5 Tips for Teachers

They say we teach what we most need to learn. When you think about it, that could be true, but it also qualifies just about anybody to be a teacher… of something. After all, nobody can know everything, even within your own specialized area of study. There’s always new information coming from various channels, whether you are a neuroscientist or a horse trainer.

In fact, becoming a specialist and teacher in a niche field is available to anyone these days, especially if you have a computer. The door to the world is open to trillions of possibilities. If you’re reading this blog, then obviously you fit that category. Yes, YOU are a teacher too. Perhaps it is your child watching and listening as you speak to someone on your phone. They will learn from your tone of voice and behaviour. Maybe it is your horse. He watches and learns your patterns as you walk into the feed room and reemerge with something tasty for him. You smile as his ears prick up at the anticipation of a bucket full of good stuff. If you are in a bad mood and clean his stall with aggressive, angry stabs at the piles of manure, he will learn to be afraid of you and possibly anybody else with a pitchfork in their hand.

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photo:  Horse-Canada magazine (article link below)

http://www.horse-canada.com/magazine_articles/pro-grooming-tips/

To our large world of equestrian enthusiasts (we refer to the collective of horse lovers as “The Global Herd”) we are recommending using The Compassionate Equestrian’s 25 Principles of Compassionate Equitation as a teaching guide and foundation for your riding and horsemanship programs. The principles may be applied whether you work by yourself, or if you are a professional instructor and trainer with a body of students. My personal background comprises hunters and hunt seat equitation, jumpers, dressage, and three-day eventing horses. In my youth, I showed Appaloosa horses in both Western and English events including trail, working cow horse, and reining classes. Reading and studying were part of my passion for training, so I gravitated to information relating to those disciplines.

Realizing the need for a book that addresses the industry as a whole, TCE is written without specific training methods as much as possible so that everyone may visualize the concept of compassionate training and the horse’s wellbeing as it relates to their own discipline, breed, and equestrian-based activity.

While there are great instructor certification programs in most countries that address the basics of ethics, lesson planning, and of course, practical application of methods and technique, the personalities and compassion of individuals are entirely up to the individual to cultivate. Being certified  does not require being a compassionate certified instructor, trainer, judge, official, or other professional.

I realize 25 Principles are a lot, but we can break it down into 5 steps for teachers (and remember, you’re ALL teachers in some capacity) who wish to begin incorporating compassion as a foundation for their personal development, and as an inspiring base from which their students can incorporate all of the other aspects of their riding/training programs.

  1. Thoroughly read The Compassionate Equestrian book (hard copy or Kindle) to understand the journey from personal development to embracing the global challenges faced by the equine industry, and recognizing those challenges with compassion.
  2. If you have students or are in the presence of boarders at a barn, encourage them to read the book also, and enter into discussions about the Principles, whether in a formal study-group session or in a more casual setting. Talking about compassion is important!
  3. Watch your language carefully as you speak to your students and/or fellow boarders and horse-friends. We recommend Nonviolent Communication by M. Rosenberg if you are unfamiliar or unaware of how commonly used words instigate feelings of hostility, negativity or loss-of-confidence in others. Teaching by bullying is not effective!
  4. Print a copy of the 25 Principles (e-mail me at CompassionEq@gmail.com) and post them where everyone can read them—daily. Even if a person is in a hurry, a quick glance at a poster will cause a few words to jump out, and if nothing else, a valuable sentence is read. Something will stick, even if it’s only a few words. If you want to be creative, you could make a poster-board, and encourage your students/boarders to pin up their own inspiring sayings or photos that relate to the various Principles.
  5. Let us know how compassion is working for you in your life, your program, and your barn. Join the conversation on Facebook, and join The Compassionate Equestrian Movement as our featured first-in members have done (see the link to our Compassionate Media piece on www.thecompassionateequestrian.com.

