I started riding seriously as an adult. I’d taken lessons here and there as a kid, and as a teen, but nothing consistent. My knowledge about horses and horseback riding is pieced together by a patchwork quilt of teachers, each one with their own focus and own unique background. To some extent, I’m lucky because I have had such a diverse group of teachers. In other ways, I’ve been unlucky. There are huge gaps in what I should know versus what I actually do know. And you can only fake it so long before “making it” stops.

As a writer, it’s my job to ask questions. But as an adult rider? I’ll say it: I feel stupid asking for the 100th time how to put a bridle on because that was never actually part of my initial education. Or for messing up my diagonals. I second guess what I know and what I don’t, convincing myself one way or the other. This is a battle I fight in my head because I don’t want to speak up, speak out, do something that’ll cause attention to be put on me beyond riding instructions. I also don’t want to seem like I don’t know what I’m doing, or like I was taught the “wrong way” before. Because there’s this block between the fact that I’m a perfectionist and thrive on doing everything right versus admitting I have no clue what my trainer means.

But that’s a waste of my time and my trainer’s time.

I’m spending time and money to learn how to be a better rider and part of that education is gaining a deeper understanding of what the hell I’m doing. Asking questions, no matter how stupid they might seem, is part of being a proactive rider. Why wait to be told to do something again and again when you can speak up and ask your trainer to explain it in another way? Or explain more theory behind what you’re doing? Even if someone does make fun of me for seeking answers to what they feel is a basic question, it doesn’t matter. I’m better off having the answer than trying to figure it out on my own.

At any level, riders need to check their ego at the barn door and know when they’re in over their heads. Just because I’m asking a question (or six) doesn’t mean I’m being a “needy amateur” looking for babying or hand-holding. I’m genuinely trying to learn more about this sport, this way of life, this profession, and my passion. The only way to learn is to start is with asking questions.