I Can`t Answer Her Questions

I recently got an email from a woman who runs a training and teaching barn. Here`s what she wrote:

“Mr. Emerson, I got your book, How Good Riders Get Good as a Christmas present, and I found it to be full of good ideas that I wish more of the people I teach would know about. But when I encourage them to get a copy, or even read mine, I get lots of resistance. Some say they don`t have time, or don`t learn anything useful from reading, or can`t afford a copy. A very talented youg lady I teach has a temper problem, so I actually printed out what you wrote about patience, but I don`t see major changes in her attitude toward her horse.

I don`t mean to put this on you, but what would you do? Is this resistance to studying normal, do you think? Some of these are teens, some are adults. A few have read your book, and say they loved it, but they aren`t the majority.”

 Wow–where to even start. I guess I think that part of the “problem”, if it is a problem, starts with the title, “How Good Riders Get Good.” In real life, not many people get really good in anything, not the kind of “good” I was thinking about when I wrote the book. I didn`t use “How Great Riders Get Great” as a title, on purpose, because I thought it would be too daunting, but that`s what it means to be as good as lots of the riders and drivers we interviewed actually are.

The words “average” and “mediocre” sound worse than they really are, but that`s what most of us are about most of the things we do. I`m personally mediocre about millions of things, average in some others, and, if I`m on my game, good in a few.

So I`m not that surprised that many riders are quite content to stay just where they are about their riding, especially given the amount of thought and effort, mental, physical, and emotional, it takes to change. Becoming “good” is hard work, and why should I be surprised that many resist that? Sure, as someone who wrote a book, I wish people would actually read it, even study it with a yellow underliner, but I`ve been around too long to expect that!

So I guess my best advice to the barn owner who wrote me would be that she should try the hardest to help the riders who really want to be helped, because those few will get the most from the help, but not to neglect the bill paying others, who are probably very nice people, just not “obsessed” about improving their riding, any more than I might take a tennis lesson, but not be “obsessed” about getting much better than a hacker.

In other words, most riders will be average, or “in the middle”, all their riding lives, and that`s normal. Disappointing to an author, sure, but not unexpected!


1 Comment

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One response to “I Can`t Answer Her Questions

  1. Annette

    I struggle with this as an adult amateur! I have two horses I ride as close to daily as I can, hope to add a lease in the spring, gladly ride any other horse I get the chance to, and I read/watch/listen/lesson/clinic as much as I can to learn. Everything I do revolves around trying to improve, and I find every learning experience valuable.
    I have a friend who claims to be passionate about horses, but who doesn’t care to take lessons because they are “a waste of money” and would rather go enjoy other hobbies instead of riding.
    While I can accept other people being less passionate about learning and improving, I have a hard time accepting a friend claiming to want to get great as much as I do who thinks lessons are a waste of time but then thinks it’s unfair I am making as much progress I am and that it merely means I’m lucky. I’m extremely lucky in many ways – but that luck wouldn’t have me improving if I weren’t working hard at it, too! If I were less lucky, my progress would be slower, yes. But if I were less lucky, my progress would still happen.

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