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Are You Doubting Your Skills or Your Horse?

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When working with and owning horses, we all have had that moment, or moments, when we doubt ourselves.

  • We doubt if we know enough to handle our horses at the level they are at, or even to take them further in their learning.
  • We doubt if we got the right horse for our current horsemanship skills.
  • We doubt if we are a good match with our horses, in many different ways.
  • We doubt if we can keep our horse interested, entertained, or if he or she even likes us.

And so much more…

Doubting is normal, but getting stuck there and wallowing in it shouldn’t be.

When we doubt, we need to push through that pain and work harder. We need to learn and push forward. We need to continue to figure it out, not only for our sake, but for our horse’s sake as well.

  • When you got a horse you wanted to do what was best for that horse, right?
  • You fell in love with that horse and decided that you wanted to learn and grow with that horse, didn’t you?
  • You had the best intentions, correct?

Well, with all that being said…

When doubt creeps in, remember how much you love that horse and that you don’t want to let him or her down and keep pushing forward.

Basically, don’t let the doubt get you down and do something about it.

Here’s one of those doubting moments for me:

I have owned and been around horses for over 50 years now and I have always felt in a constant state of learning from them. It fascinates me how each horse I work with has a unique personality and character.

And as many similarities as there are between horses, no matter their breed, there are 100 more differences.

I love to learn about horses and from horses. Not only do I learn from reading and researching, but my favorite way to learn is from my own experiences.

And you would think that after all my years learning, researching, and experiences with horses that I would be pretty confident around them. Well, I have my times of doubt too.

I know a lot, but there is so much more out there to learn. So much more I don’t know. It’s like that old quote by Aristotle, “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know”.

Even though I will always be learning from horses until the day I die, I never thought I would be teaching others about horses. . Or at least that is how I felt about 12 years ago. That concept added a whole new element to my life with horses.

The day it all changed and doubt reared its ugly head again.

I had been an Apprentice Horse Trainer, under the tutelage of a horse professional, for seven years. At that time I had also earned and been given the title and certification of a Master Trainer with this professional.

But I still felt like I would always be a student of the horse. Even though I had the credentials and the experience behind me, I still didn’t feel like a “real teacher”.

I doubted my skills, my knowledge, and my ability to teach others what I knew.

I think my mentor realized how much I doubted my abilities as a teacher and decided to show me what she saw in me. She believed in me and was always telling me how good I was with the horses.

But, in my head… it was a different story. I got stuck in that doubting mode and I didn’t want to push forward into the pain. I was afraid of failure.

Sure, give me a problem horse and some time alone with him or her and I could figure out what was going on. And I could resolve whatever the problem was without too much hassle. I was confident in my ability to help a horse that needed my help.

But teaching people how to do the same thing… that was different. I doubted everything about that scenario.

Then the day came that my mentor decided to throw me into the deep end!

She had a private clinic scheduled with two ladies at her home. The night before the ladies arrived, she told me she was sick and couldn’t do the clinic. Then she told me to go do it for her instead of canceling since these ladies were coming from such a distance.

What! Me? Oh no! And with less than 24-hour notice.

Even though I had been planning the clinics, assisting with the clinics, and doing all the behind-the-scenes stuff at the clinics for years, I still didn’t feel comfortable doing the actual clinic by myself.

I stressed out all night, doubting myself big time. I don’t think I got much sleep because I was trying to figure out what I was going to do.

I kept telling myself that I didn’t have enough information in my head to talk for an hour on horses, much less for 8 hours a day for 3 days. I was sure that I was going to fail and let these two women down. And they were coming from another country just for this clinic.

I felt like a fraud. I didn’t think I was ready to teach yet. I didn’t feel I knew enough yet. I felt like there was so much more for me to learn before I started teaching. I wanted to know everything about horses and be an expert on it ALL first.

I was really overwhelmed.

Well, the next day came around and these two ladies showed up and I decided I had no option but to throw myself in at the deep end and just go for it.

I sat down with them, brought out the horses, and just started chatting with them about what they wanted, needed, and expected.

8 hours later, the first day was finished and we had had the best day together, laughing, sharing, and playing with the horses. It was so much fun!

They left eager to come back for more the next day and happy with all the stuff they had learned on day one. They said that they had learned more in that one day about horses than they had learned on their own in the past few years..

They were happy and excited. I hadn’t let them down.

I was so relieved and happy that I was able to give them what they wanted and help them. It gave me a boost of confidence. I wasn’t a fraud. I did know what I was doing. And I was good at it.

I realized I didn’t need to know EVERYTHING about horses, just be an expert in what I did best. And that is what I teach… the things with horses I’m good at. The things I know from my own firsthand experience.

When the ladies came back the second day, they had lots of questions about all the stuff they learned on day one and then we moved on to more fun and exciting stuff with the horses. They finished the clinic and were amazed by all the stuff we had covered.

That clinic gave me the confidence I needed to teach. Because not only did I have enough information in my brain to talk for an hour, but I had enough and more to teach for 3 days, 8 hours each day. And I still felt like I had so much more to give.

Of course, the horses did their part and were amazing teaching assistants. I couldn’t have done it without them as they gave me the agenda and the lessons they wanted to teach the two ladies. It was a collaborative effort.

My first clinic was a huge success and I have loved giving them ever since. They are always fun and I let the horses guide us towards the agenda. They usually know what the students need as they are so tuned into each person and their pains and desires.

So what were the lessons I learned from going through that experience?

Well, first of all, I think we all feel like a fraud sometimes. Perhaps even most of the time. How about you?

Secondly, life rewards those who throw themselves in and commit.

I heard it said once that what you want cannot be found in the known, it can only be found in the unknown.

The logic goes that if it could be found in the known, you’d already have it.

Therefore if you don’t have it, it must, by definition, be out there in the unknown.

Which is why getting out of our comfort zone often brings such outsized rewards.

Or as Tony Robbins puts it, “The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty that you can comfortably live with.”

What is it that you really, truly want in your life?

What is the feeling or emotion or sense of being that you will regret not having gone after when you are drawing your last breath?

Something to think about…

Please Share


  • I love it that your trainer knew you well enough to throw you into the deep end. Changed your life, didn’t it? Hehe. Your advice about getting out of our comfort zone relates to me right now too.

    We are seeing more sun which is exciting. Spring is upon us. Yahh, which will be the opposite for you sadly. Thinking of you and Merlin. x

    • Thank you, Sarah. Yes, it is going into fall weather here, and is very nice. Merlin, being a Friesian, is loving the cooler weather and he can’t wait for snow. He loves it!

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