Monthly Archives : March 2014

The Journey to Mastery

In the horse world, as well as in the Parelli community, there are all types of people from all walks of life. Some want to just be safe, others just want to have fun, and then there are even those that want to get handy. Then there is a fourth group that can’t stand it and they must become a master of this thing we call Horsemanship. But how do we get there?! Do we have to join the old man sitting on top of the mountain making a sound like a carrot? Do we have to give up all worldly possessions and run away to a swamp somewhere to study with a Master to learn the ways of the Force? Well you could do those things, but what I want to offer you is a formula, or a skeleton, that has helped me along the way as I strive to become a master of my craft.


Pat Parelli shared this with us long ago. He told us that first we are unconsciously incompetent. After that we become consciously incompetent, meaning we don’t know what we don’t know until we know that we don’t know. After that we get consciously competent before we reach the final stage of unconscious competence.   But how about we try these words instead. What if I shared with you that first you must become Aware. Then you must Understand what you became aware of. After that you need to Do what you are Aware of and Understand. Once you can Do something the question becomes well can you Reproduce it? Finally, what if you could Teach it? And these my friends, are the Stages of Mastery.


  1. Awareness
  2. Understanding
  3. Doing
  4. Reproducing
  5. Teaching


So let’s go to the barn and become Masters!!! Isn’t that how it works? We have the skeleton, now we should just be able to go flesh it out. Shouldn’t we? I wish my friends, I wish. Just because we have an awareness of the skeleton doesn’t mean we understand it or can even do anything about it. So what are we waiting for?! Let’s break it down and talk about some ways to put this into action so you can do as little as master being safe, or as much as working towards that black belt in horsemanship.


Now we know we need to start with Awareness. But if we don’t know what we don’t know, how do we become aware? Well when was the last lesson you took? When was the last time you watched a horse training video? When was the last time you read a book or article on getting you or your horse better? When was the last time you went and watched a horse show and said to yourself, “How the heck did they get their horse to do that?!” How fine of a detail can you see as you observe something? The question, “what is it that I am not aware of yet,” keeps me up late at night. Usually I’m watching some horse video or reading a horse book, magazine, or internet article as I fall asleep. If we want to be better at something we must start with stretching our awareness on the subject.


Awareness doesn’t have to take very long to happen. Being conscious and present in the moment is a big part of it. To help yourself be more aware the best thing you can do is ask the Sacred Question, “What does this mean?” (This being anything and everything.) It could be a piece of trash on the ground, a horse with its head in the air, or a bird chirping a certain call. By asking this question you have begun searching for deeper meaning in something that you have put in your awareness. You have begun searching for Understanding.


Understanding is a continuation of Awareness and for me it is asking more and more questions.   How deep is your understanding of an idea? How well can you break it down and to what level of detail? Utilizing the support systems that you have is a big part of growing your understanding. I love collaborating with my friends on ideas and thoughts about horsemanship and horse development. We share ideas and thoughts to help each other grow. And just like awareness, taking time to watch videos, read books or articles is a helpful way to expand our understanding.


Yay for us! We now have an awareness and understanding! But we don’t want to be an armchair quarterback, do we? It’s time to DO something! As we begin to move through these stages on our way to mastery, we will find that we sometimes cycle back to the earlier stages before moving ahead. To do something once is good. Maybe just mediocre. To be able to move past the one hit wonder stage, we might need more awareness or a deeper understanding. The true definition of a professional is, someone who does something until they can’t do it wrong. Reproducing results is an invigorating experience. As we play with horses and are improving as horsemen, it is such a rush to get to where a horse can do something for us again and again.


As a teacher and a mentor of horses and humans, the thing that brings me the most enjoyment is seeing that fire ignite in a student’s eye. That moment when you see they got it! To give someone a fish, you will feed them for a day. The TEACH them to fish will feed them for a lifetime. As Pat says, to teach people, to teach other people to fish, changes the world. Before I began my journey with horses I worked in day care. I cared for toddlers ages 1-2½, and some of the children were learning to use the bathroom instead of a diaper. Some of you may have children and others may be children. Trying to figure out for the first time how to teach a small person how to pee standing up was a very interesting experience. Teaching something that you now do unconsciously, for the first time, really expands your awareness and understanding of something you can do.


I have been riding with many amazing professionals for years now and to see as they too learn, grow and explain things better and better, and in more different ways, depending on the person that they are sharing an idea with, has helped me to realize these stages that we must go through if we strive to become a master of our goals. This concept and skeleton is meant to help encourage you to see the importance of sequence. Sequence is a big part of what helps results happen in a very timely manor. It is like baking a cake. If you get all the ingredients to make the batter and you start trying to mix them together, but you missed the part where it says mix them in a bowl versus just randomly in the universe somewhere, it is going to set you back having to try and get that mess cleaned up to where you can bake that cake. So lets get out there and expand our awareness! Because that is where it starts.