Getting it wrong (on purpose)

I’ve some prior posts that explain some things you might want to read before continuing… such as My Way of Helping, Exploring (1) and Exploring (2). Those posts help to further put things into perspective on what I’m trying achieve for myself with horses and why I ride/train in the way I do.

Here I am with Z, exploring. I bought her after Dear One’s death with the clear intention that she would be a Great Experiment. She would put me totally out of my comfort zone which was re-training, traditionally trained horses that were stuck (i.e. behind the bit, on the forehand, lack of ground manners etc…). I had never dealt with a horse that young or with one that had no riding experience. One friend felt I was definitely not thinking straight when I bought her.

Yet, after Dear One’s cruel loss, I wanted to be taken out of my comfort zone. When you take on a new challenge you don’t always do things perfectly or right. Actually, there is a very good chance you will simply mess it up! This was my clear intention, so what seems to confuse people is when I make mistakes and admit it. Yes, amazing as it is, I do not have all the answers. LOL!

There is an interesting people dynamic – people are not comfortable with others making mistakes. They feel a need to immediately correct them, offer advice and help them “get it right.” We are a culture where we don’t want to be humilated (who does!? not me) and shamed because we goofed up. With the help offered, there usually isn’t any reflections as “so what did you learn when that happened?” or “what would you now do differently?”

What I’ve loved about this experience with Z is having those mistakes! I think though to some it may appear I don’t know what I’m doing – which is a conundrum because I know and I don’t know at all the same time which makes it very exciting overall to work with Z. Knowing that I was working over a problem that I’ve never had to deal with before and would have to come up with a new solution for it — is the only way to learn.

JMO but in the horse world (both on the net and off) it is very dangerous (professionally and personally) to admit to another horse person that you don’t know the answer. Or that you goofed up. Or that you got it wrong. There is a huge backlash that happens and the person who is brave enough to admit it ends up getting castigated. You can easily see this on Youtube when someone posts a video that isn’t quite up to Olympic riding level!

You will find a lot of horse people boasting on the internet but you will find little humility.

This Admit-No-Wrong culture in horse riding and training works against the learning that needs to take place if you want to further your education. You must have the guts to admit: “wow that was a real screw up!” and then decide how you will approach that problem differently next time. And there may need to be a new approach the third time, and the fourth time until you get it right.

You may even forget that knowledge, revert to some old ways, and have to re-learn it. It’s why I love blogging as when I go back and re-read I say, “oh, I remember that moment, I need to keep that in mind now when we are doing A-B-C.” Although admitting your errors in public may not be what you want to do unless you are very brave or stupid – not sure which I am 😛

This is why experimenting (putting aside the danger of doing it if you don’t know enough about horses to begin with) seems so dangerous to some horse people. They fear it because it speaks to their own insecurities, wondering what they are doing wrong, and if they can snow others to believe that they are doing everything right. 

If I’m doing it wrong imagine the shame! And there really is an element of public shame (both on the net and off) involved in not being right when you are riding/training your horses.

Riding instructors rely upon this human behavior to keep you in their barn, dependent upon their information and assistance. Horse trainers rely upon your guilt and worry over getting it wrong, to sell you a horse that is completely inappropriate for you (but gives them money). Sometimes I wonder if the horse business doesn’t revolve around shaming and guilting people more then it does about joy, enthusiasm and love?

And internet “friends” love to whip you in their long, running commentaries that become as meaningful and helpful as a pile of dog poo.

Shouldn’t working with your horse be based out of love and joy? Shouldn’t it be a give and take of understanding? Should we not be able to forgive, because our horses’ do so willingly, even when we do the stupidest behavior?

You won’t mess your horse up if you move your hands from the frozen position above the pommel that the horse riding instructor told you place them when you were learning to ride 10 years ago. Yes, YOU CAN MOVE YOUR HANDS! LOL!

Partnerships, whether human-human or human-horse, will include mistakes. And it’s those mistakes that provide the learning tools you need to deepen your understanding of yourself and the horse. If you can admit your mistake and learn from it, you can experiment, which make mistakes, that you will need to understand, forgive and try again.

I do know that crossing the threshold of 30 and then 40, now approaching 50, I give less of a damn if I make a mistake. And those mistakes, warts and all, are often documented in this journal. It may make me appear less in the eyes of the Horse World, but I have given you my thoughts on why I do it and why I experiment deliberately in ways that make mistakes.

There is method in the madness 🙂

Or maybe I’m just tilting at windmills. 😛

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8 Responses to Getting it wrong (on purpose)

  1. Kathy says:

    Then, let us tilt windmills! Horses are amazingly forgiving creatures, so let the mistakes begin. It can only get better from there.

  2. I am so excited to explore one of the trainers you mentioned back in a previous blog, because preliminary research shows that perhaps they are saying something that I have been thinking in the back of my mind, but haven’t strung together into a real thought yet.

    I’ve had too much “helpful” criticism to even volunteer much of an opinion to you. I know how much it hurts when the “help” just tears you down or tears you apart.

    • horseideology says:

      Fantastic! I love it when those things start clicking together!

      I actually have some more posts planned about “following your path when you don’t know the way!” but this week has been rather draining for me to get to it.

  3. That’s a good post. I’m not sure whether the US is different to Europe in this respect, however here the equestrian industry is for the most part a preserve of low paid people of more or less limited intellect. (The exceptions tend to be people who have made a bit of money elsewhere.) Yes, one finds openness and learning in well rewarded secure professions. But the equestrian industry is about scraping by. There is no appetite to adnmit mistakes because one needs clients’ money right now. Nor is there any real interest in innovation because in the short term there is nothing to be gained from it. The horse is, for the most part, just a tool either to win things or part others from their money.

    As for mistakes, I’m allowed them and so is my horse. Neither or us is perfect. However we are finding a way to move forward safely and happily. I suppose that she, like me, has a fundamentally good nature.

    • horseideology says:

      I think it’s the same. Most workers here (in big barns) are illegals, unpaid student riders, and college girls. None of these have the time or interest in admitting mistakes.

      When it comes to horses as a business, such as training and resale, trainers need to get a horse knocked out as quickly as possible to flip a horse to make money. It’s why draw reins, tie downs, and other such training equipment junk is the first thing they resort too to fix a problem.

      Though I haven’t posted about it, you know as well as I do, when you have horses as a business (whether teaching lessons or as a trail riding vacation), you have to cut corners and get it done. That is probably the NO. 1 REASON I know longer teach. I was tired, emotionally, of forcing my horses to make sacrifices in order that their bills could be met.

  4. I don’t refer to this much, however one of the two reasons why I got out of the riding holiday business is that I didn’t overwork or neglect my horses therefore it was impossible to make an adequate living.

    The other reason was ill health, again caused by the line of work that I was in.

    Neither of these issues will surprise you in the slightest.

    • horseideology says:

      It’s one of those strange duality of life but after teaching riding lessons for about 4-5 years, I now have a lot more sympathy for those in the horse business. But I have no interest in being in that business again.

      To make money, you must mortgage your soul.

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