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Wrangling on the Range #158

For the Newbie


You talkin' to me? Surviving the newbie state

by Scott Philips

If you are new to the horse world, some days learning may seem
like an insurmountable endeavour. What makes this even more
difficult is that there are multiple ways to approach any task,
all with equally successful results. Yet, each person has their
own way, and each person is right.


     When we are inexperienced and learning something as complex
as horses and riding, we typically progress through certain

1.   We learn one method to accomplish something; a method that
works for us that we understand. We are concerned with the result
here, and it might take us several attempts to achieve it.

2.   We become proficient with our method through repetition.
We're confident in our ability to use this method to achieve our

3.   We realize that in some situations we can vary aspects of
the method to achieve a better or a more consistent result.

4.   We allow ourselves to expand; to try completely different
methods. We have success and failures, but we're comfortable
trying new things.

5.   We have gained experience. We know which method works best
in any given situation.


     Consider yourself starting off. You are boarding your horse
at a facility with many other boarders. When you first walk in
the door, you are an unknown. Are you competition? Are you new at
this game? Are you a potential riding buddy? Once it's discovered
that you're a newbie, you'll be assailed with opinions, advice,
and `you should do it this way.' It can be overwhelming. You'll
soon discover that many people consider themselves teachers and
experts, regardless of their experience.

     You'll find this not only in the barn but also on the
internet. There are many completely different answers to any
given question. It is very difficult and time consuming to sort
through all the opinions to find factual information and answers
that you can trust. Some people are very well spoken and good
writers; it's easy to take their word without a second thought.
Online, use trusted names and reputable sources. Don't rely on
blogs or threads.


     Wendy Gudzus is 54 years old, new to horses and riding, and
recently purchased her own horse. "I used to listen to people at
the barn along with the trainer. Everyone seems to have different
ways of doing things and of course, if you don't know what the
heck you are doing, you can easily get caught up with everyone
trying to tell you their ways. Many horse owners want to talk to
me about their experiences and what ]tack] they use. I think at
this point, I have eight halters, all of different makes, since
everyone says I have to have this type for sure because they are
the best! And for Pete's sake, don't ask anyone about bridles or
saddles or even what kind of oil to use on your new saddle. Of
course, everyone too has a different way of teaching."

     So as a newcomer to the horse world, how do you sort though
this barrage? Consider everyone around you a teacher, regardless
of their experience. You will observe other's successes and
failures; learn from those.

     Then, consider the qualities of a good teacher. Think back
to your school days. What teacher did you learn the most easily
from? Why?


1.   Has knowledge based on experience. This is crucial. Someone
who has just taken a week-long course on a topic is not
experienced. They can recite what they've learned, but lack the
experience to apply it.

2.   Allows you to fail. You will learn from your successes and
failures. Failures will teach you why what you tried didn't work.
A good teacher will know the right time to speak up or intervene.

3.   Is a good learner. You will find that the best clinicians
are the ones who are always taking clinics, always training and
striving to advance themselves. They learn new methods that they
may incorporate into their own training.

4.   Is a good communicator. When you say, "I don't get it!" your
teacher should be able to rephrase or demonstrate it in a way
that you do understand. People learn in a variety of ways. Some
learn easily from watching a training DVD, whereas others need
the hands-on experience to get a feel for it.

5.   Gets you try. Say you're having trouble sorting out all
those pieces of leather on your bridle for the first time.
Someone takes the bridle from your hands and says, "Here, I'll
show you how!" With a few flicks of their hands your horse is
bridled. "There you go!" they say, and walk away. You're standing
there wondering what just happened. A good teacher will let you
do the work.


     If aggravated or overwhelmed by advice, just smile and say,
"Thanks, maybe I'll try that." It's a small world and boarding
barns are even smaller. It can sometimes be tough to keep the
peace between everybody, and those that relish in expounding
their knowledge are usually the easiest to have their feathers


     By asking experienced professionals first, it will help
prevent you from picking up the habits of those less qualified,
which may end up being detrimental to your cause. Take a horse
injury for example. If you're not sure how to deal with a cut,
you can either ask someone else in the barn or ask the vet. The
vet is a professional, and it's a free call. With technology
these days, you can rake a picture. on your phone, send it to the
vet and have a conversation about it all at the same time. I've
done that on more than one occasion.


     For all of you good-hearted advice givers out there, it can
be hard to pull in the reins. You are passionate about horses.
When you learn and become proficient at something, it's exciting
and you want to share it. Just remember to share your knowledge
wisely. If you are not a professional trainer, coach or
veterinarian, understand that perhaps the best help you can offer
is a referral to someone else. Before helping someone you deem in
need, ask, "Can I help you with that?" offer help and assistance
only if your honest intention is to help, but not if it is to
boost your own ego or to demonstrate your knowledge in front of
your friends. If you are asked a question and you are not sure of
the answer, be honest and say, "I don't know, but I do know
someone who can answer that." There is no shame in not knowing
something. Admitting you do not know the answer will gain
respect; it's a mark of a good teacher.

     Horses are a lifelong learning endeavour; none of us will
ever know it all. For many of us the attraction of horses is in
the challenge of learning. Help others have a good learning
experience. If you're a newbie, never be nervous about asking
questions. We all had to start somewhere! AB (Alberta Bits)

Scott Phillips is the proud owner o f five horses that he rides
and trains daily. His passion for horses is evident in his weekly
blogs on where he also works as a web
programmer. Scott enjoys spending his summers on horseback in the
mountains. You can contact him at

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