I once read a saying
‘If you want to be good with horses, you have to leave your ego at the gate’
It’s a fact that, for most human beings, this is quite a challenge (because our ego tends to creep up on us in very sophisticated ways…)
It’s for this particular reason that the conversation about our ego vs the horse comes up a lot during lessons and because I am the teacher I get to tell other people to say goodbye to their ego while comfortably not having to face my own.
Well, that story chanced a bit last week…
One of the horses in the pasture got a bit up tight because his friends were taken out.
Instead of taking him out while he was on adrenaline, I decided to play with him in the pasture to help him to get calm and then bring him in.
I was already playing with him for a while, when, from the corner of my eye I saw Linda coming.
The first thought that came up was ‘oh shit…I should have been able to fix it by now’
Linda watched me for a bit and suggested to play Touch it. Without thinking I responded with
‘I’ve already done that and it did not work’.
Well, that’s an interesting response given the fact that I crossed the Atlantic to actually learn from her.
I quickly realized that it was not me talking but my ego.
My ego sneaked up on me and convinced me I needed to make an excuse for not fixing it already.
Not that it wasn’t true, I had already tried the Touch it game and it did not work.
Immediately my mind (aka ego) came up with reasons why it didn’t.
Perhaps I didn’t do it for long enough or I was not clear enough.
Coming up with all those reasons did not make me feel better because, honestly, none of them were true.
You see, I rather hide than being seen. Except for when I feel succesful, then I love being seen.
Being seen when I am not completely sure about something makes me feel very uncomfortable and my ego really wants to protect me from that feeling.
So me and my ego used to disappear to the other side of the playground whenever we were out playing and riding. As soon as I felt confident and savvy, I would show up and show of but as soon as I felt unsure I would disappear again.
Later on my ego taught me a more sophisticated way of hiding.
My ego taught me the act of ‘not giving 100 %’
If you participate in something, not with all your heart, but with just half of it, you can always tell yourself that the reason you failed was just because you did not give it a 100%.
The amount of effort you put in is a choice, and if you fail because you did not give it all, you basically failed by choice. Not because you are not good enough.
Giving it all I’ve got, with all my heart and not knowing if I will succeed is scary and makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. Not the kind of feeling my ego is cheering for.
However, true learning doesn’t happen if your teacher can’t see you.
I realized how, even after all these years, I was still playing small. I am only risking half of my heart.
Which is, honestly, a really stupid thing to do.
Lets make a quick summary of what happened.
I play with the horse, people see me, I get uncomfortable and give only 50%, all the things I come up with do not work…duh…Linda comes over and makes the suggestion to play Touch It, I am getting mad at myself for not being succesful but at the same time my ego had already an excuse, I now feel more confident because Linda gave the suggestion (which means I am not responsible, which means it is not my fault if it fails), I give it a 100%, Touch It works perfectly and the horse calms down in no time.
Long story short:
If I want to master Horsemanship (or riding or skiing or golfing or…) being a good student is my most valuable tool.
Learning involves being vulnerable, it involves feeling like a failure only to realize that failing doesn’t really exists as long as you give it all you’ve got.
“The teacher is the one who gets the most out of the lessons
and the true teacher is the learner” -Elbert Hubbard
Linda, I could not wish for a better place to be. Thank you.
– Eef Veenstra