dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Riding with Honesty

We all live at the mercy of our emotions. Our motions influence and shape our desires, thoughts and behaviors and above all our destiny.
– Dr T.P.Chia
Hang on- this might get a bit new-agey and mystical.

 I believe that I am a logical person. I am also an emotional person. I'd like to think that that means I'm well balanced. More likely it means that I can always find a way to justify what I'm feeling.

And I doubt that I'm alone in that.

I have always heard that emotions and riding/training don't mix. I've worked very hard to keep my emotions out of riding.

I now believe that I had it wrong. The truth is that we always have emotions- happy, anger, stress, sadness and all the subtle nuances. In the past 18 months I've had to come to terms with how my 'emotional baggage' is impacting my ability to ride. For the longest time I try to achieve a state of calm and objectivity, with mixed success. Horses are very good at seeing through any masks we put on. A sensitive mare like Carmen is really good at it. And calling me on my lies.

What I've learned with Royce (one of the many things) is that leadership is not just a state- it's mostly actions and reactions. I'm never going to be as good as he is at just going with the flow.

But I am good at honesty (mostly). So I've been adding that to the mix. I no longer try to mask or suppress my emotions. Instead I acknowledge them and use them to work through whatever is going on.

Royce wants to me start mounting down by the barn and riding Carmen up to the ring. Okay. The first time I did it, half-way up the neighbour started his ride on lawn mower. That would not be a big deal except that his is the loudest one I've ever heard. The first time I heard it I thought he had an excavator going on. Carmen was getting very worried and so was I so got off and led her the rest of the way.  Yesterday I decided to do it again. I got on and as we headed up to the ring I could feel her getting tight. So was I.
I know I said, I'm not so sure about this either but I believe that we can handle it. 
She blew a  bit and relaxed. Not a lot but some. And we survived. In the ring at one point she gave a bit startle at something and I jumped too. Oh, that gave me a start. And then we went on. Before I would have tried to gather her up and tell her to not be so foolish. Which was not me removing emotion but actually reacting with anger.

Today we did it again with much less tension. In the ring we didn't have to warm up to 'troll corner'. Not that she was happy to go that way, she wasn't but she was responsive. She gave this huge start when a grasshopper attacked jumped out. I gave a brief reaction and then began to laugh. Which relaxed us both (although she was a bit miffed it could have been a scorpion you know!). 

I'm doing lots of external acknowledgement of how I feel when I ride- happy, frustrated, startled, freaked out. I think because I'm saying it out loud to myself (and Carmen) I can then deal and move on. Her spooking is getting less often and less explosive for lots of reasons. One small component is my being open about how I feel. This is making me more resilient in my schooling.

Even if that's not really why it works, I don't care. It works for me.


16 comments:

  1. As long as it works for you, it works! :)

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  2. This works for me too! I read a horse book once about how horses need us to be congruent and when we aren't it really bothers them. Really interesting stuff :-)

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    1. That book would be interesting to read. do you remember what it is called?

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  3. I have a lot of emotion I try to bottle up and put aside when I work with the horses. I should give this a try instead. ☺

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    1. I've tried the for years and it never really worked for me.

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  4. Honesty is so important and I think it is one of the greatest gifts our horses give us -- that mirror of our emotions thing. I am emotional and logical as well -- I've been told I can justify anything. But, I try to go with my intuitive side when I am with horses -- which isn't easy since it is buried under layer upon layer of logic. I also think talking to Carmen about your emotion helps to identify and give ownership. I've started doing that as well -- with Lucy when I bought her, and now even more with Tex. Mares understand emotion and they are fair. Go with it.

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    1. We seem to be very much alike :).

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  5. Your journey with your mare is so very similar to mine with my girl, Lily. It was the exact same process: before getting on, I had to do an analysis of my emotions and check any extremes (nerves, anger, fear, sadness) at the door. It took a LOT of work, but it eventually became automatic. I now step into a sort of Zen mentality when I approach Lily to work with her, and it has become a welcome relief from the daily stresses of life. I very much believe that you and Carmen will get there too!

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  6. One of the most effective turning points for me in horse training was when I stopped 'reacting' to my horse's emotions and started acknowledging them, thanking them for their try and then looking at myself and evaluating how I could be more clear, or redirect, or whatever is needed in any given moment. Not only did I become more calm, centered and reflective, but I felt I had more power to shape my and my horse's experiences. Now it is easier to laugh when things go wrong and then take joy in problem solving.

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    1. Thank you for this. It makes so much sense.

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  7. I'm really impressed with how you handle her. I don't think I have the patience or the self-reflection to be so open.

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    1. I didn't know that I did either. But I admire your patience with Nilla and her quirks so I guess we're even. :)

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