Yesterday I went to visit with the two week class here in Florida, and it’s always fun and enlightening for me. This time especially because the course is about confidence and it’s my favorite subject! Overcoming fear is something I love helping horses and people to do.
So as we were talking, the phrase “It’s not about the…” came up. So I asked, “What is it about then?” The answer came back quickly – “It’s about the relationship”. So in that sense, it’s about what your horse needs given the situation, its horsenality, especially. So we talked a bit more and then I said “but you know it’s actually not even about the relationship as much as it is about YOU.” That’s why we hear so many wonderful comments about how this has changed their life, how you use it in your business and family life too.
Now what do you do with that? You can’t just get around your horse and keep thinking ‘it’s about me, what should I be doing?, etc.”, because that’s the underlying element that will come through. So here’s my advice: Put your horse’s needs FIRST. You put them before what YOU want to do or accomplish, but you start by asking your horse to do something because that is what leads to the conversation or recognizing that you have to attend to your horse’s need. Know also that those needs are usually of an emotional nature – fear, trust issues, boredom, etc.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are working on your Figure 8 Pattern for Level 3 and your horse suddenly hesitates, loses willingness or getes focused on a buddy or the barn. In that moment you would recognize the need and address it instead of doggedly trying to get your Fig. 8 accomplished at the canter.
If the horse hesitated, you would hesitate then wait to see what their next move was. If they just took a breath and then continued, you’re fine. But they might back up or start thinking about home, in which case you would play with that as a threshold – head towards home a lot or a little, then come back to the pattern, playing with all the thresholds that will most likely appear on your way back!
Taking the time to do this will have an amazing effect on your relationship because your horse will feel that you made his feelings important. The next time it will be way better – everything will be better actually because your horse’s trust, confidence, respect for and belief in you will improve. And if it’s not better, it may mean you have to do it a few times before your horse believes you, especially if there is a long standing pattern of arguing with your horse.
So that’s how it comes back to you. It is YOU that will need to overcome your judgement about your horse’s action, your impatience, your direct line thinking and making your agenda more important than your horse’s needs. When you learn to do that consistently and without having to fight your own emotions, the changes in you will be felt by your horse… and you’ll make it up the next rung on the ladder of becoming the kind of leader your horse deserves. It will also increase your confidence because the more a horse trusts you, the more trustworthy he becomes too.
Take a moment and think about what happens to you in this light sometimes. How do you feel when you are practicing something and all of a sudden your horse doesn’t want to do it? And if you’ve learned about putting the horse’s needs first, why don’t you share a few words that might encourage others to do what it takes to take care of the horse’s needs first.