Self-improvement is not an easy task to take on. As humans, we have a tendency to think we have all the answers. It’s almost like it’s a sign of weakness if we don’t already know everything. It can be a challenge to push those feelings down and be open to other views and opinions. But when it is the right mixture of positive criticism and open mindedness, then really great things can come out of it.    

Recently I had the opportunity to spend a couple days riding with Ron Ralls. Riding with someone new is always a little uncomfortable, because you don’t know what to expect from them or even what your own expectations are. In the days before I got there I was trying to think of all the things I wanted to accomplish, but I couldn’t really come up with a good answer. The only thing I was certain about was that I wanted his opinion about the way I do things.

It is good to be a little cautious when it comes to who and what you listen to. If you open yourself up to the wrong people, it can sometimes get you into trouble. It is important to use your own good judgment and think critically about what people are saying. I think this is even more relevant now with social media. There is such an influx of information and opinions floating around, and not all of them are for positive benefits. Surrounding yourself with people who have good intentions and good knowledge is irreplaceable.

If you aren’t trying to improve, you tend to get stuck in a rut making the same mistakes over and over. A lot of times people don’t really want to hear the things they are doing wrong, because it is a huge blow to the ego. When I was riding with Ron, I wanted to be open to what he was saying—I wanted him to point out my mistakes. My whole reason for being there was to hear his opinion on horsemanship, not to talk about myself. I needed to know the mistakes I was making so I could fix them. I really appreciate honesty coming from a positive and helpful person. If you know how to handle it, honesty will serve you better than unearned praise.

I always rely heavy on my dad for honest horsemanship advice. My dad knows a lot about horses, but he is always the first to tell you he doesn’t know everything. One of the best qualities about my dad is that he never stops learning. He is constantly reading, watching and listening to things so he can be a better competitor and horseman. In fact, it was his advice to me that I should go ride with Ron. It ended up being great advice, and I’m glad to have someone who is constantly in my corner pushing me to get better. 

The comfort zone is nice, but that’s not where great things happen. The great things that have happened in my life are because I took a chance on the unknown. If you never take any risks, it is hard to have those great experiences. This is just one example of a great experience I’ve had, because I put myself out there where I was a little bit uncomfortable.  


Nellie Miller is the 2017 WPRA World Champion and rode her home-raised and -trained 11-year-old mare Rafter W Minnie Reba (KS Cash N Fame x Espuela Roan x Blue Light Ike) - affectionately known as "Sister" - to the title. Miller has amassed $625,517 in Equi-Stat recording lifetime earnings. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

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