the catastrophe: I had forgotten my primary motivation for riding, my love of horses. Perhaps my Kolkata debacle stemmed from overlooking this true essence of equestrianism? Riding the leased horse, I had felt like a novice. I had forgone establishing a connection with Legal Steps,...

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