Learning is not just about absorbing new information and putting it into practice. Those of us who have taught lessons or taken lessons know all about that. In the process of receiving information and digesting it, all sort of foibles can creep up.
Our experiences throughout our lives can set us up to struggle to learn sometimes. Some of us feel stupid, unconfident, embarrassed, resentful at suggestions, small, worried about how we look, scared to try, scared because of past experiences, or feel like we need to prove what we know and be right.
We also have to contend with the struggle of learning new information that makes us face our old beliefs. At this point we have to decide if what we thought we knew measures up to what we are currently seeing, and accept that, though we spent a lot of time learning the mistaken beliefs, we now need to ditch them in order to grow. Habits are hard to break, but accepting what we don’t know can be even harder.
Learning to balance ourselves is crucial, and dealing with our emotions in a healthy way and not directing them towards the horse can take a lot of practice to master. Years ago, a teacher told me I needed to “leave my emotions at the door” when I arrived at the barn. I interpreted this as stuffing my emotions down and pretending nothing was wrong when I had a bad day. This obviously made working with my horses incredibly hard – many of them were nervous around me or began ignoring me. It couldn’t have felt too good for them to be around that type of feeling. Horses also don’t enjoy being around someone who’s emotions are out of control.
We have to be willing to accept our mistakes and failures, and this can hurt. It’s easier to ignore them, but without acceptance, we can’t have growth. We can’t be too negative about our abilities, either, because without noticing our improvements we can’t build upon them. There’s quite a delicate balance to confidence without blindness to error, and awareness of error without becoming self deprecating. It’s a tight rope I often fall on either side of. We have to accept that we will never “arrive,” but that learning is a scary, painful, wonderful, enlightening and beautiful journey that only ends when we stop breathing.
Learning is so much more than sitting down with a notebook and a pen, watching a DVD, or attending a clinic. You have to do more than just show up. You have to reach inside yourself and look at every piece, rearrange, or delete what isn’t desirable and make room for what you want in there. It’s about trying to be a better, more centered person.
Most of us were drawn into horses because they spoke to us – we crave the type of connection horses so generously give us. Throughout our bumpy ride to knowledge, it can be tempting to walk away from self development. But I think riders who have felt just a taste of this connection know theres more to be had, and will be willing to open their hearts and minds to the horse, and to take on the monumental task of learning – and everything that comes with it.