If you could bottle the aura of the attitude of most horse people, I think the perfume would have a strong bitter scent and the label would read “Conceit”. Now, that might sound harsh, and in all fairness I would admit that the attitude transcends far beyond those who associate with horses. Know-it-all syndrome is widespread. But if you are around horse people for any length of time, you are going to meet with strong personalities who are assured they are correct, to the point of everyone else being wrong. I would admit that I have been there….but I think I’ve arrived at the realization that I can never know enough, there is always more to learn, and anyone who will share their viewpoint with me is someone I can gain knowledge from.
I remember when I was in high school. I was standing around after a church service with a couple of kids, and we were looking through a tack catalog. One girl had just moved to our area and was pretty new to horses, but really wanted to learn everything, and she was looking for things to buy in the catalog, as she was planning on buying a horse of her own soon. I don’t remember what it was we were looking at exactly, but what I’ll never forget was how I declared loudly and confidently, “Oh, that’s the kind they use in dressage.” Only, I said the word so it rhymed with the word “message”, having never heard the word spoken, and only read it in horse magazines. (Right, I grew up in ranch country in the middle of Nebraska.)
Much to my embarrassment, my Sunday School teacher, who also happened to be a very good horse trainer in both English and Western, Kevin Wescott, turned around from a different conversation he was having, and said, “Actually, it’s pronounced ‘dres-SAHJ’.” I can still feel the burn on my face from that day! My chagrin was not so much at pronouncing the word wrong, but in being so certain that I was right and that I knew so much more about horses than the girl I was speaking to. It left me with the feeling that a person should not be too quick to believe they are right. There might always be a more perfect way.
And that’s how it should be when you go to work with horses. There is always something more to learn, and if someone rubs you the wrong way, don’t bristle up or get defensive. Chances are you can still learn something from them, even if it’s how NOT to do things. I have a pretty strong dislike of a very popular horse trainer, based on how he handles his horses and other comments I’ve heard from other trainers about him. But I still watch his training demonstrations on television, not only to critique his training, but to learn from him and the horse he is working with. When I hear other people praise him, or say how much they’ve learned from him, I try never to discredit that or talk bad about him, because we all are in a learning process.
I think a slice of humble pie never hurt anyone, and the day I think I’ve arrived and know everything there is to know about horses, that’s the day I stop learning and listening to my horses.