Riding with other horsemen is a great opportunity to improve—as long as you set your mind to learning mode.
Staying in a learning frame of mind is crucial to me. I am not someone to which everything comes naturally. I wasn’t born on a ranch. I didn’t grow up in a saddle with no other means of transportation. I had to work extremely hard and rely on the patience and assistance of many more experienced folks to help me get to the point where I’m at today in my horsemanship. I recognize and am thankful for all who have helped me to this point. I have a love for the people who have lived and embraced this lifestyle every waking day, and a heart for the folks who yearn to have more of it in their lives.
That being said, I don’t train horses for the public—that’s up to the rest of my crew. However, I enjoy having others around to learn from, talk to and ride with. Usually when someone asks if they can come be a part of our scene for a day or two, we welcome the opportunity to get to know someone and observe their philosophy and approach to training and riding horses.
One of the most valuable things I’ve picked up on is maintaining a learning frame of mind. I’ve seen the rewards of this applied to my own journey through life, as well as through others who struggle with meeting similar goals. I have spent far too much time in situations in which I shut myself off. I would just “go through the motions” and already have my mind made up about certain ways to do things. Sometimes I was just plain embarrassed about my limited knowledge. My, what a waste that’s been. I’ve missed out on opportunities to gain valuable improvements, only because I didn’t have a mindset that recognized or embraced a different way of doing things.
And I’ll be honest, having a learning frame of mind can be intimidating and difficult. Often, when someone wants to come “ride and learn” with us, they saddle up, join us horseback, look down at their gelding while they work on their maneuvers and rarely (if ever!) ask questions. And hey, if that’s what you want, there’s nothing wrong with that. We often still enjoy having the company. But no one around here is going to offer unsolicited advice or question your approach to your horsemanship if you don’t raise questions, point out struggles and have a dialogue.
I understand the discomfort in speaking up. It’s a tough spot. It’s intimidating. A little awkward. Sometimes receiving advice means we have to put ourselves in the spotlight and attempt improvement in front of a person we don’t want to look foolish in front of. A lot of the time, it involves something we care a lot about. But despite this, I encourage anyone who wants to learn ANYTHING to do it anyway. If it’s someone you admire and respect, ask the questions. Try what is suggested. And if you decide the person you are with is someone you’d rather not mirror your horsemanship after, then don’t do either one.
Sometimes, the person who is helping or teaching is learning right along with the student. When a person is put in a situation where they have to explain when, why, how and what they are doing, they learn more about themselves as horsemen as well. The folks with a learning frame of mind are constantly embracing opportunities to gain more knowledge about something they are passionate about as well. Everyone likes to see positive change and reward in the effort. So don’t short anyone the opportunity to explain themselves or assist you on your journey just because it’s a little uncomfortable.
We can learn from our horses, we can learn from ourselves and we can learn from each other. Keep pursuing a better feel and do your best to stay in a learning frame of mind, no matter the situation. I’m humbled that others have granted me their time and expertise, and hope I can do the same for anyone else, however limited my knowledge might be for their specific questions. But should someone ever want to come ride with us, the right attitude will usually open our front gate right up.
Although bringing a box of donuts never hurts either.