About six years ago, my brother bought a draft horse, Ben. Ben stands about 18 hands (that’s big, for the non equestrians), and weighs about 2300 lbs (really, really big). He has feet the size of dinner plates and when John bought him he was trained to pull a six-person carriage and had a bit of an attitude because he hadn’t been treated very well. My brother had never owned a horse, but thought, “Hey, how difficult can it be?” And he loves animals and thought that some TLC would be all that would take for them to work together. He also had a dream of being able to drive. John was named for my grandfather, a costermonger who sold fruit and vegetables from his horse-drawn cart. He had several horses and was as knowledgeable about horses and driving as anyone - after all, having a horse was just like owning and driving a car in those days. But time marches on, and though John wanted to have something of that experience, he didn’t know how to drive. I suggested lessons. “That’s the trouble with you, Jack, you think you have to take a lesson to learn anything." I didn’t pursue the topic any further, but I thought about it a lot at the time, as you do when someone starts a sentence with, “That’s the trouble with you ...”
You see, I love learning new things. With certain exceptions (Math and Miss Crawford’s domestic science class) I loved school, from the time I started primary school at five years old. As an adult, I have found that, for me, if I want to learn something or improve a skill, I’d rather start at the feet of someone who knows a lot about the subject, someone who has achieved a level of mastery. And the funny thing is, those people tend to be learners too. Take my dressage trainer, Kim. Last week we went off to a clinic taught by a world-class dressage rider. Kim had signed up for a couple of days and I went along for the second day, to observe the lessons and also to have a session with the teacher. Watching your trainer take a lesson opens as many windows, inspires as many ah-ha’s as engaging in that learning yourself. I came back having a different idea of how to do certain things, how to break a bad habit or two. Oh yes, habit.
One of the things I came to know early on in my career as a “life coach” is that we all look at life a certain way, though the lens of our upbringing, our culture, our heritage, our education, experience ... and so on. Even the most “broadminded” people look at life through this tunnel. To change things in our lives, to go for something new, we have to change the lens, we have to shift, to widen that tunnel, to shove it in a different direction. That’s where teachers come in – and they don’t have to be the “on a pedestal” teachers – just the person who say, “How about this?” “Look at it this way” or “You could try ....”
Some years ago, between the child #1 and child #2, my cousin, a lawyer, decided to give up her job for a while to be a full-time mother and think about how much she really liked being a lawyer. After a while she became a bit antsy and around about the same time she was contacted by a local college to see whether she was interested in teaching a course on law as part of their adult/continuing education program. She snapped it up and planned a course that was fun, witty (she is very, very witty), covering all aspects of law that might be of interest to the average adult, and she threw in some history, etc. She loved teaching the course, however, the students she enjoyed the most were two ladies of a certain age who were making their way through the catalog, starting with Aromatherapy. They hit “L” for her class. “Never too old to learn something new,” they told her.
Well, I hope so, because I have just booked some lessons. Granted, it’s not for something completely new, but a skill in which I have collected a fair amount of rust. I haven’t been skiing for over twelve years. I used to love skiing and every winter I bemoan the fact that I have not been skiing. So, four days ago I went online and booked myself five days skiing – Park City at the end of January. Then I booked my lessons. I can’t wait.
My brother had a lot of problems with Ben, including an accident which I witnessed – no one was hurt, but they could have been. Ben and John lost confidence in each other and because my brother couldn't face him for a while, I began spending more time with the horse, working him under halter – and doing that helped me gain confidence around horses again after my accident several years ago. A couple of years ago I was with John and we were trying to persuade Ben to take his halter so that we could lead him over to the shoer. A big old horse, he knew his size and knew that he could run rings around us all if he wanted to. Then along came Jim, the ranch owner and a real horseman – a practitioner of “natural horsemanship.” He sorted Ben out.
“Why don’t you ask Jim for a few lessons?” I asked my brother, wondering what the response might be.
“He’s standing right there – ask him now.”
So John walked up to Jim and asked about lessons and they began with what Jim referred to as “rehabilitating the relationship.” Within a couple of months my brother – who had never been on a horse before – was riding Ben. It was such a big event, even the vet came along to watch. And when Jim’s available, John will still take lessons, have a tune-up, learn something new, nip a bad habit in the bud. Ben adores my brother, and John adores him. And I saw a lesson come to life along the way – something about the teacher appearing when the student is ready.
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