Even if you are schooling your horse at home by yourself or during a lesson with a trainer, we are constantly looking for feedback. This gives us a guide on how things are going (or not in some cases).
In NLP the saying ‘There is no failure only feedback’ is important to remember. We can all learn from mistakes, but the point where people get stuck is when they don’t move forward, don’t question what it means or come up with an answer.
An easy tool to help with this is the cycle:
ACTION, AWARENESS, ANALYSE, ADAPT.
Action – What is the task you a doing? It could be just a feeling or a thought
Awareness – What is the feedback? How does it make me feel, where do I feel it?
Analyse – What caused it? What do I need to change? Options?
Adapt – What do I need to do to change it? Route forward?
Then the cycle starts again by returning to Action.
This doesn’t just apply to working with your horse, but to everyday life. We can use it to solve problems, come up with decisions and help build self-awareness. Try it for yourself! 😉
So what does G.R.I.T. mean?
GOALS RESILIENCE INSPIRATION TRAINING
Working through this process and regularly going back to re-visit, you can check you are still on the right path. Goals may change, and with the influence of the environment we find ourselves in our emotions may change too.
G.R.I.T. is a good ‘check list’ to discover where improvements can be made – marginal gains.
Change one little thing to make a big difference!
For more information on my coaching programme or advice, please get in touch.😀
So, a lot has happened since my last blog. Life has changed in so many different directions, it became a roller coaster of emotions I couldn’t get off. There were times I thought to myself “Seriously! Can things get any worse!?” Life felt like one constant blow after another. My favourite words I’d sigh to myself after each new blow was ” Ahh well…nevermind!” Even my 3 year old son started saying it as he’d heard it so often. Secretly, I felt depressed and hopeless inside and tried hard not to show it as my enthusiasm for anything started to spiral. No home. No money. No future. I had lost everything.
Then something happened. I was watching an animated DVD with my little boy early one morning after another sleepless night. In the movie things had gone wrong and the character said something that hit home….
“When you hit rock bottom, the only place left to go…is up!”
Later that day, I saw the same words written in a post on facebook. Again, it hit home, even harder this time. That was enough for me to reframe my beliefs about what was happening to me from a negative to a positive. I still said “Ahh well…nevermind!”, but now it had a new meaning and feeling. It became a positive thing, like dusting yourself off and carrying on with more courage and determination. I changed my focus from what I didn’t have and thought I needed, to what I wanted to happen and also what I already have. Only I have the power to change things for the better, I am the one in control of my thoughts and feelings or the meaning I give things, nobody else. So it was time for a new start for myself…and a new life!
“Out of the ashes, rose the phoenix”
Things started happening for the better. We finally found a home in a new area, money started to come in as more work presented itself. My health got better and I found more energy and positivity. It also became time to say goodbye to ‘The Performance Rider’ as it just wasn’t sitting comfortable with me. After some internal searching and questions of “What am I and my life really about?” Then it came to me… Resilience.
What is resilience? To me, it’s the ability to pick yourself up and carry on when things go wrong. To learn from mistakes in a positive way, having the courage to push on and try again. The determination or commitment to learn and make things better. To grow. When things aren’t working to try another way. Not give up.
My life with horses has been all about being resilient. Blood, sweat and tears were shed on many occasions! There were several knock backs, mistakes I had to learn from. Times I thought I should give up as I didn’t have what it takes anymore, but still kept going. I appreciate now all those things that happened to me, the good and the bad! It has made me who I am today. Stronger, positive, appriciative, intuitive, patient amongst other things.
So, on that note I will introduce you all to the new chapter of my life, and hopefully be in yours….
Welcome to ‘Resilient Rider’ 😀
1. We must not lose ourselves either in the past or the future; the only moment we can touch life, is in the present moment.
When we ride or school our horses, it is important that we don’t dwell on past experiences or things that went wrong. We also don’t want to be distracted by “What if….?” questions that invariably pass through our minds as we try to predict the future. Our focus needs to be on the here and now, the present moment, feeling the movement of our horse and working with them. By channelling our thoughts and focussing in on the minutest detail, we often enter a state of ‘flow’. In this state we are able to make the quickest adjustments at just the right time and in just the right way, in a relaxed and confident fashion.
2. Control of your own mind, will allow you to more easily influence your horses mind.
What we think and feel is picked up easily by our horses. Stress, fear, anxiety, frustration, nervousness are all very common in today’s hectic lifestyles. We as riders need to learn to control our emotions and ‘leave them at the gate’. Horses are a mirror of their rider. If the rider is tense or nervous so will the horse be. So we, as the leader need to be in tune with our thoughts. Our brains don’t take in negative commands (i.e. “Don’t do…” ” I mustn’t…!”) therefore, if we keep telling ourselves the things we don’t want, then that is where our focus is…On what we don’t want!
Positive affirmations of what we want i.e.:
This gives our minds a positive focus and the more we say it to ourselves, the more we achieve it. As we become more positive, our horses being the ‘mirror’ will follow suit, and as our body already knows how to ride, your mind will be the one doing the controlling of the horse.
3. Constant trying involves mental strain and too many muscles. rather than trying harder, it’s easier to take this feedback and find another way.
We have all been there, trying to do something as it saying ‘in the manual’ or in the ‘instructions’ and we end up getting frustrated and exhausted until eventually we give in and declare failure. I think as a rider, it is our duty to learn many different tools for our toolbox and not be fixed in our thinking, but be adaptable. Read or listen to different methods of training from a variety of coaches, riders, trainers and instructors and find what what suits you and your horse. We are all individuals and learn in different ways. If something isn’t working for you or your horse, find another way, adjust, adapt. Sometimes there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way, it is about being able to recognise that something isn’t working and coming up with another method to try.
