But what if I ruin my horse?

EquiTeam’s Liz Somerville shares her thoughts on ‘ruining’ her horse Splash

‘What if I ruin my horse?’

Does this sound familiar? This is something I have asked myself a lot over the last six years of owning Splash.

To give you a bit of background I had waited a long time for Splash to come into my life. I had several horses before him that I was either given because they were broken, or were super cheap because they came with some sort of problem.
I’d loaned horses and had a period just before we bought him when I was horseless for 18 months because we were building a house. So when he finally arrived as a very smart, but unbroken three year old I had a completely blank canvas and felt like all my Christmas’ had come at once.

I’ve backed quite a lot of horses over the years but after having kids and having not done it for a while I knew I needed some help, and the overwhelming thing going round and round in my head was “I don’t want to mess it up!”

I found myself constantly worrying about making a mistake and giving him a bad ‘first experience’. I firmly believe horses aren’t born horrible, they don’t come out of their Mum’s and think I’m going to be rude and bolshy or buck my rider off.

Problems are created through lack of education or boundaries, through fear, pain or us just making too many mistakes.

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As Splash started his education I found myself thinking that everything had to be perfect. What if he stopped at a fence, he might learn to stop and then what? What if I created an issue with getting the right canter strike off? I might create a problem and completely ruin this amazing little horse I had waited so long for?!

I found myself trying to protect him all the time rather than letting him make a mistake and figure it out for himself.

I can remember a conversation I had with my trainer around teaching him a new movement. I had completely avoided ‘having a go’ at home on my own because I didn’t want to cock it up and create more of a problem.

What was his response......?

It went something like this……..

“Liz, Splash doesn’t know what it should be like, you don’t have him to ride the perfect movement, his job is to teach you how to ride and you learn together.”

The stupid thing is that I know how important it is to make mistakes… that’s how we learn. I spend my professional life telling my team that mistakes are ok as long as they learn from them, and I tell my kids the same. So why was I so afraid to ruin my horse?

Trust is a massive factor in our relationship with our horses. When you manage to create that bond and trust it’s a pretty awesome feeling. I knew that Splash trusted me and I had this overwhelming feeling that I didn’t want to let him down.

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So if you like me, have had these feelings what can we do about it?

Something that really resonated with me and helped me worry less when something hadn’t quite gone to plan is to think about building up a bank account that is full of confidence and trust. When we make a mistake it might reduce that bank account a bit and we need to stop, take a breath and then pay in some more confidence.

That might mean just having another go, dropping down a level and taking the pressure off or getting some help from your coach. The problem comes when we start constantly tipping over into our overdraft.  As long as we have built up enough of a buffer then these amazing animals are so forgiving… and let’s not forget that all important point that this is meant to be fun.

Your pony doesn’t know whether they come home with a red frilly or a green frilly, they don’t know if they have the ability to be in the middle of the pack or be the next super star. What they do care about is having fun with their human and getting a big pat when they try their best for us.

My take home message from this blog is you are not alone by feeling that pressure – but stop worrying! None of us are perfect, nor should we be. Have a go, make those mistakes, learn from them and tell that little voice inside your head that’s saying ‘but what if I ruin my horse’ to sod off!

Liz S x

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