In order to progress in any art, skill or endeavor, one must grow one’s knowledge and experience base. One must push outside the perceived “comfort zone” and try new things. One must face the challenge of growth, knowing it will for a short time feel awkward or uncomfortable, in order to reach new heights.
In horsemanship we see three basic groups: Those that strive to improve their understanding of the art by taking advantage of the many learning opportunities presented to them, those that follow their perceived “one true way” without variance or exploration and those that accept mediocrity and allow “excuses” to dictate their growth. Think about that for a moment. Let it really sink in. Then, ask yourself which group YOU currently are part of. Is this the group YOU truly want to be in? Which group is best for you and your horsemanship journey?
We all have that “horse friend” that is part of “the cult of personality” and who follows the “one true way” without exception. Any challenges to the dogma professed by the personality are actively attacked by the followers. While often times the personality has great advice and instruction, the followers fail to apply the advice and instruction correctly to the horse they are working with because dogma is more important than using empathy and sensitivity to the horse in the moment.
Then we have the Mediocrity group. This group really does not like to grow and improve past a certain point. They make excuses for their horse, its poor performance, and bad behavior. This group often bubble wraps and coddles their horse, failing to provide clear and fair leadership which just escalates the issues they are experiencing. This is also the group that floods the market with “horses that are too much for them” and propagates the “bad horse” vibe.
Lastly, we have the Student of the Horse group. This group finds a program and follows it with empathy and sensitivity. They explore other programs and get training for various sources. They educate themselves and their horses. They challenge themselves and their herd of friends to become more knowledgeable and better partners with their horses. The encourage others to do the same.
It has been said, in some form, by many great horsemen/horsewomen that “horsemanship is simple, but it is not easy.” Often times our coaches, trainers, and clinicians make it look easy but when we try to do what they do for the first time, we find out that the concepts are simple, but the application is a challenge.
Still, we take on the challenge, push past the awkward and reap the rewards of the learning opportunity. Our horses become better partners and the confidence each shares with the other improves. You ever notice that the well-trained horse, with a good foundation and solid skill set, is in the minority of “for sale horses?” When they are offered up they seem to command a higher price. The learning opportunists that have been taken advantage of and the investment of time and training pays off. The human is happy. The horse is happy.
This season, really evaluate which group you are currently in and if you do not like that group type, change groups! Look at the many opportunities to learn and grow available this season. Many of these opportunities are budget friendly. Be open-minded and open-hearted. Study and learn from your horse. Try new things. Push outside the comfort zone you are currently in. Help yourself and your horse achieve the “best version” of your partnership.
With a little planning, you can reach goals, expand your skill set and find your own trail which leads you to become the horseperson you want to be with the horse you have always wanted to partner with. You will be glad you invested the time to be part of the available learning opportunities, and so will your horse!
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