"It's always the rider's fault"
"That horse can't be trusted"
"emotions have no place in the saddle"
"just relax and your horse will be fine"
"he doesn't like dressage'
Full Warning: this post is likely going to get a little rambly.I have recently discovered podcasts.
I know, I know- I'm old. To be honest I didn't realize that there were horse-themed podcasts out there. Now that I've discovered them a whole new world of learning has opened up. I started with Nikki Porter's Podcast "Take the Reins". I knew Nikki from the Ultimate Trail clinics. She is branching out into other areas and it's so cool. From these I am finding others. What has been interesting is that a lot of trainers that I admire (Warwick Schiller, Nikki Porter, Johanna Batista, Karen Pyra) talk a lot about the internal state of the person and how it interacts with their horse.
To a certain extent I've always understood this but only on a basic shallow level. As I delve deeper into my riding and being a partner for Carmen I am finding that this is real key for both of us.
|oops I've bored the dogs to sleep. Good job on the Farm Security guys!|
We blame the rider or the horse.
And often the truth is much more nuanced than that. We've all seen wonderful horses seem to fall backwards in behaviour with new owners. Or someone else rides our horse and the angels sing. To figure out what is going on we fall to blaming the rider, or that the horse was drugged.
|Carmen: why would you blame me? I'm so innocent|
And that is not wrong. Which is why it can be dangerous.
Because a horse and rider is a relationship. Insecurities in a horse can feed the insecurities in a rider and vice versa. There is this really interesting video of Warwick's. If you don't want to watch it here's a brief summary: In it there's a very anxious horse who is quite keyed up in a new arena. Warwick take the lead rope and does almost nothing. Yet the horse immediately goes 'phew' and relaxes.
This is when despair can set in because it looks like magic. And we know in our souls that we are not magical. What I do admire about Warwick (and others) is that they are clear to point out that it is not magic. And most point to the work they've done outside of the ring on themselves.
But that a rider may need more skills (either in the saddle or out of it) or that a horse may need more training with a person with more experience is also not wrong. Your bit/saddle etc may not be comfortable for the horse.
|Irish: You know you really are good at complicating things|
Okay, okay Irish. Let me try to simplify it.
Think of us and our horses as a teeter totter.
To quote Karen 'it's about the balance'. Working on one part of the teeter totter won't fix the balance. We need to look at what is causing the imbalance and figure out how to adjust ourselves and the horse.
What really helped me to think about things this way have been related to my riding lately. I've actually managed to ride more times this January than I have in the past few years. Most of these rides can only be at a walk and, occasionally, some trot. Past me wouldn't have dreamed about taking Carmen out and just walking. I would have had the belief that things would go wrong pretty quickly. But we're not in that place anymore. When I have been riding I've been really thinking about my seat and hands and working on eliminating any tension. At an easy walk it's easier to locate my tense spots.
The other day Julia came out and we took the horses up to the ring to ride. I didn't lunge but I did do some light groundwork before swinging a leg over. Carmen expressed some worry about some areas in the ring but I refused to grab the reins (although I did shorten them a few times), made sure my legs/seat were relaxed and carried on. It was going pretty good. We picked up a slow trot and as we we were going around she spooked and spun away from 'Troll corner'. I turned the spin into a circle, walked her to the corner where I dropped the reins and released all pressure (although I did hold my grab strap).
Carmen stood there for maybe a minute before going 'nope' and turning away to leave. I kept myself soft with a 'no big deal' vibe and asked her to pick up our slow trot again. When we came back to the corner we stopped and I dropped the reins. This time I focussed in on my breathing- making it long and slow (like in yoga). Carmen began to sync her breathing and body tension to mine and then relaxed. We stayed there for a bit, then I picked up the reins and we went back to work. When we came back to this area she dropped to a walk, marched into the corner and stopped. 'this is where we breathe' While this is not what I had planned I went with it. Getting after her for doing what I had asked before would have created confusion. Our ride carried on and we finished on a good note.
|relaxed after the ride|
|can we see these costumes too many times? I think not!|
I think it's because those are times when I am feeling pure joy. I am having fun and that translates into my posture, breathing and attitude. Carmen is of course affected by this.
Have we conquered troll corner? Probably not. This worked this time because that is what she needed. We'll see about next time.
In the meantime I'm enjoying listening to the podcasts and thinking about myself.
Carmen and I may never get to the point where we are in sync enough to do great in the show ring. But you know what? She has taught me so much about myself and forced me to be better- both in skills and in myself. And that feels like a better outcome to me.
