This time of the year can be tough in a number of ways. Everything is frozen or muddy, the weather (and horses!) a bit more unpredictable, and it can be difficult to find opportunities to trailer off property for a little break in the routine with the uncertainty of what conditions may be like.
I try to keep things interesting at home, for myself, my horses, and my students. But it reaches a point where I need help, too — which is why seeking opportunities to continue my education has been so important for myself and my business.
It’s easy to get into a routine and start feeling stuck there. But I never want to get complacent in my own development as a trainer, rider, or coach, so each day I seek to learn something new, and take steps towards growth.
Continuing education can look different for everyone. Of course, there are undergraduate and graduate programs in equine-related fields, there are trainer and instructor certifications, and there are online learning tools we can use. No matter what you’re looking for, what capacity you have to pursue continuing education, there are options for everyone.
Despite operating my business ‘on my own’, I have realized the importance of fostering mentorship relationships. Seeking out opportunities to continue to learn from the experience of others has inspired, challenged, and encouraged me, giving me a fresh perspective, a helping hand, and a flush of new ideas to take to my clients and operation.
Most recently, I spent some time down in Florida with Tik Maynard and Sinead Halpin. Tik, Sinead, and their team have been generous enough to have me down before, and it was a very welcome break from the Pennsylvania winter to spend a few days with them in January.
The weather was not the only draw to the trip, but also the horsemanship clinic series that they host. This clinic was with Elsa Sinclair from Taming Wild. Elsa utilizes freedom-based training in her work with horses, and the few days at the clinic were spent so closely analyzing body language (both ours and the horses’!) and finding opportunities to connect with our horses in a mutual partnership.
The clinic was thought provoking, and eye-opening. Taking what I learned back to the frozen tundra of Pennsylvania has left me feeling increasingly aware of the horses’ expressions, giving me a better read on them, when to take breaks or keep pushing, and how to support them better in their training process. Whereas I was feeling a bit stuck before the trip, watching experienced horsemen and horsewomen work with horses, engaging in thought-provoking conversation, and offering my own experiences and stories in return gave me a fresh boost to revamp my winter training.
It’s easy to be in a space where things can feel lonely, especially when weather is a limiting factor. The days can get long, the routine too repetitive, and motivation can run low. Finding moments to connect with others that might offer new experiences, helpful tips, or words of support and encouragement can help keep you on track. You can seek out opportunities for short-term training breaks, traveling to find guidance — but there are so many opportunities in staying home as well, through virtual lessons trainers are now offering, podcasts and webinars on training and horse management, and books as well.
Prioritizing my own education can be tricky — finding the time isn’t easy! But it is a complete game changer, allowing me to show up interested, engaged, and focused.