The Power of Walk


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An important message to all riding beginners

Jan 15, 2024

A beginners mind is a beautiful thing. I’ve been learning about beginners mind and trying to nurture my own. I’ve learned so much about hoof trimming, coming in with a complete beginners mind and no ego.. I am only trimming my horses’ hooves reluctantly through necessity, not because I think I will be even remotely good at it. So the learning flows in at a very fast rate. I found a mentor who has proven results and is happy to be questioned. To me, a beginner’s mind doesn’t mean you don’t choose your teachers, question, and check in about whether what you are learning aligns. It just means that you don’t assume you know anything, and you realise how much you need to learn. I’m terrible at hoof trimming: uncoordinated with tools, unable to see the angles, or understand what my mentor means when she says “take a bit more off here”, but I still ask questions and say if something makes no sense to me. Somehow, somewhere along the line, and with huge amounts of support, my horses have become sound when they were not before and I am just beginning to be able to see things for myself. (Thanks for your endless patience Indi!)Applying beginners mind to training and riding is harder work as I have been doing it for longer, with success, and it can be a little harder to let go of things I have become attached to if they are no longer serving well. Beginners mind here does not mean I continually throw away everything I know and dabble in lots of different things. It means that I continually evaluate what I am doing and seek more answers, and acknowledge that what I have learned is, and always will be, a tiny proportion of what there is to be learned.There is a culture in the horse world, at least in the countries I have lived in, of beginners being taught to kick and pull on disillusioned and sullen horses and ponies who are “safe” and “bombproof”. Rider vs horse, who can win?A beginner’s mind of the most common type exacerbates the problem by clients pushing down uncomfortable feelings of this not being OK, telling themselves “I’m just a beginner, what do I know?”I would like to share a message here: A beginners mind does not mean you blindly follow the “expert”. It means you are curious, questioning, a sponge, a pair of fresh eyes. A good teacher encourages this and does not shut you down with excuses when you say you don’t want to kick your horse.My main message: if you are a beginner and you are being told you need to kick or pull your horse, use auxiliary reins, show them who’s boss, bump around uncomfortably on a sore tense back without stirrups, anything that doesn’t feel OK, I would like to let you know that it does not have to be like this, it should not be like this, and there is a better way. Listen to your instincts, question your instructor, don’t blindly accept their answer if it doesn’t make sense or feels wrong, or if you don’t feel safe to question, find somewhere else to learn.Ignorance is not an excuse to be complicit in the abuse of horses.Photo: me being a “beginner” at Heather Moffett’s a few years back. After around 30 years of riding, I finally found a place where it was safe to be a beginner again, and I learned so much!Diana Waters

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