When I was in college, I had to write a paper for a psychology class about my philosophy of Psychology. "A sort of zeitgeist, if you will," my professor declared (Zeitgeist: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.) As I work towards my my goal of becoming a horsewoman, I realize that I am constantly developing my beliefs about horse behavior, horsemanship, equipment, and philosophy.
My cousin B, who has recently started horseback riding lessons for the first time, asked me at the clinic this weekend how long I had taken lessons. I kind of chuckled then told her of my limited lessons in horseback riding. I took beginner lessons when I was around 11 years old, and then again in my early twenties for 6 months, when I rode hunter/jumpers. Yep, that's it. Everything I know is self-taught, from the trial and error of riding my ponies and horses, reading a lot, observing, talking about horses, and asking questions. And mostly, just through trial and error.
In my job, I am supported via funds for professional development. Even though I have been in the classroom for over 11 years, which is truly the best field experience one can receive, it is through opportunities such as meeting with other colleagues, learning the latest research, learning new techniques, and having intellectual discussions, that my passion for what I do is renewed and enhanced.
Many early childhood education institutions label themselves with a particular philosophy; for example, Montessori. Others claim they are "best practice;" meaning, they borrow from a variety of approaches, using ways that are best known for children to learn, based on research. In regards to horsemanship, I find that I am still trying to figure out my "best practice." Right now, I feel as if I am heading towards an eclectic approach to horses.
I compare myself to a sponge. I am in the stage of continually soaking up information, exploring philosophies and techniques. I want to become a good horseman someday. I know I need miles in the saddle and time in my chinks before I am even worthy of the title horseman. I may never be. But I believe I can work towards the goal of being the best rider I can be for my horse, and the best person I can be for myself.
I attended and thoroughly enjoyed a Buck Brannaman clinic last weekend. I felt engaged by this man, it was nearly impossible to not be pulled into the lull of his cowboy voice for every story he told or everything he said about horses, people, life, and riding. There is something about his approach to handling and riding horses that just made sense. And to watch him ride a horse is just plain mesmerizing. He just has it, whatever it is. Very few horse people do or ever will. They think they do. They call themselves horse trainers. Buck said horses hate horse trainers. But they like horseman. And when you see a horseman work with a horse, it becomes crystal clear what the difference is. It's feel and timing. Some of us will work a lifetime trying to get just a penny's worth of that feel.
I may never be a horseman at the level I dream to be. I'm okay with that. Regardless, I want to be a lifelong student of horsemanship, continuing my education, if you will. I want to be inspired, empowered, and for my skills to grow. It can be challenging at times. It can be hard to go out there and apply what you learn, to not get frustrated, to find support, and to hear encouragement and criticism. The horse world can be a lonely place for those of us that can't travel to all of the clinics or shows, or board at stables with people with similar goals and interests. I know that everything I do with my horse and his improvement is connected to how I am working with him. It's all up to me. If we fail, it is my fault, not his. Buck says that you have to love it, to want it, to make the time, or there is no point.
More on Buck in my next post, the book tag, which I'm finally getting around to!
Note: My blogger friend Liz over at Cowgirl Up was also at the clinic, unfortunately unbeknownst to me before I left town! However, I am sure she will be posting about her 4 days of riding in the clinic on her blog in the next few days, so be sure to check it out!