A few weeks ago, I found myself in the middle of a dressage warm-up riding a ticking time bomb. My dragon horse that had completely surprised me and threw down a calm, confident warm-up and accurate test just weeks prior was back to his fire-breathing self. I tried my hardest to work through the tension and anxiety, to ride my horse correctly and pull everything together before we entered the arena, but I was failing miserably when my friend walked up. She took one look at me and the mess I was trying to handle and confidently headed into the middle of the warm-up space. With no other words exchanged between us, she started telling me what to do, giving instructions on exactly what to change and how to ride the beast beneath me.
So I sat up tall, I took a deep breath and I listened. I heard every word my friend offered as if I had been paying her to train me for years. When she said to slow my posting, to push up through my rib cage and to squeeze Lou into the bridle every single stride, that’s what I did. Not one part of me questioned her words, wondering why she felt the need to tell me what to do. I embraced her suggestions, her words of advice and wisdom like she was the most enlightened trainer in the country. And why? Because at that moment she was. She had the answers that I needed, to questions I didn’t even know that I had.
She saw the holes in my riding and training, she knew exactly how to fix them and she shared that knowledge with me. In those ten minutes of warm-up, I assumed the student role and I could not have been more grateful that she assumed the role of trainer. With her help, the dragon calmed and we completed our test without an explosion.
Advice and assistance come in many forms – a professional who we have sought out to answer questions that have been troubling us, a friend who happens to see an opportunity for improvement, or even a stranger on a social media forum with in-depth knowledge on a topic. Whether sought out and paid for or completely unsolicited, criticism or compliment, uplifting or disheartening, our lives change dramatically when we open ourselves to guidance, no matter what form it comes in.
It’s easy to skate by on a day-to-day basis, thinking we know what we’re doing and dodging help like the plague. It’s much harder to take a close look at our shortcomings, to open our minds to the ideas and opinions of others and to admit when we are in need of assistance. Yet the only way to grow it by not only accepting, but seeking advice even when it’s disguised as criticism, hurts our egos or is offered unsolicited.
Only by being objective, putting our egos aside and not only hearing, but actually listening to other’s ideas, can we truly experience growth. Only when we realized how much we don’t know, how much there is left to learn, and actively seek those with the answers, will we ever become better riders, trainers and horse people.
So go out there, ask your friends to critique you, lesson with the trainer down the road, go to every clinic in your area, stand by the warm-up at your local show and just listen. Find the opportunities to learn, seek out the experiences that will help you grow, ask your farrier, vet, and random horse people on the street any questions you can think of. Use the resources available to you, no matter what form they come in- close friend, professional trainer, random internet stranger (only sort of kidding). Don’t be afraid to sound silly, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know, don’t understand or can’t figure something out. Don’t let your ego get the best of you, be ready and willing to admit your flaws. Because only by acknowledging what we don’t know, by being open to learning and by seeking out assistance in every form that it comes in can we ever truly improve.