You don't know what you don't know.
That statement may seem too obvious, too logical, but it is undeniably true. It saddens me to browse a website like Facebook, a beautiful platform for collaboration and mingling, and see the amount of criticism and harsh commentary from people hiding behind their pessimistic keyboards. I so often see a horse posted for sale, or a green rider asking for advice, and the slew of comments below are anything but helpful and uplifting.
One of the most fundamental qualities - the foremost characteristics - of being an equestrian is what we often hear termed as 'good horsemanship.' A good horseman embraces empathy, the ability to walk in another's shoes, and utilizes it to effectively understand and communicate with the horse. A good horseman is kind, as he is simply grateful for the opportunity to work in partnership with such magnificent animals. A good horseman is forgiving, because he sees that the horse is nothing but. And a great horseman has no ego.
When we hold such qualities in high esteem and practice them in how we make decisions in the care and treatment of our horses, it seems awfully strange how we choose to treat another human being on these comment threads. Whenever I see a post from someone online asking for advice, and the comments below tear them apart for even thinking to ask, that initial statement comes to mind. You don't know what you don't know. A new rider is asking for more information on a fresh OTTB? Instead of publicly calling them out on the inappropriate match, suggest a more positive alternative privately. Or don't get involved. A decent seller will take care of explaining that for you. An experienced horse owner is selling their old trail horse? Why do you feel it's your job to point out the broken fence, the debris in the field, and non-breakaway halter during turnout? Consider that perhaps it's on an impossibly long list of things they have to do. Perhaps they're selling their horse because of some familial or medical issues. One of my favorite sayings is, "Be kind to everyone you meet, for they're fighting a battle you know nothing about."
I actually set out to write a post on collaboration, about teaming up with other riders and trainers, to achieve a common goal. As I thought more on the subject, I realized how backwards horse people really are. We (try to) exude humility, empathy, kindness, and selflessness, when we work with horses, but get catty and condescending when it comes to other equestrians. The beauty of collaboration is that you get not just one perspective (no matter how cool you think you are), but two or three. You were only born to be you. Your student, trainer, and friend, all have a different perspective and a different way of thinking.
In a couple short weeks, Kasa will be leaving me for a little while to go hang out with Suzy in Minnesota. Although Suzy has influenced my training tremendously, and I feel like I have a decent grasp on what she's taught me, she still has a wealth of knowledge and life experience that I simply will never have - just as she will never have my moments. I know that in her 5 weeks with him, she will see and address several things that bypassed my observation and that he will come back an even more willing partner for me. Collaboration extends beyond trainers you trust and admire. I appreciate every time one of my younger students sits on one of my horses, because they have a perspective (and an age!) than I will ever have again. To collaborate effectively, you have to open yourself up to someone else's opinions and experiences. To allow for mistakes to gain greater understanding. To admit that you don't know everything, and accept that your way is not the only right way. And it's not just being a good horseman or woman, it's being a good person.
In slideshow: Some of my students riding my horses for me at various times... Allie and Pebbles over the tire jump, Jenny and Pebbles schooling stadium fences, Allie on Kasa in March, Hannah on Apollo (with Allie on Majesty) last summer, Kasa on his tire pedestal (so excited for him to meet Suzy shortly!)
*To all you lovely ladies out there, please excuse the generalized use in this post of horseMAN, but it is simply too wordy to include every variation every time I use the noun. My point is still made.