Which is more important – the theory of something, knowing how and why it should be done, or the practice of actually doing it over and over?
When we have a challenge in our riding or with our horses, is it more beneficial to learn a new technique to solve that problem such as a new exercise to perform, or are we better off going back and studying the theory of what we should be doing?
Of course, there is really no right or wrong answer to these questions; however, I believe that the danger really lies in being too far on the extreme of either theory or practice.
By definition, theory is a system of ideas or a set of principles that serve to explain something. Practice is the application of those ideas or repeated performance of an activity.
I believe that the key to success in anything we wish to master, riding and training included, is finding the right balance between theory and practice, between studying and “getting our hands dirty”.
In regards to riding and working with horses, if we never have any principles to guide what we do (meaning we never study any theory) then it becomes easy to jump from one technique to another. For example, a person who never considers the theory of what they are doing may try many different techniques looking for that magic fix, when one thing does not bring results right away, they move on to the next hoping that will work out better.
However, without ever understanding the theory behind the exercise or technique, they may not have been applying the technique correctly, or without principles to believe in and to guide them, they may have simply given up too soon without working to better execute that technique.
On the other hand, if someone only knows theory but never spends the time to practice it, they will not develop the necessary motor skills to actually do that exercise, technique, method, etc. With almost any skill, but especially riding, it takes doing it to really understand it.
Both theory and practice are very important, but we all have a tendency to pursue one more than the other. Some of us prefer to study what we are about to do, ask questions about it, read books, and basically become a master in our heads before we ever go out to do the thing. Others may jump right in, trying all kinds of techniques and methods, and start doing, doing, doing, without ever having any principles to guide their practice and keep them focused.
I believe that the key to success in anything we wish to master, riding and training included, is finding the right balance between theory and practice, between studying and “getting our hands dirty”. When we can recognize our own patterns we can start to apply more balance to what we do and ultimately accomplish the simple goal we all have – to get better.
What do you think, is one more important than the other? What is your pattern regarding theory and practice? Leave a comment, I look forward to hearing from you!
I enjoyed wTching your 8 days of videos and as soon as the ice melts I will put all that I learned to practice.
Great Judy! I hope the ice melts here as well 😉
I think you are absolutely correct. But learning my own patterns is probably going to be a long process. Since I am so new at horse riding, the only theory I have is what I learn from you. So then I do practice them, and am having so much fun practicing every thing you talk about. Although some of the things are too advanced and I can’t figure out how to do them. But love trying everything you talk about!!! You have a method of teaching that is so simple and easy to pick up. Thanks for all of your videos. Really appreciate the time you take to share your horse knowledge.
Thank you Debbie, I am glad you are enjoying and benefiting from them!
This was a great blog post (as all of them are). I would agree with you that there is a “balance” that needs to be achieved between theory and practice. In order to become a better rider, as with all sports, one needs to understand the theory and then practice, practice, practice putting that theory into real life experience. One of the things I love about riding is that it is so challenging and difficult and really challenges me both physically and mentally. It is interesting that everything in life, as with riding, comes down to finding that balance. Thanks again for another great post.
Thanks Nancy! It was good to see you again today too!
I definitely have the issue of too much theory! In the equestrian area it has been because I don’t have my own horse and through the years I haven’t been able to afford to ride. I began again in the last two years and only recently have added another day to my actual riding…so now I have two days a week. But in other areas of my life I tend to focus on the theory and learning everything I can about something before I ever perform any action! I understand the problem but action is still hard. I’ve been working on developing consistency in allotting small increments of time for action activities on a daily basis in hopes that I can overcome this tendency. I like how in your videos you often suggest some action activity off the horse. That is so helpful for those of us who can’t ride every day. Naturally we have to have time to actually practice on the horse as well and you give us plenty of helpful activities for that, too. Thanks for all you share. Except for all that cold weather in your area I really wish you could be my physical teacher instead of a virtual one. We’ve been “freezing” down here in TX with temps between 37 and 41…haha.
In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not. ― Albert Einstein