Ultimately, it is the great teachers who make a difference in people’s lives. You influence those who are young, old, or four-legged with your thoughts, words, and actions. If you have chosen to teach in a specialty capacity as your life’s work, then may your passion reflect the wonderful being that you are, and may your students thrive in the world as living extensions of your compassionate nature and teaching ability. We would be most honoured if you were to also incorporate The 25 Principles of Compassionate Equitation as part of your formal lesson program.

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The Compassionate Equestrian blog is written by TCE coauthor Susan Gordon unless otherwise noted. Dr. Schoen’s personal blog and website may be found at http://www.drschoen.com

About the blogger:

Susan Gordon is 56 years old and lives on Salt Spring Island, B.C., Canada. She turned professional as a rider in 1983, upon the invitation of Maclay champion (1973), the late Michael Patrick. Susan trained eventing, hunter, jumper and dressage horses, apprenticing with other top trainers in her chosen disciplines. She taught freelance from 2002 until retiring in 2010, bringing elements of meditation practice, music, dance, art, and an interest in non-invasive, holistic therapies—in particular Low Level Laser Therapy and tapping— to her work with students and their horses. She has since completed courses in sustainability (University of British Columbia and University of Guelph), and documentary filmmaking (Pull Focus Film School, Vancouver). She is a nationally ranked competitive masters and age-group runner in the 400m track to ½ Marathon Road Race distances. The Compassionate Equestrian is her first book. Her second book also released in June 2015: Iridescent Silence of the Pacific Shores (Gordon/D. Wahlsten 2015), a book of abstract water photography with a strong environmental statement, and DVD featuring original Orca calls and music composed by Ron Gordon, Ph.D.  Photo prints and paintings are available for viewing and purchase by contacting Susan at : susan.greepony@gmail.com

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Facebook Faux Pas and Expanding the CE Movement

 

It has occurred to me that my Facebook posts of late are as long as a blog post. And the blog posts themselves have been non-existent. Therefore, I am attempting to re-boot my social media habits as of today and link a shorter Facebook post to a longer blog post. Wish me luck. Thank you to all of our subscribers and readers to date! That includes those of you who also use Twitter and Instagram. It’s hard to keep up with all the social-media networking, but I’m learning! I’m also finding that the most “likes” and comments come from the stories about personal relationships and experiences with horses and numerous training issues, as well as issues that develop in the barn with other horse-people. I love the feedback and your stories too!

 

We also have a new sign-up window on the website for those who wish to register for the upcoming Compassionate Equestrian Community Newsletter (see www.thecompassionateequestrian.com). Plans so far are for a quarterly newsletter so you don’t have to worry about having excessive e-mails from us. I realize it is a concern when signing up for anything nowadays as everybody seems to have more e-mails and more reading to do than they can keep up with. This particular blog post is somewhat of  a hybrid, but the information in the newsletter will be quite different and “newsy” compared to blog posts, which are more of a personal commentary. There’s still nothing quite like having a real book with real pages in your hands so far as we’re concerned too!

 

Since the book’s release last year (almost a year ago already!) the movement toward a more compassionate equestrian industry is beginning to take shape, and we are seeing considerable interest around the world in the form of new equine welfare statements and policies by breed and regulating bodies. This is very important, and a much-needed move to catch up with the enormous amount of abuse and neglect that still affects millions of horses in working, showing, breeding, racing, post-career, and retirement situations.

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This is Reine, the Canadian mare that I ride for a client near my home on Salt Spring Island, B.C. I’m not completely retired. That wouldn’t be any fun – LOL!

The Compassionate Equestrian Movement is growing, and our “first-in” barns, trainers, instructors and organizations have recently been featured in a wonderful brochure (available on our website’s home page) written by TCE’s editor, Rebecca Didier. The CE Movement will soon have a new page on our website, as it is currently in development. If you haven’t already read their stories, please check them out, and have a look at their online information for more details—links are included in the brochure’s pages found on our site. This is compassion-in-action and brings to life the many reasons Dr. Schoen and I embarked on writing TCE and formulating the principles.

