"The Power and Promise of Collaboration"



I have always been fascinated and excited when I discover similarities or commonalities in different systems. Whether that is a repeated pattern in different people, or a commonality across species, or an identifiable dynamic in different systems. My eyes light up when I notice these connections. Perhaps this is because, by my very nature as a human, I am desperate to notice patterns and predict what is going to happen in order to survive in this world. However, I like to think it is more a result of my curiosity and my interest in helping people. You see, it is my experience that the awareness and understanding of patterns and similarities that exist across species and relational systems are often the key in helping people progress toward their goals.


I think this is what people mean when they say that “horses are our mirrors.” In their interactions with horses they become aware of a pattern that they recognize either within themselves or in their relationships with others. At times, these patterns represent positive and adaptive qualities. At other times, the patterns are unproductive or perhaps even destructive.


Learning and growth is all about creating new patterns. This can happen by learning and adopting entirely new and different patterns of thought, emotion, behavior, and/or interaction. Or, this can can be accomplished by shifting old patterns through smaller changes. The challenge is often recognizing our patterns, both good and bad. And, at the same time, growing our awareness of the possibility of new and different ways of being. Simple awareness of existing patterns without openness and connection to the possibility of growth only leads to self-judgment and despair.


Connecting to a world of possibility, growth, and change requires us to be open to others. We seek out instructors and mentors in order to open doors and windows to growth. As insightful or gifted as an instructor can be, I am always aware that each mentor (I include myself in this) is limited by their own knowledge and experience. In seeking out new ideas, how can we prevent ourselves from being tossed around in a sea of different and contrasting perspectives? How do we know when a new and different approach has value?


The answer to these questions is not simple. I can only share with you how I approach this in my own life and horsemanship. First and foremost, I connect to core values. For me these are compassion, empathy, integrity, passion, and respect for horse and rider. I look for these in every mentor I seek out. Second, I look for the spirit of collaboration.


True collaboration is an amazing thing. When people collaborate with each other they are saying, “I have something to offer” and “I have something to learn” at the same time. My advice for you as you look to advance your horsemanship and grow as an individual is to surround yourself with people that embody this true spirit of collaboration and approach every interaction, especially those with your horse, this way.

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