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.
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
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 : firstname.lastname@example.org