Mimicry, Parroting and Imitation

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. . . . . .

In some instances that may be very true. But when does the imitation become nothing more then parroting what others have said?

Mimicry is defined as “the action or art of imitating someone or something, typically in order to entertain or ridicule.” Now in the equine world we have all been ridiculed by others, sometimes in ignorance and sometimes in jealousy and mean spirits.

When someone parrots another it is defined as “a person who, without thought or understanding, merely repeats the words or imitates the actions of another”. This is probably the one we see the most.

How many times have we been intrigued by someone that we thought could offer us more insight into our horsemanship? We “pony up the funds” (pun definitely intended!) and go to see them, either as a spectator or participant, in hopes that we can carry off more little gems of wisdom to make us better riders/handlers/owners. Unfortunately, when we get there, we find someone that knows the buzz words, sees the general mechanics of their mentor but has no or very little depth of understanding of that mentor. They have usually watched the videos/read the books and maybe have been to a few clinics. We present to them a problem and they become a “parrot”, repeating the same words/actions they have seen/heard without really getting down to the root of the problem or the why of it all.

The biggest thing that I have found are people that pick the latest/greatest theme and popular person, then they read/watch some media, maybe even go watch a clinic or (gasp) ride with said person a time or 2 and instantly are experts on the matter. They don’t understand, in depth, what they watched and certainly don’t have the experience/knowledge/understanding to teach it, yet they “hang their shingle” out there and take people’s money and give them VERY little in return. This is mimicry, they are there simply to entertain & be paid.

These people have NO business trying to teach methods that they don’t truly understand, can’t accomplish with excellent accuracy and don’t take the horse’s mental AND physical attributes to heart. They have not spent enough time learning the layers of each and every exercise. The biggest thing that is a detriment is the phrase “I take what I like from each method and just use that”, before they have ever dedicated themselves to learning the detailed nitty gritty of ANY method. THIS is the biggest killer and downfall of our “convenience store” mentality in the horse world. Just grabbing what looks good and taking off.

I have 2 very significant mentors in my life, both of which I have known for 20+ years. I have done my very best to learn what they have to teach, but more significantly WHY they teach it, how and when to apply it and, in some cases, how to slightly tweak it to fit a particular horse. My third mentor is the horse, actually horses. I work with a LOT of different types of horses, used in a myriad of different ways. I see trends of certain things in certain disciplines and try my utter best to help each horse and let THEM TEACH ME. I spent 12 years learning the BASICS from one man before I felt accomplished enough to teach them. He continues to improve on those basics and I continue to learn what he has tweaked so I can use them to help the horse and their people.

There are certain words that everyone uses because, let’s face it, there are only so many words that mean the same thing in the English language. The difference is the way they are presented, the content in which they are used and the INTENT and knowledge of the person using them. So in your quest for knowledge, do your best to research the person you wish to learn from. Make sure they have spent a significant amount of time AND effort in learning something before they attempt teaching it. Just because someone watches some videos and a clinic or 3 over the space of a few years, doesn’t mean they truly understand what they have seen and certainly doesn’t give them the knowledge and experience to try to teach it.

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