Better Riding: The art of self directed learning

Luck doesn’t make you a good rider. Neither does money, or a fancy horse, or an expensive saddle. Katie Passerotti explores a concept that takes work, but does work.

From Katie:

I was going through some papers last week and found something that had been given to me in college in one of my Equine Classes.  I cannot remember which one or which professor gave it to me.  I do know that I was not ready for the information in college, I was too busy being full of myself and blaming the fact that I had not yet been selected for the Olympic team on the fact that I couldn’t afford a fancy horse and I couldn’t afford multiple lessons per week, my parents didn’t support me enough (which they totally did had I not been so wrapped up in my own drama to realize it), etc. etc.  Basically, it was everyone else’s fault.

I’ve grown and learned a lot, not just as a rider, but has a person.  It took me seven long years to realize that I was not cut out for the business side of horses.  I was only meant to be an amateur owner/rider, not an instructor, trainer, or barn manager.  I went back to school to get my teaching certification and have happily been teaching 9th and 10th graders about the joy of writing long essays and reading even longer books.  It was this education that made me finally understand what was lacking in my equine education, what the missing piece was.  It was my own accountability and ability to be a self directed learner.

I don’t know if one of my professors wrote this herself or if she got it from somewhere else.  The copy I have is typed, Like as in the phrase typed on a typewriter.  My students have no idea what a typewriter is… or a phone booth for that matter, but that is another story.  Here is the text that I have on being a self directed learner:

The best riders all seem to be self directed learners.  Often they have no more athletic talent than the average rider.  What they do have, however, is a different way of thinking and a positive view about their ability.  They take what they know and use it to get to the next  level.  When things get tough, they don’t quit – they keep on working until they get through.

Anyone can learn to be a self-directed learner but it takes work and a willingness to change the way one thinks and how one sees and does things.  Obviously, the first step in becoming a self directed learner is to understand what a self directed learner does that is so special.  Take a minute to read through this list of skills then ask yourself how well you compare.

As a self directed learner, you must:

  • Willingly take responsibility for your own learning
  • Be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things (display an open attitude to learning)
  • Acquire a thirst for knowledge
  • Show commitment to improving your own riding skills
  • Transfer what was learned from one lesson to the next without being reminded by your instructor to do so
  • Always try to ride to the best of your ability and work for periods of each ride in your stretch zone (work on skills at the top of your level that are not yet fully mastered)
  • Try to improve the horse each and every time you ride
  • Analyze the task at hand and determine what you did correctly and what you still need to master
  • Place newly learned skills within a growing framework of what is known while prioritizing these skills in terms of importance
  • Poke holes in what you don’t know through the use of trial and error
  • Feel free to try different things and even make mistakes so you can use the resulting feedback as stepping stones to find a better way
  • Have the perseverance to keep working even when you are physically or mentally tired
  • Not constantly rely on the instructor  to validate the quality or performance level of your riding
  • Have confidence in yourself and your ability to learn
  • Establish goals, devise a plan of action, and put the plan into practice while remembering to be flexible to account for the daily ups and downs of life
  • Allow learning to take place within its own time frame
  • Refuse to use questions or complaints to distract yourself from the task at hand
  • Accept where the horse is coming from on a given day (horses have good days and bad days and learning is not always a progressive process when viewed up close)
  • Choose work which is appropriate to the training and conditioning level of the horse
  • Work the horse both in his comfort and his stretch zones so there is a slow but steady improvement in the horse’s way of going
  • Consistently ride with discipline and concentration

As I sat, rereading this all I could think was WOW: This is good stuff. I started to compare myself to the list and found some strengths and some weaknesses.  Looking at this through the eyes of a teacher made a huge difference for me, take out the “horse” and “riding” and this was something I wanted all of my students to read and discuss.  Much like the teenage me, it is everyone else’s fault that they did not do their homework, learn the material, or read the assigned pages in the book.

I doubt many of us really examine the business of learning, we simply learn–it is something that comes naturally to us and the fact that we are learning how to ride, to do something we WANT to learn only makes it that much easier.  We are willing to put in the long hours, the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to achieve our goals.  Looking at our riding through a different lens opens up our ability to understand  the process more fully and to increase our ability to learn. Which of those items on the list do you think is most important to riding? More specifically, which is most important to your riding?

PS: Dear professor, thank you for giving this to me.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *