Becoming a Student of the Sport

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn in their lesson with David O'Connor at Morningside. Photo by Jenni Autry. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn in their lesson with David O'Connor at Morningside. Photo by Jenni Autry.

During our first meeting with Robin Walker and Cathy Wieschhoff during Area VIII Young Rider Camp – South they began preaching the phrase, “Become a student of the sport.” Honestly at first I didn’t know what they meant. I am a student of the sport, aren’t I? I mean, I train with Cathy on a regular basis, I am her student – therefore I’m a student of the sport, right? Wrong.

Maybe not completely wrong because I am correct, I’ve been her student for almost two years. However not until recently have I become a student of eventing itself.

I’ve never enjoyed reading horse books or articles, and heaven forbid you convince me of the benefits of documenting my lessons in, oh dear, a notebook. I mean honestly, what’s the point? Well, the point is remembering and practicing it correctly. You’re never actually remembering a complete memory itself; you’re remembering the last time you remembered it.

Which means every time you will leave things out and change things slightly until eventually it’s not a complete accurate memory anymore. So, by writing down what occurred in your lesson DIRECTLY after, you can remember everything as accurately as possible by referring to your notes. It’s actually a fool proof way of doing your homework the way you practiced with your trainer.

That’s one very effective start to becoming a student of the sport, but what are some others? In this day and age we have endless amounts of tips and insight from top professionals at our fingertips. We have Eventing Nation, The Chronicle of the Horse, Horse Collaboration, Evention TV, The Heelsdown Magazine, EventingUSA, and many other wealths of knowledge that are accessible to EVERYONE.

You can go on USEF Network and watch hours of clinic footage and endless videos of our top riders in the world. You’d be surprised how much you can learn just from watching our nation’s best riders do some dressage tests. You can also read about exercises and things people like George Morris and Lainey Ashker do with their horses at home and how you can do the same exact exercises. Learn to be a sponge and never stop soaking up information.

Expanding your tool box is a huge part of training yourself and your horses. Clinics and lessons with anyone you can get to will help with that. Almost every horse person has at least one thing they can pass on to you which you might need sometime down the road.

So if you’re ever in a lesson and the trainer tells you to become a student of the sport, you may have a better idea of what they mean. We never stop learning but it’s important you never take something you’re being taught for granted.

We have trainers for a reason, and they have already done their homework and continue to learn. No one can make you want to learn more about this sport — you have to want it for yourself. So go out there and take advantage of some opportunities – maybe even invest in a notebook.