Very interesting and I think, a lot of validity to what you are talking about. I personally think horses feel/smell/sense what is going on with their humans and react accordingly.ReplyDelete
I agree. That and their past learning on what to do when stressed can really impact what happens next.Delete
I love this. And agree completely that most generalities or “rules” with horses end up being reduced beyond the point of usefulness. Some even end up having unintended consequences in sending the wrong message. So we do a disservice to ourselves by not really addressing the full picture. Anyway tho I’m always amazed by what sorts of results we can get simply by tweaking our mindsets and thought processes haha - glad you felt so much progress in that ride!!ReplyDelete
The change always has to start with us because the horses are not sitting in their stalls thinking about how to improve.Delete
I believe that this concept flows into almost every area of life - it is just more obvious when you're riding a horse! So many sports, skills, careers, hobbies etc. are held back by our own emotional education and mindset. I absolutely adore podcasts. I think Sam Laura Brown's Perfectionism Project (mindset, not equestrian), Olivia Tower's Podcast (equestrian and mindset), and The Confident Rider Podcast (also both equestrian and mindset) are my favorites!ReplyDelete
I agree-it flows through a lot of things.Delete
I've been thinking on this a lot. I have two very different ponies and yet there are similarities you wouldn't expect. It's really leading me to reevaluate myself and my relationship/expectations with Bridget, especially.ReplyDelete
That is interesting. Irish and Carmen are very different but require some similar things as well.Delete
Breathing is important, turns out. This is a fact I forget, too. As a kid I used to practice turning my horse and stopping without touching the reins. It's something I continued to do with Pig (especially good to practice in numbing cold temps, when you need to shove your hands in your armpits for warmth). I'm still doing it on Bast. It's fun, and requires me to use only my body and attitude to move the horse. There's a lot of patience building and breath work that goes into it, I find.ReplyDelete
Breathing is so key. And it's so hard. I do practice transitions with carmen without reins and it's cool to work on. Really does tune them into your seat.Delete
Your troll corner is my arena door. And if I think about it, we also have a troll corner in the 200x200 outdoor ring that I almost never ride in. And when I do ride in there, I ALWAYS avoid the troll corner. Bad on me! Seriously though, the ring is so big and that troll corner has such deep sand ... that it is easy to avoid.ReplyDelete
That said, I have found some solace in the technique of relaxing in the spot that makes them nervous, and working in the rest of the arena. So, we often "hang out" at the arena door and take a look outside. Bolting still makes me nervous though. And cantering by that arena door is still a challenge I live with every day. Its usually fine ... but every once in a while ... someone dares walk by that door and all the wheels fall off. ;-)
And you are right ! You can never post too many of those pictures with the spanish costumes! You look fabulous!
I think that there is a troll corner in every arena. They are very common creatures, despite their invisibility!Delete
In a way, it kind of reminds me (loosely) of a quote: "It will come when you are ready to carry it"ReplyDelete
Mostly meaning that things that are easier NOW weren't easy back then because either ourselves or the horse weren't ready for that step. So all the days we worked on X (in your case, Troll Corner) may have felt for naught when the reactivity continued, but in some cases, it just means that we have a bit more inner learning to do before it falls into place. Or until it makes sense for our horse? If that makes sense?
It makes total sense.Delete
Interesting. I generally always assume that the issue is me. Trainer AB has been making me realize that I’m not fully to blame for Eeyore and his actions. I may enhance them or allow them but I’m not always the root cause and being aware of that has led me to being a bit more strict with him. Not mean or forceful but....just raising my expectations and making him meet them I guess instead of going “I just suck” and throwing my hands up. It has helped us a lot.ReplyDelete
AB is very wise. Just blaming ourselves can make us feel helpless.Delete
Welcome to the wide world of podcasts! They are awesome (though I don't listen to any horsey ones) working on our own mentality and reactions is so important almost as much as working on movements but sometimes things don't really click until we find the correct input for them and that's ok too, we like horses, are all different!ReplyDelete
I feel like Alice down the rabbit hole, lol. So much to discover.Delete
I love this post. You have put into words something that I have been thinking for a long time. You see, I have to do this same type of work on myself in order to be successful as a nurse in vet med.ReplyDelete
"Insecurities in a horse can feed the insecurities in a rider and vice versa."
Yes. And it really isn't just horse and rider relationships. I've worked at hospitals where every single patient cage was labeled with a "Caution" sticker during specific shifts with specific people working together...people that created an extremely toxic environment when placed together. The patients responded to that by trying to bite everyone!
I've had nervous newer techs round me a patient that they couldn't even touch the night before, and before we're finished rounding that same patient is begging *me* specifically for attention. Why? Because I'm calm and centered.
I have to be calm and centered every minute of every hour that I am at work in order to be effective. In order to be able to receive permission from my patients to treat them. (It is so much easier and so much better for everyone involved, but especially the patients, when they *consent* to being treated vs having to force them to accept that treatment.) If a doctor or tech is nervous or anxious or angry, the animals sense that and will react accordingly. If the veterinary staff are calm, the animals will go to them in search of that calm. I thoroughly enjoy being that person for my patients at work, and I can do it because when I am at work, everything else outside of work ceases to exist. I set all emotion aside so I can tune into my patients.
And this is why...this is why I couldn't keep a nervous, anxious horse in my life: because being around her felt like I was still at work. I couldn't relax and let my guard down around her because ultimately her and I just weren't compatible personality-wise: any unrelated tension in my mind or body would ser her off. I was already working on myself in order to be able to do my job; I didn't want to continue that outside of work too. It ultimately boiled down to keeping the horse or the career.
I kept the horse with whom I could be myself, who did not take my unrelated-to-her free-flowing thought processes personally, and whom I can trust to distract me in a positive way when I need it. (I still keep excess emotion away from the barn: if I am truly preoccupied or angry or sad, I don't go to the barn at all. I take that to the barbell instead.)
In other words, I really related to what you're saying in this post. My end result was different because of my circumstances being so...unique, I guess? But I absolutely get it, and 100 % agree...and am so happy for you that you have found this place with Carmen!
Also: welcome to the podcast world! I just discovered podcasts 6 months ago myself...lol I listen to fitness podcasts, but they have been a big gamechanger for my long commutes. :)
Thank you for this. I take a lot of what I learned with horses into my work. Projecting calm can help when people are feeling sad. The balance you found reminds me of me. When I was working clinically I did not volunteer much outside of work. That was because I gave all my energy to help my clients. When I came home I needed to recharge, not give more away.Delete
Fascinating - thanks for sharing. There always seems to be a nuance with horses/riding that we learn about/don't realize/forgot about, etc. and it is fun to learn/listen (going to go try podcasts too! lol) and look at things differently.ReplyDelete
Honestly, use at your own risk! I feel like I'm down a rabbit hole....Delete
I have been on a similar learning journey so fun to check back in and really click with where you are at like always!!ReplyDelete
It’s an interesting journey isn’t it?Delete