I’ve written on the subject of learning before and I continue to be drawn back to it because I think so much about being both a good student, a successful teacher, a thoughtful trainer and a great advocate for both horses and humans. My next few blogs will be on the subject, as I discuss some of the things that are at the front of my mind.
Most of my clients love their horses like family and would do anything to give them the best lives and support that they can. But I find an inherent fear of messing a horse up to be incredibly common and debilitating among the people I meet. Over and over I discuss being unafraid to take risks and try things you have never tried before as you respond to what your horse needs. I try so hard to point out moments when I am working a horse in front of someone where I am doing something that I have never tried in quite that way before, so that everyone can see that this isn’t magic. This also is not all taught. However, it is all learned.
There is a difference between something that must be taught and something that must be learned. In my opinion, everything must be learned. We don’t come out of the womb knowing much other than staying alive and even that involves some trial and error. Some people certainly have inherent qualities that make them better suited for certain things than others, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t learn them. They may learn some things faster than another person might, but they don’t just know it.
Something that must be taught is different. If you want to do something just like I do it, I certainly have to teach you because you will never naturally do it exactly like me. Why? Because you aren’t me, you will never be me, and even if I teach you for thirty years I hope you won’t become me. That would be weird. I may teach you basic skills and techniques and things that have worked for me to give you tools, but that doesn’t mean you have to use the hammer in your tool belt exactly like I would. This is just like how I hope that the two fillies I have to start for myself this winter as my personal horses won’t turn out just alike. I am going to work with both of them and hopefully get them both to where they are great partners for me, but if I somehow turn them into such similar riding horses that if I got on each blind folded I wouldn’t know the difference I would be very upset with myself. I’m not looking for them to be the same, I’m looking for them to be the best versions of themselves.
I think that a lot of teachers and leaders in this world, both inside and out of the horse industry, are not approaching instruction with this mindset. They are teaching people to be just like them, and since this is impossible the student is always set to fail. There will always be a magical cloud surrounding this leader because what they have will always be unattainable. This is such wonderful job insurance for the teacher, but a pretty poor teaching philosophy. When there is already an impossibility built into the lesson being taught (the lesson being, this is how you be me, the impossibility being, I can’t swap brains with you) it is really hard to do any learning.
I work with horses and humans with the hope of becoming obsolete. I want to be a part of the learning process so that the person can be the best version of themselves with their horse, not so that they can become me. If I do this, hopefully one day you won’t need me. As a professional who depends on this as a living, this is a built in incentive to keep growing myself, and thus continue to locate myself as a student. If I don’t keep growing, but I pour my heart into making you grow, eventually you won’t need me and I’ll be out of the job! So hopefully, the student version of myself will continue to grow enough that I will always have something to offer you and your horse as a partner in your learning.
So please, go out, be fearless with your creativity. Be bold with your learning. Don’t try to be anyone but the best version of yourself for your horse, and don’t try to make your horse anything other than the best version of him or herself. If the person you have chosen to work with can’t continue to grow enough to stay relevant to the best version of yourself at that moment, dump them, even if its me. Nobody, including me, deserves to be a part of this process if they don’t inspire you and make you feel like the best version of yourself is attainable. I love having a job where my learning benefits not only me, but my clients and their horses. What incredible motivation to continue on as a student! If you free yourself of the burden of comparing yourself to what someone else is doing, who knows what you will be able to get done.