Barriers to Learning for Equestrians – Part 1

Barriers to Learning for Equestrians - Part 1


By Helen O’ Hanlon

In our modern times the notion of continuous professional development and learning are terms that have become part of the professional lexicon. Lifelong learning is now the norm and no longer a term reserved for those formally attending educational establishments. This gives rise to the question: how can we be successful lifelong learners and what are some of the barriers we may encounter on this journey?

Learning and education has never been more accessible and with modern day technology we now know more than ever before about human and equine psychology and behaviour. This challenges us as equestrians to keep up to date with new research and practices to ensure our approach is well informed and producing optimal results for both horse and human.

This blog investigates learning barriers that might be inhibiting our ability to access and incorporate new learning into our practice.

Barriers to Learning for Equestrians - Part 1JUDGEMENT

The fear of judgement is regularly stated as a barrier to learning, but what is judgement and what does it do to our ability to learn and move forward in our equestrian journeys?

Judgement exists in all areas of life but plays an integral role in obstructing our learning efforts. Judgement exists on two levels: self-judgement and the judgement of others. When we judge, we form an opinion either positively or negatively about the thoughts, beliefs, opinions or actions of others or ourselves. When we feel judged it can have devastating effects on our self-concept as a learner and our ability to move forward on our learning journey.

When we are judged by others it has the ability to separate us from the group or tribe and this separation exposes us without group support and protection. This segregation sets us apart and leaves us open to further judgement and alienation. This private or public scolding process discourages us from breaking the norms and code of conduct of the group and encourages a culture of compliance and harmony. This harmony is often at the cost of our self-development. Judgement reduces our confidence to move forward in our learning, whether this results from our own judgement or the judgement of others. When we feel under threat, the brain’s amygdala fires and causes us to feel fearful regardless of whether the threat is physical or emotional (Jensen, 2015).

The vast majority of group behaviour is habitual and through repetition is normalised, so when an individual disagrees or disengages from group practices the habitual nature of behaviours and actions of the group are normalised and used as a technique to reintegrate the rogue group member. Phrases like ‘we always do it this way’ or ‘it’s just the way it is’ are used to discourage new approaches and modalities. This normalisation of behaviours can overcome our own values and beliefs. In an equestrian context this is regularly seen at yards and barns where someone wishes to change their training approach or investigate other avenues of training only to be harshly judged for their attempts to stray from the status quo. The influence of the group can be so powerful that it can pervade our common sense and cause us to participate in activities that do not align with our principles, much like the adolescent experience of being pressured by peers into making questionable decisions (Jensen, 2015). If you find yourself in this situation it is important to be compassionate with yourself and recognise that the power group membership holds is very powerful indeed.

Parts 2,3, and 4 are reserved for Equitopia members only – sign up to the program here for just $4.95/month to access these and lots of other essential resources for equestrians!

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