Episode 25: Sex, Power, and Best Practices?

Listen to Episode 25

Best practices. Most of the time, we are talking about the very tangible, practical matters of care and riding and management and handling. All that stuff is endlessly important and we are very keen on getting that information out on the airwaves and into your ears.

But lately, we’re also interested in sharing thoughts on how we build ourselves up as competent, empowered, open-minded horse owners and riders. Call it Ground Work for Life.

  • How do we assemble and nurture good, even great horse-rider partnerships from the inside out?
  • How do we build a community of good, even great people within the horse-owning community? How can we be supportive of that goal and supportive of each other?

Ultimately, it is You and Your Horse that Jec and I are interested in connecting with and in helping. This goal, this purpose, we’re coming to realize, is a pretty deep and intricate challenge.

Visit sponsors Lucerne Farms and Redmond Equine.

Many of you might have heard about the series of collaborative clinics that I’m producing with Jec, Amy Skinner, and Katrin Silva as clinicians. We had one in Santa Fe in February. We’ll have one in North Carolina in October and another in California in December. Next year, we’ll have six Cayuse Collaborative Clinics, mostly in western states.

The goal of these clinics, I think, is revolutionary, if revolutionary can be quiet and fun.

First of all, one leader for many students tends to develop an Almighty Trainer mindset for both the teacher and the students. Jec likes to call this Guru Following and it ain’t good. Research shows that experts heralded as experts get more and more dogmatic over time. They also get less open minded to other ideas, opinions, and perspectives. It also happens that pragmatically, not enough people get individual help and often the most needy or the most extroverted get the most attention. You know the deal.

Katrin Silva

Oh, and another thing: the leader is usually a man, which, given the history of male-dominated work settings, teaching settings, everything else settings,  makes the guru following worse and by worse I mean more dysfunctional and less empowering to the student (which in the case of our industry is predominantly female).

A note to guys listening – this is NOT a male-bashing deal. We are interested in having men be part of the conversation. Helping women, empowering women, and leveling the playing field doesn’t mean tamping down men or silencing their voices. By talking about sexism or power dynamics we want to open up the conversation for everyone. It’s not a hen party. It’s not a woe-is-me gathering to commiserate. That’s not how we’re going to tackle the dysfunction. We want to get things out on the table. It’s a table to which all are welcome as long as they’re decent at listening.

With the clinics, we are interested in how best to connect with our horses. So this is, in fact, all about Best Horse Practices. Creating a healthy, functional, open learning environment is best practices.

I would posit (and hope that you agree) that the best communication and progress comes from someone who knows herself deeply and has a good handle on her emotional states, recognizes good/bad/high/low energy, and pays attention not only to her own inner workings but to the developments, spontaneous or static, around her.

Jec Ballou

Our podcast will still of course continue to focus on tools we need to be the best owners and riders – knowledge, physical fitness, balance, the responsibilities of ownership, including financial and educational considerations, etc. etc. It’s all important stuff and since you’re listening to our podcast, I think you think these things are important, too. Yay for us.

But we would like to put forth this theme, that I think is going to overarch the podcast as well as the collaborative clinics: Know yourself. Know your horse. Know your greater circles in order to do your best.

I hope you got a chance to listen to Episode 22 of our second season. It’s with Astrid Larsen, a psychology professor and former therapist. And I’m sure you’re familiar with Amy Skinner from Jec’s Coaches’ Corners. In upcoming episodes, I’ll be talking with both of them again to discuss power dynamics and gender in our community.

Some of this direction has been spurred by conversations with Amy, Astrid, along with other colleagues and friends. Some has been motivated by reading and research. Recently, I watched a 3-part Netflix documentary, kind of an educational series, called the Principles of Pleasure. I know. How the heck does a Netflix show on sex, specifically women’s sexuality, connect with a podcast on best horse practices?

Astrid Larsen

The program talks a lot about the inherent sexism in our society AND the related lack of awareness and lack of empowerment among women when it comes to knowing our own bodies and asserting our needs. For someone like me, of a certain age and with a certain upbringing, discovering and prioritizing what feels good is kind of a new concept, which seems crazy. But there you have it. One of the first things I did (after texting girlfriends and say, hey, watch this) was to email my three sons and say, hey, you owe it to yourselves and the women in your life to watch this. It was received, I’m sure, with multiple eye rolls. But hey, I cop to being a newb and the older I get, the less embarrassed I get about embarrassing things. Plus, I believe in planting seeds and if I’m awkward as I do it, so be it.

As Astrid said in a recent email, an all-important connection can be made here, when considering sexuality with every day living. If we shift, modify our thinking around what we feel/what we need as women, we also make connections to critical thinking and awareness and to being in the moment.

How do I feel in my body? Safe? Happy? Energized? Empowered?

Don’t we need to feel things like this when we are working with horses and dealing with a teacher or a student, and with pretty much all the relationships we have with other humans in our horse work and horse ownership?

Every interaction matters. Those interactions also have ramifications with our personal identity, our surroundings, our communities, and the larger cultural mores.

We thank Kate’s Real Food and Patagonia WorkWear for their continued support. Did you know? All ya gotta do is comment or suggest a podcast topic or send us a training question at besthorsepractices.com/podcast and you’ll be automatically qualified for our monthly Patagonia WorkWear giveaway.

Please follow our sponsors and buy their stuff as they support us and what we’re doing. Also, check out Jec Ballou’s site and Cayuse Communications to learn more about our educational books. And visit the Riding Season Reviews page for bits and links to new gear and products.

Listen to Episode 25

Posted in Books, Clinicians, Podcast, Research.

One Comment

  1. Great article! As a Certified Riding Instructor with a background in sociology, I am very aware of the Guru Following dynamic and the damage it does to people and horses. The collaborative and scientific orientation of Best Practices is exactly what is needed now!

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