Horses are not machines

Liz Daniels, EquiTeam coach talks about accepting the occasional blips during a lesson and the importance on focusing on the positives.

As a coach I really love my job. I can’t believe that I am lucky enough to get paid to talk ponies and be a small part of people’s riding journeys.

When you coach someone you share highs, achievements, disappointments, digging deep moments and you emotionally give your clients everything you have.

Outside of lessons you continue to celebrate the achievements, talk through the mishaps and mentally put the wheels back on, knowing that it is all part of a much bigger picture.

I love nothing more than when someone I teach tells me about their weekend, or tags me in a post, or just sends a random message to let me know how they get on.

It’s not because I like being recognised – it’s because I care.

But alongside the things that are so amazing, there are a few things that frustrate me, and one of these is the topic of today’s blog, ‘They are not machines’.

Let’s picture a few scenarios.

Rider one and their horse are stepping up a height in their jumping. Understandably they are nervous, and this is a big deal. They go in, jump a great rhythmical round, rolling just one pole at the second to last fence. What do they come and say?

Yes, you guessed it, ‘But I knocked a pole down’. There is no focus on the fact that they did in fact ride a beautiful round, they stepped up a height, they made it look easy and their horse jumped his socks off… just the fact they miscommunicated or lost concentration for two seconds of a two minute jumping round. They go away from the show feeling disappointed.

Rider two is nervous. She has had her first group lesson away from the yard in many years. Her horse, having never seen another horse off their yard is impeccably behaved and manages to look after his person all lesson. Towards the end of the lesson a pheasant flies past the arena and the horse steps sideways.
No one falls off and the rider carries on with their lesson, finishing off with a few strides of canter, which is far more than they set out to. The lesson comes to a close and during the discussion at the end the rider turns the lesson focus to the fact the poor horse stepped sideways because a crazy bird flew towards them.
They go away from the lesson analysing the local wildlife, convincing themselves that their horse is a crazed beast, and by the time they get home their horse has been labelled as naughty.

I’m sure by now you can see my point.

My frustration doesn’t come from people who want to learn from and discuss their mistakes – far from it, but imagine if rider one came out beaming with pride, patting her horse like he had just jumped Badminton – because for that horse and rider it is their Badminton. Imagine if she allowed herself to be proud and went home with a smile on her face, with that all important picture for social media, thinking about the 11 fences that they got right and not the one mistake they made… How different that rider would feel about the whole experience?

That simple change of mindset changes everything, including your learning and growth experience.

Similarly, if rider two turned her minor pheasant dodge around to say; “I’m really proud that I dealt with that situation, I carried on with my lesson and we even managed a canter” – what a difference that is to going home with a ‘crazed beast’.

These are just two examples of the many situations I see regularly and it frustrates me.

Horses are not machines. They have their own brain, they make mistakes, they do things we don’t think we are asking for, they react to situations – but generally they are trying. Things don’t always go right – but you know what… as a rider you learn a lot more when you have to deal with something that is not in the plan.

It can be easy to want to focus on the one (or two) thing(s) that went wrong, but to be able to progress and ‘enjoy the ride’ it’s so important to recognise and celebrate the things that went right.

Remember people; the glass is half full.

Until next time,

Liz x

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