If you have a thirst for knowledge, horses will teach you a lot. So can equine professionals (and a good number of horsemen who may not be professionals) who get the learning process never ends. Interestingly, it’s usually not the celebrated achievers and gurus who can teach you the most. Sure, they’ve done amazing things and are held in esteem for accomplishments most of us only dream of, but teaching requires its own skills, takes time and doesn’t work very well with formula approaches. Sometimes you’ll find the most lasting lessons come from the strangest places – including people and horses with messages you may miss if you’re not open and attentive.
If you work with young or challenging horses on a regular basis, and learn to really listen, they’ll teach you more than you can imagine. A seemingly difficult and talentless horse can morph into a star with just a little bit of responsive guidance. Others will show you something you had never considered that winds up being a lasting aid with horses you encounter for decades to come. Some will school you hard and fast or fall short of their potential if you don’t hear them or try to force them to comply with your regimen. Conversely, those who are understood and encouraged to trust and respect a handler or rider will strive to shine and exceed expectations. Bloodlines and talent aside, none of this will come to you through arrogance, but instead, is only available to those willing to don a bit of humility.
Good trainers/instructors also learn from their horse and human students. The best instructors/trainers are open to new ideas, willing to listen to both horse and rider/owner, invigorated by opportunities that provide a new approach to success and enthusiastic about improving their knowledge and arsenal. Similarly, you’ll grow much more as a student if you leave your ego (or studies – a quick way to really piss off an instructor or trainer and lessen the value of your or your horse’s lesson is to call them wrong because their methods do not conform with the formula teachings of the latest book you read or video you watched) at the door and focus on what’s being presented to you.
As to the difference between trainers and instructors, most assert that training pertains to the horse and instruction relates to the rider. How can you separate the two? An effective trainer needs to understand what demands will be placed on the horse and be able to impart knowledge to the rider specific to the horse under tutelage. Solid instructors need to be able to work with the horse to help the rider communicate in ways that are easiest for the particular mount to understand – and be able to know how to adjust the lesson if something’s not working. How about accepting that being an effective equine coach (whether your primary focus is on horse or rider) requires an ability to understand the needs of both the horse and the rider and leaving the turf wars at the door?
Smart students (and teachers) are modest enough to always be looking for an opportunity to learn from the horses they see and the people they meet.
Einstein was working on a unified field theory to put the entire universe into a mathematical equation when he was about 50 years old. He refused to talk to all reporters, sans one from The New York Times. Carr Van Anda, the editor, had found an error in one of Einstein’s equations. Instead of being offended, he was impressed and welcomed the opportunity to be proven wrong.* Could you? Every horse and human student can teach us something new if we are willing to leave our egos behind and welcome new ideas and approaches – no matter how green the source.
Thomas Edison built 1,000 prototypes for the light bulb that didn’t work. A reporter asked Edison how it felt to fail 1,000 times. Edison replied, “You misunderstand. I did not fail 1,000 times. I successfully found 1,000 ways that the light bulb would not work.” Attempt 1001 resulted in the light bulb we still use today. Edison, like Einstein, did not view failure as bad, but instead as a good way to learn and grow.*
Those who resort to bravado with horse handling, training, riding or instruction usually don’t know what they don’t know. The wise are humble and eager to learn from new insights and the experiences of others. The best in their field stand on the shoulders of giants, meaning, they gather their knowledge from others who have travelled the road before them artfully and successfully. If your teacher asserts only one right approach, or you have been guilty of close-mindedness when presented with learning opportunities, reconsider if that’s working for you. Better yet, realize how much this might be costing you if your goal is to grow as an astute equestrian thinker.
*Source: Ron White’s Ezine 11/25/02209 – subscribe at http://tinyurl.com/Memory-Master-Horse-Sense