We’ll never know everything there is to know about any one thing in life – it’s simply not going to happen. When I realised this, I decided that I will never stop learning.
We have this tendency to think we know everything about something, especially when we think we’re pretty good at it. We get a kind of tunnel vision, thinking that all there is in the whole of the world, life and existence is what we know, and that there cannot possibly be anything else outside of that.
I found that when I spent a lot of time with people who didn’t know much about horses, I’d feel pretty knowledgeable. I’d feel smart, informed and downright cool. But then, if I ever did spend time around “horsey people” who shared knowledge that contradicted what I believed, I’d tell myself that they were wrong, and I was right. It didn’t matter how much sense they were making.
Thankfully I realised that I couldn’t possibly always be right, and that there had to be more than what I thought I knew. So, I started listening to other people more, I started playing around with different methods, I started actually looking for new and different information. Within all of this I realised an interesting thing: I will never stop learning, and I don’t want to.
I started truly enjoying looking outside my restrictive box of beliefs, knowledge and tools. I found that there were certain tools, methods, philosophies and starting points that worked differently for individual horses. I found also that a lot of the time, it wasn’t so much about the specific method or exercise I was using – the best results always came when my starting point within myself was one of calm and wanting to help the horse. If I was frustrated then it wouldn’t matter what exercise I was doing – my frustration would be what dominated the session.
One of the most important aspects in what I learned, was that learning isn’t always about studying, or reading up about different techniques – I realised more and more how much I learn about myself and about my horse in every moment that we are together, no matter what we are doing. When I closed myself off to being aware of myself or my horse, our time spent together would often be awkward, uncomfortable and sometimes even contentious. I found that whenever I was being stubborn about something within me or the horse (like how the horse should respond, apparently), I’d lock down in our session and that would create an unpleasant experience for both of us. So now I make it a point to be flexible, not have any expectations and to check in with my horse to see what he needs in that particular moment. Just as important is that I stay aware of how I am responding within myself to the horse, so that I can change any response patterns that I don’t actually want (like getting frustrated when the horse does not understand what I am asking).
It can be difficult to learn new things, especially things that challenge our “preset” self definitions. We owe it to ourselves and to our horses to neverstop learning, and to never think that we already know everything, because that’s when we start forcing things – which is seldom an enjoyable experience.