Walking the talk

As a Millennial who well and truly embraces technology – if not managing to be overly proficient in the use of it – one of the main frustrations I experience when engaging with the equestrian community is how forcefully many people within my world rail against it.  At times, it feels like some people within the horse world haven’t entered the 20th Century, never mind the current millennium.  This is one of the reasons that I endeavour to take full advantage of any opportunities to communicate via my favoured mediums with those who speak my language – such as participating enthusiastically in networking sessions on Twitter – and I was delighted when a horsemanship trainer I’ve met previously announced that he was going to start his first webinar series.

Thanks to the friend who has provided much of my tuition along the recent part of my horsemanship discovery, I was able to attend a talk by Ben Hart back in March.  It was a brilliant evening: I found Ben to be engaging, honest, sympathetic and systematic, and as much of a trainer of people as he is of horses, which is an approach I really appreciate.  The evening opened my eyes and gave me a lot to think about – if I were a horse, I’d have done a lot of licking and chewing that night!

As a former-event manager, webinars have been on my radar for several years: I know businesses use them to great effect, particularly during the recession years where an internet connection essentially enables you to run an event on a large scale, without the necessity of hefty venue and transportation costs.  They allow people to connect with minimal disruption to their own physical routine – it’s possible to attend a webinar, still put in a full day at your normal office, run your usual errands and be at home the same evening, having potentially connected with colleagues and important contacts across the globe without the need to go to them.

These positives can easily be applied to equestrians: due to the nature of what we do, we may be spread far and wide geographically, and it can be impractical to get everyone in the same place frequently.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the experience of literally bringing people together and enjoy sharing ideas in person, but as a weekly event, unless your job is professional competition and fellow riders on the circuit are the only people you wish to engage with, this just isn’t practical.

Ben’s first webinar was free, and although I found out about it at short notice, I was able to book a space.  When signing up, there was the chance to submit a question around the topic – on this occasion, it was the ethics of working with clients and their horses – which would hopefully be covered or answered during the session.  At the appointed time, I logged on easily and away we went.  The session was as engaging as being at Ben’s talk in person was: he set us quick tasks to do in order to get us thinking, and we were able to type feedback or questions as Ben spoke.  Most participants seemed to be from the UK, but there were some from the US too, which was great to see.  The slides Ben was speaking from were also made available on the screen, and were available to download after the webinar as well, so that we all had a copy of the notes.

The hour flew by, Ben managed to answer all questions in a way which the answers were understood, and more webinars were quickly planned.  It was fantastic to have the introductory experience for free, and I’d be happy to pay for future sessions – particularly as the upcoming topics are ones which interest me – but unfortunately, as I’m now abroad for the summer, my schedule doesn’t allow me to be involved.  There was mention of the sessions being made available for download for those who are unable to attend, and I hope that this plan will go ahead.

It’s something that I think is easy to pick up – extensive IT skills aren’t required: if you ever visited an Internet chat room many years ago prior to the use of forums or bulletin boards, you’d be able to follow a webinar format with no problem at all, but it really is straightforward if you have never done such a thing.  A decent Internet connection is a must, but otherwise there are no significant equipment needs.

Although this format wouldn’t be so useful for practical horse and rider training tips, webinars are great for discussion exercises, sharing knowledge and making connections online.  It’s just a case of getting the remainder of the equestrian world online in the first place…

Have you used online technology outside of blogging to communicate with other equestrians?  How could the equestrian community harness technology to increase their efficacy and reach?


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