I have a new challenge and a new partner. A six year old gelding who is not very happy. I use the word ‘challenge’ deliberately, not because I am thinking of going into battle but because it focuses my mind on what I need to do in a positive way. ‘Challenge’ is an effective word in the same way that ‘problem’ is not effective. Obviously it is so much more positive and motivating to say ‘I have a challenge’ than to say ‘I have a problem’, which only brings the focus on what is wrong and is deeply depressing! To be effective we need to focus primarily on what we need to do rather than on what is wrong…or indeed what has just gone wrong.
THINKING AHEAD TO BE EFFECTIVE
For example it is common to see a rider look back at a fence their horse has just hit, when of course they should instead be thinking about their approach to the next fence. To look back is a double negative because it also distracts and slows the decision making process of the brain. Because of this errors of course in both show jumping and dressage are more common after a fence or movement has gone wrong.
So in the short term thinking ahead positively is vital. Equally in the long term it is also vital to think ahead and be positive about our possibilities. Not everyone wants to be an Olympic rider but few would turn down the option of doing things better and easier if it was available. Especially for horse riders this option is available with good coaching and certainly we all have the sparks of possibility.
Because I know from my experience that huge change is possible, and despite the fact that my new challenge is a horse, I also say to myself ‘ I have a new partner’, exactly as I do with my human
students. Now this is not psychobabble as the more we can help ourselves automatically act and respond in a good way the quicker and easier progress will be made. By thinking of partnership and making the best of the situation, instead of despair and distain and getting out of the situation, a much better outcome is possible.
So for better or worst I look at my new horse as a partner in our endeavors. Logic tells us that a positive, enthusiastic and respectful approach will be much more effective than negativity and bullying. Of course partnership is easy to work at if the horse is willing and talented just as it is easy if a human is willing and talented. In these circumstances it is easy to work towards partnership and everyone is happy. However the real test of a trainers is their ability to respond positively to those who are less willing and less able.
LOOK IN THE MIRROR
We all probably think we act the same to students at both ends of the spectrum but we need to look in the mirror to check whether or not this is the case. My new equine partner is relatively unwilling and not coming through the back. Three days of lungeing have already made a huge difference and the trot is good….next week I think the canter will come and then he will have some active hacks to improve his attitude and fitness. Then he may be ready to jump and I think he is going to make a great horse and a great partner. Onwards! William