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!