Guest Blog post # 69: "Learning Lows - Part 4" by the famous Bad Eventer!

Learning Lows - Part 4


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I used to live by the mantra, "Frustration begins where knowledge ends."

If I was having a hard time with a horse, I would stop and think, "What don't I know about this situation?"


It could be that I just didn't have enough tools in my tool box to get to the right answer. Maybe I hadn't done my homework and I was asking for something more advanced than we were ready for......


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And then there is the Dunning Kruger effect. 


This is something that has two sides. One side is where someone who is particularly unskilled thinks they have super powers. They don't know what they don't know, and even worse they think they know it all. 


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That was me when I first started breaking horses, back at the ripe age of 14. The first several horses I started under saddle were gems. They let me muddle along and became rock star horses. 


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Not because I had any skills, other than sheer fearlessness at the time. They were just lovely well natured horses. 

Then. 


I met a horse named Trouble.



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He taught me that I didn't know nearly as much about starting horses as I thought I did. 


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"There are defining events in your life where everything becomes "before" or "after" that event." That is a loose quote from one of my favorite movies of all time, Fallen.


My horse training education has several of those dividing lines. 


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Trouble..... was one of those times. 

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He was the first horse that I climbed on, that bucked and bucked and bucked. I went back to the drawing board, bought a "Colt Starting" Series of video tapes and started over. This was the beginning of my realization that there was a whole lot more to training horses than I ever imagined. 


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The other side of the Dunning Kruger effect is people that are highly skilled at something often underestimate how skilled they are. They think if they can do something easily, others should be able to as well. 


How many riding instructors fall into one of these two categories?

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Recently I've decided that frustration begins where knowledge ends, sometimes. 


Sometimes knowledge has nothing to do with it. 


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WonderPony is getting a little mature in years, and while he is still playing the game like the wonder horse he is........ 


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I don't want to ask more from him than he wants to give. Of course he blasted around cross country so fast last time that the TD chased us all the way back to my trailer..........so for now I think his heart is still in it. 

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And Baby T-Rex is coming along like gangbusters..... 


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but having just done her very first schooling show, she's still a long ways off from becoming my main ride. With this 10 year gap in horse ages we decided I needed another horse. So we searched the world over & I brought a new one home. 

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My new pony is fancy and talented and just the right age. 

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When I got him home, I couldn't get him to do.......... anything. 

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I couldn't get him to put his head down or go straight, let alone something like a leg yield. The head down problem was the first exercise in frustration.  

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The instructions went something like, "Put contact in both reins and put your leg on."


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Nope. Nothing. 

"Ok, put more contact in both reins and more leg."

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Nope. Nothing. 

So we decided it was the wrong bit, and we changed it. 

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Then we changed it again. 

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Two weeks into this "getting to know each other process" I found myself in absolute depression. I'd bought a new horse, I had all the hopes and dreams attached to this new found team, and it was not exactly smooth sailing...... 

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It became an emotional tail spin.........

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What if I never figure out how to ride him? What if I've wasted all this time, money & horse cookies.......... and we can't get our act together? 

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Eventually I lost it, and found myself sitting on my pony failing miserably to fight back tears.

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I was crying.... on a horse. And no one was bleeding. This just isn't allowed in my world. 

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This wasn't about knowledge. It was about partnership. I was telling my story to a friend, who said something like "Why would you want to keep riding that horse when you have WonderPony?"



This was the light bulb moment, when I gave myself a giant kick in the pants. 

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Last weekend, I have never been so proud of a comment on a dressage test as this one.

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The Wonder Pony & Bad Eventer scored a 26 and the comment was "Good partnership."

That's when I shared with my friend that the WonderPony & I didn't always have such a great relationship. 

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I explained that she's looking at 4 years of lessons & practice, discussions & compromises. When I first bought the WonderPony, things were not so peachy. 

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I vividly remember a lesson where he ran sideways passed every jump and it was so bad my fearless leader finally said, "Just put him away. We'll try again tomorrow."

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Partnerships take time to develop. 

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Imagine if I'd given up back then on the WonderPony? 

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I would have missed the horse of a life time. 


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