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Lastly, here is my Facebook post from yesterday in case you missed it. It’s about the responsibility of declaring that you have a “beginner-safe horse.”

 

“Safe for a beginner.” Sometimes, famous last words, so to speak. I think back to my first horse, purchased for me by my parents when I was 12. She was safe enough on trails in the wilderness, where she was raised and used as a pack horse in the mountains during hunting season. However, once we moved to a rural neighbourhood of a city and I had to ride her along roads, she became a danger to both of us by panicking at cars and trucks roaring by. It didn’t help that the community roads were lined with large, muddy ditches, deep enough to swallow a car or horse unlucky enough to end up in one of them.

Fortunately there was a riding arena next door to our house and so I resolved to keep her off the busy roads and avoid the possibility of a terrible accident.

How many times have I had clients come home with a “beginner-safe horse” that turned out to be anything but? That would be a new book in itself!

What really constitutes “bomb-proof?” How do you legitimately know if a horse is right for a first-time owner or young rider?

A repeated message throughout TCE is learning about dealing with our ego. When purchasing a horse, you are not only involved with your own wants and needs, but those of the seller, and possibly your trainer or advisor. I have had clients let go of a very good, suitable horse when they moved away and found a new barn, simply because their perfect horse was not a horse their new trainer wanted to ride.

The beginner horse is a highly valued member of the equine community. If you are looking for one, or selling to a rider who is just starting out, you have a big responsibility in your hands.

As humans, we tend to talk a lot, especially when we should be watching or listening. There are many questions involved with a horse that can allegedly take care of a newer rider. The more you know about a horse’s history…where he’s been and what he’s done since he was weaned, the better.

Yes, my horse actually was beginner-safe, but only in the situations with which she was accustomed. Once taken out of that environment, she became too fearful and reactive for a young rider to handle. Any horse can develop pain and fear issues over time, and many sellers attempt to cover up those issues. Sometimes, it may be an oversight, or the seller and buyer are unaware of changes that might occur in the horse’s behavior when the environment changes.

We can never know everything about a horse, that’s really the bottom line. We can take some control over our egos though, and view the horses and everyone involved with them with a compassionate heart and mind. If we need to move on, it is best to do so with love, understanding and kindness.

My first horse was eventually sold back to a very large working ranch where she was able to live out her life in good health and an environment that kept her happy and content.
SG

(photo: http://www.cowboyshorsesale.com/horses.html)

The Compassionate Equestrian's photo.
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The Compassionate Equestrian blog is written by TCE coauthor Susan Gordon unless otherwise noted. Dr. Schoen’s personal blog and website may be found at http://www.drschoen.com

About the blogger:

Susan Gordon is 56 years old and lives on Salt Spring Island, B.C., Canada. She turned professional as a rider in 1983, upon the invitation of Maclay champion (1973), the late Michael Patrick. Susan trained eventing, hunter, jumper and dressage horses, apprenticing with other top trainers in her chosen disciplines. She taught freelance from 2002 until retiring in 2010, bringing elements of meditation practice, music, dance, art, and an interest in non-invasive, holistic therapies—in particular Low Level Laser Therapy and tapping)— to her work with students and their horses. She has since completed courses in sustainability (University of British Columbia and University of Guelph), and documentary filmmaking (Pull Focus Film School, Vancouver). She is a nationally ranked competitive masters and age-group runner in the 400m track to ½ Marathon Road Race distances. The Compassionate Equestrian is her first book. Her second book also released in June 2015: Iridescent Silence of the Pacific Shores (Gordon/D. Wahlsten 2015), a book of abstract water photography with a strong environmental statement, and DVD featuring original Orca calls and music composed by Ron Gordon, Ph.D.  Photo prints and paintings are available for viewing and purchase by contacting Susan at : susan.greepony@gmail.com

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