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The Art of Learning on Horseback


The principle that I truly identified with is “Loving the Game.” I’ve been passionate about horseback riding for a long time and I’ve probably worked harder at it than at anything else in my life because of my love for it. I’m so lucky to have found a pursuit I’m passionate about at a young age.

As an equestrian, The Art of Learning aided my progression as both a rider and a competitor. A few months ago, I was having trouble in competition. My horse and I would drop at least one rail every time we entered the show ring and, even more frequently than I was comfortable with, at home, in practice. Frankly, I was confused because I knew my horse had the physical ability, and yet, we could not have a clear round.


Horseback riding is essentially the mastery of very basic  concepts, as explained in the “Numbers to Leave Numbers”  chapter. The most complicated maneuvers come only after the basics have been perfected. After reading that chapter, I took myself back to the absolute basics.

I videotaped my riding and examined my horse’s jumping style along with my body motions as we approached and cleared the fences we took down. I found that the rails were coming down not as a result of my horse’s physical ability but as a result of my own incorrect position over the fences. I had been landing on his back before his rear legs had reached the highest point of the fence, thereby causing him to catch the rail. I began focusing on that one aspect of my riding until it was no longer an issue for us.

The “Power of Presence” is another principle that manifested itself in my riding. My trainer always expressed to me the importance of being, as she says, “in the zone”. But I had trouble concentrating inwardly in the midst of the chaos happening around me.

I had her read the chapter on presence and her reaction was to have me recite my every move out loud in order to shift my focus from what was going on around me to my horse and riding.

In time, I found that I could block out everything except my horse and our performance together. The advantages of being aware and alert in one’s surroundings during competition became even more evident to me. Now, before every competition, I resort to reading this one chapter so as to bring myself back to that calm presence I need to compete successfully.

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