Master – Pupil – Master: Its one continuous circle. cont

“At first, mountain is mountain. Then mountain is not mountain. Finally, mountain is mountain.”

Initially in Hong Kong I couldn’t work out the meaning of this proverb. It made no sense at all to me until last week when I read it again. Then it was suddenly so clear! It’s amazing how much more one sees when looking at things again with an open mind or from a different perspective. Basically it says we start out as a master. Then as we learn we realize how little we know, we realize we know nothing thus becoming a pupil, then we really begin to understand and learn more and we become a master again and so the circle continues. Confused? So was I, until this week. Let us use horse riding as a great example of this:

At first one sits on a horse and starts riding around the impression is normally “this is fun, maybe a bit scary at first, but I can do it, what’s so hard about this” So the said person considers themselves able to ride after only a few outings they feel they have it waxed and are a master at it. (The Mountain is mountain) Then they start taking lessons and a whole new world opens up to them; full of technique, complexities and confusion arises. As they become exposed to all the challenges of diagonals, leg yields, correct leads, rhythm…. And… and ….and. Suddenly the realization dawns that they know nothing about something they thought they had mastered, the art of riding is now totally confusing! (Mountain is not mountain )

The master has just become the pupil. The pupil then learns through practice, training and experience and becomes capable in the said discipline or skill. The pupil is able to ride on the correct diagonals, use correct leads and maintain rhythm etc, so he once again becomes a master. ( Mountain is mountain again )

Until he begins to learn again, thus becoming a pupil again, then the master as he accomplishes the goals each time. After each circle of learning the rider is more experienced, the more he learns the more he knows there is still to learn.

This open minded view of learning is what makes the difference between good riders and great riders. However a western view of learning is one of a linear approach where we start as a pupil progressing to be a master, and that’s where it usually ends. Unfortunately many people end here in life and in the progress as riders and trainers. You can see from this how this type of person stops developing and gaining experience. These are usually the trainers that tell you “you cannot tell me anything about this horse that I don’t know” or “I don’t need to go for lessons anymore, I am already doing well at shows”.

Trainers that say “I am sure I can learn more about how this animal works and responds” or “I would like to do better at shows and improve my good scores” are the ones you should be looking towards working with.

There are always many ways to approach horse training and riding, the more open one is to learning the more one will learn. In fact we should never want to stop learning, there is always something to learn from others and especially from the horses we ride and work with.