Monday, April 14, 2014

What kind of mentor are you?

A recent series of discussions on a popular social media site got me thinking.  How, exactly, can we best mentor young people today, and potential horsemen in particular?

Many suggestions have been tossed about over the decades.  There are clubs and activities geared to whatever future endeavor the mentoree might be grooming for. There are books and targeted websites.  There are lots of older people in the same field willing (sometimes) to share their wisdom. So why are there so many complaints about how poorly the current crop of youngsters is faring?
If you looked at this and winced, silently
thinking someone could get hurt, go back
to square one.

The horse business is as specialized as any other quasi-scientific arena.  It takes many years of exposure and experience to make a horseman, just as it takes a lot of education to make a teacher or a scientist or a musician, right?  So why aren't those years of exposure paying off?  Why is it that so many horsemen fall into the category of folks who shouldn't own a pet snail, let alone a horse?

Here are the things I've concluded are missing from out mentoring process.   If we stop letting little kids pet horses and focus on these simple concepts, we might find ourselves building a better future for our business and our society.

Teach the children to:

1.  Hammer a nail

2.  Measure and cut a board with a saw

3.  Stand in the cold rain for an hour without moving and without whimpering

4.  Walk more than a mile

5.  Look at the sky and figure out what the weather will be for the next hour

6.  Do math

7.  Visit the Land of Ickydonttouchthat and touch everything

8.  Fail gloriously and be willing to learn from their failures

9. Expect nothing back from an experience other than the learning

10. Work together respectfully

Of course there are many more items one might add to that list, but in my twenty-five years of public high school teaching and my 53 years around horses, those things seem to have fallen by the wayside.  No horse girl should stand around waiting for a boy to show up to help her nail a broken fence board.  No horse boy should feel he's lost his dignity because he didn't make the cut for the rodeo team.  No horse person of any gender description should be unable to stand hard work, dirt, bad smells, crowds of strangers, scary situations, and the need to make snap decisions and live with the consequences thereof.

Imagine what a step up the horse biz might take if the young people involved were realistic in their goals and willing to learn.  Imagine how much saner the whole country might be if consequences were real and there was no one around to step in an mediate the outcome.  Imagine what we could do with a little strength of character.

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