A while back, I wrote about the difficulties inherent in getting a good saddle fitting education here in the States. Yesterday, I had a chance to see it from the other end.
I received an e-mail from a woman named Kelly, who lives in eastern Canada and is taking Mike Scott's saddle fitting course. One of the requirements for Mike's course is that each student spend time doing internship and observation, so she asked if she could stop by the shop on her way down to the course in South Carolina. Remembering how Edie and I had struggled to advance my eduaction, I agreed.
I was very impressed with this woman. Her dedication and drive to learn were obvious: not only is she committing serious time and money to this course, she asked a lot of excellent questions and had some really fine insights and ideas. But she was running into one big sticking point: she hadn't been able to find anyone who'd let her intern and observe. Where she is, there are few fitters (and those fitters are mostly reps for one saddle company), and their overwhelming attitude is, "Why should I train my competition?"
I was lucky - I only ran into one fitter who felt this way when I was starting out. That attitude didn't bother me much back then, but - considering what a long, bumpy trip it's been - it really, really bugs me now. And, hey - all you fitters with that attitude? Here's why:
First, I really think that any saddle fitter worth the title has to be aware of the shortage of good fitters here in North America, and is sort of honor-bound to help educate someone who's sincere about learning. I mean, this is for the good of the horse! It isn't all about you.
Second, it's not easy to become educated. Sure, you may have had to go to the UK to learn, or may have had to apprentice with someone, and may even have encountered that same attitude from the fitters you approached when you were first starting ... but does that mean you need to perpetuate it? The laws of Instant Karma definitely apply here: if you're willing to help someone else out, it'll come back to you. Give someone a leg up along the way, and they'll likely return the favor. And even if they don't, it's just the right thing to do.
Third, that attitude makes me wonder if you're insecure about something. If you're worried that there may be areas where you lack knowledge, or that the person you help now may someday know more than you, then it's up to you to continue with and add to your education. Given the dearth of good fitters out there, I honestly believe that there are more than enough clients to go around, even if the number of good fitters doubled. And that leads me back to my first point.
Ok. Verbal spanking done.
One lesson I've learned in all facets of my life is that you can learn something from everyone you meet. Being open to sharing what you know - and being willing to listen to feedback - can add a lot to your knowledge base. It may be that the only thing you learn from the other person is that you don't like their method ... or it may be that fresh eyes on a familiar situation can offer some really neat new insights. I've taught dressage, martial arts and, most recently, started sharing what I know about saddle fitting. I love to teach, I've learned a lot, and, as my Sensei Jon Bottomms taught me, it's a wonderful thing if someday the student might surpass the teacher.
So if there's anyone out there who has questions, please don't hesitate to ask. And if you'd like to learn more about Mike Scott's course, check out http://www.saddleguy.com/classes.php.