Smiling in the Sun

As equestrians I think it is common to anticipate certain outcomes. You might expect your horse to be spooky on the trails or you might worry about him loading on the trailer. You brace yourself for the worst as if being prepared for a bad result is the only way to get through it. All the positivity is thrown away with your naivety.

We wonder why it was so easy that one time when we were either exhausted or distracted. We barely asked, we were sloppy, we didn’t even set things up right, and yet everything flowed smoothly. Most of us chalk it up to dumb luck and go right back to what we were doing.

Unfortunately, that moment of not trying as hard is when we get it right. Horsemanship is about feeling, not thinking. When we think too much we can’t respond to our environment and we become disconnected from our horse. The more disconnected we are the more we think and the more we spiral out of control.

Yet as much as we would like to, we can’t just tell our brain to shut off. As humans we love to think. We struggle to find the language of the horse where there is only movement and intent. We must at once learn from our experiences and yet respond smoothly to our horse.

Why not try some positivity?

If you go into an exercise thinking it will go well you won’t over analyze your every move. You will be able to give yourself and your horse freedom to work through the exercise instead of micro-managing it.

Instead of noticing the flaws, look for the good moments. Take those and build on them. In this way you find more and more success instead of mistakes that need to be fixed. You won’t get buried in your head because you are acknowledging what you are doing right and repeating it again and again.

This positivity will also help your horse. By acknowledging the good you are giving him the confidence to keep trying. You are constantly saying “yes” to him instead of “no”. The whole tone of your conversation has changed.

Adding positivity to your work also builds your confidence. The worry and dread that used to fill you starts to disappear. Your horse is no longer frozen in doubt and filled with worry because you are telling him it is okay.

When we start to worry, the horse starts to worry. In turn, he starts to hesitate. We make up for his confusion by doing too much and letting our frustration take over. Pretty soon we have created the very situation we wanted to avoid.

If we instead take the horse’s hesitation and find a way to say “yes”, we can build his confidence. We can then support him through his difficulty and guide him in the correct direction. Somehow the goal doesn’t seem as far away when the steps are small and the praise overwhelming.

Instead of improving our technique, we need to learn to improve our approach. We need to treat each step like a dance where we are constantly searching for the rhythm and praising each move. Each moment is an opportunity to make things a little better. The goal may still be there, but the focus is on the process. Eventually even the goals give way to a dance of success. In each moment you take the opportunity to build that success into something better. This is the mindset that truly allows you to learn and develop your relationship with your horse.

All of these emotions, all this over thinking, all this negativity gets in your way more than you think. Horsemanship is less about concrete skills and more about how you approach it. If we breathe a little more positivity, a little less doubt and frustration, into our daily routine our horses will have a much easier time and so will we.

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