4. If you drift around the arena without a plan, you will find yourself responding to what the horse does, rather than the horse responding to you.
When schooling it is always good to have a plan. From warming our horses up, to what we want to cover in the session, what the intention is, to finishing with a cool down period. Without a plan we tend to ride aimlessly around the outside track of the arena with our horses not paying attention and spooking at things. By having a plan, we give our brains a focus point and we direct our horses into achieving it.
5. If the trainer is too demanding, the horse will lose confidence. But if he is not strict enough the horse will lose respect and see no reason to perform.
Listen to the feedback the horse is giving you. Not every horse is a dressage or show jumping superstar. We need to find the balance of encouraging the horse to try new things, but have the understanding when they find it difficult. As riders we need to have the confidence in ourselves to be able to lead them through the tough times and the respect for the horse when things don’t go to plan.
We as humans are allowed to express our feelings and emotions as and when they arise, yet horses are often discouraged from doing so. When the horse is in the stable we expect them to be calm and pleasant. If the horse is agitated they are often reprimanded for not standing still. Getting excited or bucking playfully is discouraged. Is it any wonder that some horses become bored or withdrawn from their environment if they are never allowed to show their true feelings and emotions.
I had a horse come to me several years ago to bring on and compete after he had been ‘broken in’ by someone else first. After several weeks had gone by and the date of the horses arrival had been and gone, I decided to contact the owner. She told me they had had some problems with him and his attitude but it was all sorted and the horse would arrive the following week.
The day the lorry carrying the new horse arrived on the yard I was greeted by a tearful owner. She hadn’t seen the horse for several weeks while he was away being broken in, and on collection to bring him to me she was greeted with a skinny, depressed and scarred horse that had been broken in more ways than one. He would stand at the back of his stable, head hung low not really interested in anyone or anything. It took over 12 months for that horse to come out of his shell and enjoy life. He was sensible to ride even though he liked to be extravagant sometimes, but he had a beautiful personality, kind gentle and had forgiven enough to trust people again.
Another horse called Sonic was turned out with his friend Corelli as they were growing up for a couple of years, and when it came time to start his training he was moved to another yard. For the first week or so he was understandably not happy. The last time he had been separated like this was when he was taken from his mother, so not surprising he was upset. We gave him a new friend who was older and they got on well for the 2 years he was there. Then came his next move, to a yard of lots more horses.
The first day was a nightmare! He was rearing in the stable ( to the point where I couldn’t get out the stable door and had to escape over the wall into the next stable). I left him to get on with it for a while and eventually he settled down for the night. The separation anxiety was getting less with each move of yard and proved he was starting to cope.
Sonic was later turned out with a group of horses and to our surprise he became best friends with an old mare known for being very grumpy towards other horses!. The older mare was called Tempest and as time went on Sonic was happy to leave her to go out on his own. He would call to her on his return and she would wait for him at the gate before going off together. Tempest being the old mare that she was, was not in the best of health. She had a heart murmur and huge melanomas on her dock. We knew at some point the time would come when we would have to say goodbye to her.
I worried about Sonic’s reaction to losing another friend so took the decision that, when the time came, I would let him grieve and deal with his emotions as naturally as possible.
That day came this winter. Tempest’s melanomas had ruptured and it had put strain on her heart. Sonic knew the situation and had spent all morning with his head over into her stable with his eyes half closed and a very quiet manner. The decision was made by the vet to put her to sleep.
Tempest was led out of her stable as Sonic called to her, to an open space where she was to be put to sleep. Once she had gone, I led Sonic over to where Tempest lay. You could see the emotions running through him as he tried to understand why his nuzzle didn’t stir her nor the paw to encourage her to get up. He then moved to her head and sniffed her face and mouth. He stood still for a while and then slowly started to graze by her head.
For about two weeks he would look for her but carry on with life in a quiet way. It’s as if life is different for him now, he has grown up. Leaving the yard or other horses isn’t such an issue any more, there are always friends to come home to.
Sometimes you just have to let a horse be a horse….
If we watch horses in the wild, or just in a group turned out in a field together, how do they communicate their feelings to one another? Those who have a close relationship will nuzzle and groom each other. Some might put ears back or shove the other to move them out-of-the-way. Only if there is conflict does the ‘touch’ between two horses get hard or brutal even.
When we first start to train our horses, we give praise by either voice or a gentle pat. Even the great horse whisperer Monty Roberts says to ‘give your horse a gentle rub on the horse’s head as a reward.’ But why is it that in competition, the excitement of a great test or jumping round do we see some horses being slapped quite hard across the neck or even hit on the head?
Seeing the expression of shock on the horses face (even fear in some) makes me ask myself ‘What does that communicate to the horse?’ It must be confusing for a horse to jump to the best of its ability, and although sensing the riders pleasure with the effort, is subsequently hit around the head.
A horse can take firm pressure and quite enjoy it in the form of a massage or physiotherapy. But even when doing a massage we build up the pressure slowly, starting with long gentle strokes to relax the horse and the muscles. We don’t dive straight in with firm pressure, as this just causes tension and discomfort for the horse.
It has certainly made me look at the way I praise my horses. I do still pat them on the base of the neck or shoulder but in a gentle way, sometimes choosing just a long stroke down the neck and a friendly scratch on the withers. When I start off the young horses they are patted all over with a cupped hand (which makes noise but will only send a gentle vibration through the muscle) to help desensitise them. Firm pressure is only used to reprimand unruly behaviour and should be used sparingly but in a sympathetic manner.