Collaboration Across Disciplines: Developing Innovative Horsemanship

We have the best chance of breaking new ground by using diversity. It is diversity that drives innovation – a diversity of perspectives, industries, cultures.” In Frans Johansson’s TEDTalk about his book, The Medici Effect, he emphasizes the importance of diversity and collaboration in innovation: “All new ideas are combinations of existing ideas.”

As people grow and evolve, striving to succeed, grow, and learn, recognizing this approach can widen their horizons. Similarly, we can use the strength of the diverse approaches in the equine industry in our effort to be better horsemen and horsewomen for our equine partners. 

We take lessons with our trainers, we try new levels or courses at competitions, we read books and watch videos, and we go to clinics to hear from new instructors – all in the search for increased knowledge and understanding. We put in serious work to receive feedback for our growth. 

As equestrians, we all know the years of hard work behind our development.

But how often are those instructors from a different discipline? How often are those books from an author that uses different equipment or rides a horse of a completely different breed? 

I’ve been riding for most of my lifetime. I’ve dabbled in western disciplines (I can proudly state I’ve sat a spin on a reiner) and have competed in dressage, eventing, and show jumping. However, my primary focus is as a show jumper, and I therefore seek out opportunities to train and ride with show jumping trainers. 

Of course, training in your discipline is critical – I’ve developed my ability to ride tight turns in a jump off, and grown in confidence over technical and increasingly large courses. But is there a way to do better, branching outside of the original path I had outlined for myself?

The likelihood of this new idea being innovative increases dramatically if the ideas you combine are far apart, unlikely, or unpredictable,” says Johansson. How can we develop unpredictable collaboration between disciplines? In what ways can I grow as a horsewoman by developing a strong and independent seat from dressage riders, a soft feel from western horsemen, bravery from eventers, quick turns from barrel racers, and smoothness from hunters? 

Switching up our tack, and perspective, can develop our innovative horsemanship and creativity. 


“Strength lies in differences not in similarities” (Stephen Covey) and yet I feel disconnected from my fellow horse people studying another avenue, but who often have the same passion and goal: to do well in their sport and also be the best horseman or horsewoman they can be. 

How can we bridge that disconnect? How can good horsemen support good horsemen, no matter the discipline? What ideas can we pull from each other in the intersection of our disciplines to create something innovative, approach a challenge with a new perspective, or to just re-energize our work? 

As a challenge to myself for 2021 to grow as a horsewoman, I will aim to read a new book or article every month from horsemen and horsewomen within a different discipline. I will seek out clinics to audit both inside and outside of the show jumping world, and I will strive to make new connections across disciplines. 

Do you have any suggestions, or goals you’d like to try? Do you ride in another discipline and would you like to connect? The more collaboration we have, the richer and more successful our horse lives will be.