When I was young, all I could think about was horses. From the time I stole a tiny, plastic horse from the farm set at my nursery school (I was two), horses were my thing. After years of raking yards and many summers of lemonade stands I finally saved up enough to buy a pony when I was eleven. From there I moved up to an Appaloosa mare and began to compete. Since then I have trained, instructed, and shown successfully on a national level, although I sometimes feel my journey with horses is just beginning.
I have learned a few things over the years, however, so I thought this might be a good time to share what I wish I’d known when I was eleven. And, in reviewing this list, I found that it applies to books and writing, just as much as it does to a journey with horses.
1. It’s okay to ask questions. In fact, never miss an opportunity to ask. It is the very best way to learn something that is important to you. Ask more than one person, then compare answers to develop your own opinion.
2. Set a goal, one that is doable. Your goal should not be winning a class or writing a best seller, but more along the lines of improving your performance. You might not reach your goal, but you will have learned something along the way. When you do reach a goal, celebrate!
3. Prepare, then prepare some more. Think of every possible scenario regarding your goal and walk yourself through all of them, as best you can. Then do it again, and again.
4. As much as you can, read. Then read again, and discuss the ooks with others. There is always something to learn.
5. Watch your horse and the people around you as he or she interacts with others. That is probably how the horse or human will try to interact with you. Then adjust your demeanor accordingly. Some horses and people respond best to a soft voice, others need firm, business-like directives. Make sure your horse and your friends are a good match for you.
6. Always wear a helmet when you ride. Always. I have seen far too many accidents, many at the walk and trot, to feel it is safe for anyone to ride without one. (Okay, not much in common with books here, but it is important.)
7. Follow basic safety guidelines in all that you do. Most injuries happen out of carelessness. Keep your lead rope from dragging on the ground, check your girth or cinch often, make sure your equipment is in good condition. Constantly think the equine mantra: is this safe?
8. Have fun, and try new things, such as a Dressage or barrel racing lesson, or reading a SciFi novel or a biography. It is important to expand your horizons in all that you do.
9. Make friends and encourage others. Then, your new friends will encourage you, too. Remember that you do not compete against others, but against your own best self.
10. It’s okay have a bad day. If you’re smart you will learn something important, so smile and take time to digest what went wrong so you can come back better and stronger the next day.
Just like you, I have learned so much more during my journey with horses and books than just this. But I really, really wish I’d known all of these things when I was eleven.
Lisa Wysocky is a bestselling and award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, including the Cat Enright equestrian mystery series, now optioned for film and television. She is also a therapeutic riding instructor who consults with PATH and other centers about their horse herds. Find her at lisawysocky.com