I keep seeing the following quote posted on social media, lately. Every time I see it, I take a moment to evaluate recent interactions with people, to see how I could’ve improved my communication in each situation.
I’ve also heard the concept of”listening to listen vs. listening to answer,” talked about in many leadership workshops, over the years.
Today, though, it dawned on me that it really applies to riding and training, as well.
When your horse has a disagreeable moment, do you immediately reply, or do you take a moment to listen? After all, we know that horses use their bodies to speak to us. I’d say that most of us do our best to evaluate our horse’s health when something seems amiss.
But, do you listen to fix those problems, or do you listen to understand why they happened, in the first place?
Your horse is struggling, so, like a good owner, you have the vet out. They discover a lameness issue, so you immediately treat the problem. After a period of rest and rehab, your horse seems normal, once more.
You pat yourself on the back for being so attentive to your horse’s needs, for picking up on a problem so much faster than less-educated riders. And you return to your schooling regimen.
This scenario plays out over and over again, all over the country – it’s industry standard.
But, here’s the thing: you listened and answered, but did you listen and understand? Did you determine the root cause of the issue? Did you consider the fact that it might be your training methods, riding technique, and/or horse management routine that caused the problem?
I doubt it, because it makes us uncomfortable to think about it. After all, we love our horses, and we subscribe to all the latest “gentle” and “correct” practises. We don’t believe in rollkur, we use a French-link snaffle, and we have padding under our crank nosebands. Our jumpers have fuzzy figure-8’s, colour-coordinated Ogilvy pads, and our hunters follow suit – albeit in more subdued tones. We use what the pros use, we do what the pros do, so clearly our methods are above reproach.
Well, I have a challenge, for you. The next time your horse tells you something is wrong, break out of your safe zone of preconceived notions and your trainer’s opinion, look outside the box, and evaluate everything with an honest eye. Then, allow yourself the room to make changes, if needed.
After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. Isn’t it time to get off that crazy carousel?