Humor Deficit Disorder: Serious Riders and Stoic Horses.

Humor Deficit Disorder: It’s time someone brings this condition out of the closet.

Seriousness might be the biggest obstacle in getting a good ride. Ever had that feeling that the harder you try, the worse it gets? You could have Humor Deficit Disorder.

It starts in a positive place: If we did a better job of riding, our horses would be happier with improved partnership and understanding.

But Humor Deficit Disorder encourages over-thinking with an attitude of gravity, solemnity, and persistence. And it makes you a killjoy. Horses care about that; they get mad or they shut down. Some are stoic and hold it all in as long as they can, develop ulcers, and then get really mad or really shut down.

“Is my contact too long? Are my heels down? Should I half-halt now? Is this good enough? Will I ever learn this?” Too much mental activity will corrupt the physical rhythm. It’s a disconnect if a rider converses with herself instead of her horse. And then harder she thinks, the more disconnected she becomes. It’s impossible to listen to your horse if your internal chatter is deafening. Quiet that critical mind. Take a deep breath and don’t be surprised if you horse does the same.

It’s good to take your riding seriously, but can you do it with a light heart? What I notice about seriousness is that it seems to always be negative. Constant correction will kill try in a horse (also dogs, kids, and men.)

“Some people find fault like there is a reward for it.”  Zig Ziglar

Some H.D.D. riders think that schooling a horse is as monotonous as a rat running on a wheel. Well, that would not be the horse’s fault, would it? Left untreated, H.D.D. can disable a rider- resulting in rebar sit bones and vice-grip hands, with a heart to match.

Riding is not an intellectual activity. It is kinesthetic- that’s the method we must use to connect with a horse. A horse might seem psychic somehow, but he is reading our physical body. To ride well, we have to learn to communicate back the same way.

Do you have Humor Deficit Disorder? Ask your horse. Is there a cure for H.D.D.?  Yes. A smile will do the trick. A laugh is the strongest weapon a rider can have because humor has the power to transform negative to positive. Never underestimate the power of a laugh.

Want scientific proof? Research shows the act of laughing increases circulation and blood oxygenation which in turn relaxes muscles, relieves stress and stimulates endorphins producing happiness.  Humor and laughter facilitate learning. (It’s science!)

Smile, not because you are afraid your face will get stuck the other way, or because it’s pretty. Smile to give your horse a soft entrance into your mind. You can’t force him to good work, but you can invite him -and the most welcoming invitations come with a smile.

I spend a lot of the day standing on the ground watching horses and riders. The fast learners are always the ones who laugh at the mistakes and stay positive. Strangely, they seem to enjoy their horses more too.

Here are a few suggestions from horses in my extended herd about how to deal with a mounted attack of Humor Deficit Disorder.

Noah says I never ever get tired of hearing ‘Good Boy!’

Rolan says This is my favorite song. I love this music!

Seri says Dismount and reboot. If we are too sticky, I like to relax and then start again.

Andante says See me as a dynamic dressage horse, and I am.

Jet says Less is more. I really like a small cue.

Clara says I like transitions, I get bored easy because I’m so smart.

Boots says When I get it right, I like a walk on a long rein to think about it (while looking south.)

Scarlet says Please stop pulling on my mouth- I hate to fight.

Maggie says Listen to my tail, my poll, my breathing and I will tell you when you get it right.

Then Dodger says I’m giving you exactly what you are asking for. Perhaps YOU could evolve!   … And welcome to Dressage!

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

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Comment by Anna Blake on December 7, 2012 at 8:11pm

Jackie, wowo. That's interesting.  Laughing does things beyond the surface for sure.

Comment by Jackie Cochran on December 7, 2012 at 11:52am

Laughter can work wonders. 

One lady I boarded with told me she once had to work a chronic runaway horse.  So she took the horse to where the trail had a circle, let the horse rip at full speed and started laughing, and kept on laughing until the horse noticed that she was going around in a circle.  That laughter re-set the horse's mind, and with consistency (laughing each time the horse tried to run away) the lady consequently got rid of the runaway evasion.

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