“… it is so important for equestrians to get outside of their comfort zones, to try new things and to learn enough to be able to make informed decisions about their riding and training.”
The saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This quote is often used to discuss how to remedy poverty, but I think of it as a way to curb intellectual poverty. In the riding community, there’s a similar quote that goes, “Work on a horse, and the horse gets better; work on yourself, and all your horses get better.”
Both of these quotes point to the importance of education. As a human being, I am naturally intellectually curious. You could give me a book about coconuts and I would read it and become totally engrossed in the history of the coconut. Sometimes this bottomless intellectual curiosity leads me to feel like I will never have enough time to learn about all the things that I am interested in. So, as a person, sometimes I have to dial it in, and become complacent that maybe I’ll never be a leading expert on Beta fish, and that maybe that’s okay.
I indulge my intellectual curiosity with subjects that I am passionate about. And I can be a bit of a completionist with things that I love. You want to learn all about Maggie Smith? You’ve come to the right girl. A list of every movie musical starring Vera-Ellen? Also me. Need every lyric ever written by Loretta Lynn? I am your gal. Obscure classic rock trivia? Me. A plot synopsis of every work by Jane Austen? Also me. Need to know about Velociraptors? Things a T-Rex can’t do? You get the point.
As a young rider, I was relentless in my pursuit of education as it applied to horses. I would pick up every book I could find about horses. I would ride with any clinician who came to the area. I would try my hand at showing in various disciplines to learn about as many areas of the equestrian world as possible.
This broad approach to learning as much as I could about the equestrian world, often made me feel like a Jack of all trades, master of none. And often I read conflicting opinions in the horse books I was reading. Or I found that different clinicians had vastly different styles, or that different disciplines had vastly different values. It could be intimidating to stand looking out at the vast sea of things I didn’t know. And to feel like a total ignoramus.
But, as I have aged, I have become immensely thankful for attempting to gain a breadth of knowledge as a young rider, because now I know what I want to focus on and I have enough knowledge to make educated decisions about which authors I love, which disciplines I prefer (currently), and which clinicians I would like to ride with. And now that I have established a solid breadth of my knowledge, I can work on deepening the depth of my understanding of horses.
I think it is so important for equestrians to get outside of their comfort zones, to try new things and to learn enough to be able to make informed decisions about their riding and training. As a person who is learning about equestrian sports, it is important to invest in your education, to take lessons, to work with people you trust, to read the books, to watch the movies, and to learn as much as you possibly can.
Really invest in your education. And look for an instructor or a clinician who shares your passion for knowledge and your intellectual curiosity. I love to ride with the people and to learn from the people who will skip lunch because they’re working through a behavioral problem, or who could talk about horses late into the evening. It’s the people who are lifelong learners, who I want to ride with. The people who never rest on their laurels, but always strive to learn more and to be better both for themselves and for their horses.
So, if you’re thinking about what your goals for the New Year are, think about investing in your education. Ride with someone you respect! Buy a horse book from an author whose opinion you respect! Take a clinic in a new discipline! And better yourself, so you can better your horses; present and future.