One Piece at a Time

Often in clinics, someone watching will approach me afterwards and ask why I hadn’t addressed a certain issue a rider was having. Auditors may notice a rider with certain habits that may not be the best deal for their horse, or making mistakes, and wonder why I spent my time working on another topic. When teaching, it’s pretty quickly obvious how a person habitually relates to their horse, what they struggle with, and what they need to work on. But there are many reasons not to address them all at once.

Especially with a new student or one struggling, I try to pick the one thing I know will immediately benefit them, make them feel successful, or give them the most immediate, gratifying change first. This means that, while I notice other details, I choose not to address them at that point in time.

Giving people too much information at once tends to discourage or frustrate them. Nobody wants to go to a lesson and feel like they are doing everything wrong. I try to give people tools to bring them confidence, understanding and success, and build on those. When we’ve mastered one problem, we can move on to others.

People learning can feel self conscious about their public struggle, especially in a clinic setting. It’s extremely humbling, difficult and vulnerable to learn in front of others, especially when you know they are watching your every mistake and commenting on them. I want people to feel safe to try and experiment, and not critiqued to death.

A student may not be ready to hear or understand certain things. When the time is right, we will work on it.

They may not understand yet how all the details connect. My favorite way to teach is to present a broad picture and let people find the connections for themselves. For example, instead of saying to a person dedicated to riding with tight reins “when you pull the reins like that you are ruining any softness” but instead to present concepts and let people find themselves that they and their horse are happier with some give.

My hope in teaching is to create thinking students working toward developing creativity, feel and happy partnerships with their horses, not drone-like students who just obey orders. For some riders, the best way for this to happen is one piece at a time.

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