On Staying Current from the Sidelines

On Staying Current from the Sidelines

It’s funny how when you don’t have something, you notice more about it. 

I would consider myself to be an eternally curious type of person. I’ve never had much interest in teaching, coaching, or otherwise acting as an authority on a subject, partly due to a severe case of imposter syndrome that invades every part of my being most days, and partly due to the fact that I simply prefer to be a student. 

But what I wouldn’t have guessed is that I would actually learn more being a non-rider than I would being an active rider. Well, I should rephrase that. There is no replacement for time in the saddle and time around horses. That is an inarguable fact. However, I also think much education can be gained from simply being an unbiased, unattached observer.

On set with Boyd Martin.

Like I said, you notice more about something that you no longer have. In lieu of riding time, I learn everything I can from the sidelines. I began working for a 5* event rider, managing her social media and sponsor relations, in part so I could, in my own way, learn from her. Who wouldn’t want a free pass to sit ringside watching a professional ride or teach? I ask her questions, taking notes on my phone, building my knowledge base for the next time I get on a horse. I’m lucky enough to have a career inside the sport of eventing, where I frequently get to pick the brains of the best riders in the world. I watch the warm-up at a big competition more closely than I watch the competition itself. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t come away learning something I didn’t know before. 

This method of “distance learning” isn’t new for me. I remember a ten-year-old version of myself reading a British book about basic riding, tack, and horse management in my basement. I hadn’t been allowed to pursue riding lessons, so I’d rig up my parents’ old workout bench to “practice” the posting trot, doing this enough that eventually when I rode a horse for the first time I was at least familiar with what I was supposed to do. In some ways, I think I’ve spent more time learning about riding than actually riding (does that make me sad? I’m not sure). When I didn’t have access to riding, I did have access to learning. 

Finally making use of all of those hours of reading.

Being on the sidelines isn’t always fun, especially when it’s not necessarily by choice. But I learned a long time ago that I am quite prone to taking on more than I can handle, and I’m unwilling to put myself into that position anymore. In the meantime, I’ll happily be a sponge, and you can find me at the warm-up, unabashedly hoarding those invaluable nuggets of knowledge until the next time I can put them into practice.