By Mary McCashin

“All your horses are a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you won’t like what you see, sometimes you will.”

As of late, I’ve been pondering about professional horsemen and horsewomen. For most of my life I’ve taken lessons from various equine professionals, but for the past couple of years I’ve noticed “professionals” reaching a point where they themselves feel as though they don’t have anything left to learn.

In my years of riding and learning, I have rarely encountered a professional that is continuously seeking out knowledge, professionals who know they don’t always have the answers, who can admit they need refreshers, and so on. In recent years I have seen professionals that have claimed to ride with someone or follow a certain someone’s style of horsemanship, and they don’t. They’re being dishonest with their clientele.

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In that I often struggle with seeing kids, teenagers, and adults take lessons or participate in clinics with people who in my opinion have very little business teaching. Usually at some point people become aware of this and move on, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.

So my question is this, when did some professionals decide they knew it all? In my mind I can honestly admit that I will always be seeking out more knowledge, there will always be something to improve upon. Is there a fear among professionals (of all disciplines) that their weaknesses may be exposed? Is there an uncomfortableness with the vulnerability of the situation?

“You can be a leader without being intimidating. The horse can be your partner without being your slave. I’m trying to keep the best part of the horse in there.
I’m not trying to take anything away from him.”

Every time I see a professional sign-up for a clinic or lesson with another professional, it makes my heart happy. It sounds cheesy, but I’m grateful for those that know the journey is never over. In my local area, there are these professionals that are continuously seeking out more, they’re signing up for clinics and riding right alongside their students. That is one of the greatest examples that can be set for students. And furthermore, I feel that it is one of the most respectable actions that a trainer can take. By allowing your student to take from other instructors, you’re opening up their eyes to different techniques, approaches, mindsets, and providing them with countless opportunities for growth.

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My dad used to always tell me that you approached each horse knowing they’d be another teacher in your life. Each horse had a lesson (or two) to teach me, there was always an opportunity for growth. I think that’s true for your entire life. If you want to be a well-rounded, respectable horseman you have to be humble enough to always admit that you do not know it all, and you never will. That’s not a shameful statement, it’s an honest one.

“My teachers used to tell me you need to learn to adjust to fit the situation. Don't just do what you've always done because it might not always work.” 

So I urge you, whether you’re a green rider, an accomplished rider, teaching a lesson program, marketing sales horses, whatever the case may be, never pass up on an opportunity to learn more, and never for a second think you know it all. This hunger for knowledge and humility will also earn you a tremendous amount of respect.

If you’re a student seeking out a teacher, ask around. Pay attention. Who not only is an accomplished rider, but who takes excellent fundamental care of their horses? It’s not just what someone does on the back of a horse that makes them a horseman, that’s just a small piece of the puzzle.

Whether you’re entering walk/trot classes or a USDF Silver Medalist, there is always something to learn, always room for improvement, and one more way to enjoy your horse.

“I'm still on the move, I'm getting better because I'm still studying. I still want to be a better horseman.”