Release the Ego to Learn
By Kim Roe
For a number of years, I worked regularly with a German clinician who came to our area three or four times annually. Once, as I came in for my lesson, he announced to the spectators that he enjoyed working with me because, “Kim doesn’t have an ego.” Later, a friend came up to me and said, “Wow, he really insulted you.” I told her I took his words as high praise.
As an instructor, I knew what he was talking about: in order to learn anything well, you need to get rid of yourself (your ego) and absorb without question what you are being taught. You need to open your mind. That’s not to say you can’t decide later to throw away whatever it is you learned, but during the lesson itself you need to try or you’re wasting your time and money.
I started taking riding lessons when I was 6 years old. I’d hate to add up how much money I’ve spent on my equestrian education over the many decades since but I’m sure it’s a lot of cash. Even as a child I paid for most of these lessons myself, usually with minimum-wage jobs and money scraped together and saved.
My education is my greatest asset as a rider and a teacher, and I don’t waste my money and time by refusing to listen to the instructor or trying my best. I shut my mouth, open my ears, and just do it, even if it’s hard or scary.
That being said, I’ve learned also to be careful—very careful—of who I sign up to clinic with. I make sure I’ve seen them teach and I need to trust that they won’t compromise my horse’s well-being or mine.
I also ride regularly with a woman who helps me absorb whatever I’ve learned from a clinic, especially if I’m having doubts or confusion. She’s a person I trust completely and who I know always has my (and my horse’s) best interest in mind.
One might think that after all these years I wouldn’t need to take lessons anymore. Haven’t I learned how to ride a horse yet? Well, yes and no. We never quit learning in this game, and each horse brings a new puzzle that needs to be solved.
This is the gift horses give us––a never-ending opportunity to experience curiosity followed by revelation. Much of what we learn has an impact on the rest of our lives. Go forth and learn!