I am not one for making New Years Resolutions, mostly because what I hear seem like empty promises. The yoga studio is full in January something I know will change in the coming weeks.

Each ride, every program I am looking to fine tune one of my actions as I recognize and better understand my own behaviours. So rather than a resolution, this is more of a confessional.

In The Natural Leader programs I speak to “being impeccable in our behaviour”. While humans certainly appreciate it, horses demand it. I am constantly assessing what behaviours work with my horses and working to change those that don’t.

I became acutely aware of an issue last summer, I mostly ride on my own so I believed my horses were not herd bound. Something I discovered couldn’t be further from the truth as Jack and I careened back to the herd at a gallop almost taking out Buck Brannaman in the turn. I often tell people how I enjoy riding with Buck, it’s a bit more embarrassing to say I almost ran over him.

So I have been working on solving that problem and I have made connections to a few habits I hadn’t even considered that supported the herd bound behaviour.

Having my horses stand tied on their own, for example. All my horses tie reasonably well, I can’t however say they all tie exceptionally well.

This is what Oliver is learning to do. He is on the high-tie, it is a wire cable between two posts with points to tie a couple of horses along. It is a great place to get a horse to learn to stand as they can move around, they can’t get caught up and they can’t pull back.

So here we are learning how to stand. I say we because the first time we went through this process I always had a buddy for him. Horses are a herd species, so they do best in the company of others. My unconscious habit was to make it comfortable for him. Problem with that brilliant idea was he was fine as long as there was another horse with him.

There was lots of desperate calling, pawing and moving about as the herd disappeared over the hill. Oliver did not like the idea of being left behind.

Four years of me managing him every step of the way was fixed in 4 days and about 4 hours. To be honest the hardest part for me was to NOT intervene. I had to wait until he was ready to stand.

The first day I didn’t expect much, I simply wanted him to relax and let go of the herd over the hill, that day took the longest. Each subsequent day he fidgeted less and was able to stand longer. On the fourth day it was as if he looked at me and said “oh this again.” and just stood there.

Those fours hours will go a long way to Oliver believing I can be a part of his herd and it has already made a big difference on our rides down the road or out into the nearby fields. With that herd bound behaviour out of the way we can work on far more interesting things.

By nature habits are simply easier to stick with because they don’t require any additional brain capacity. We don’t have to think about what we are doing. What Oliver taught me was in the short term that may be true, but overall a habit can be way more time consuming and frustrating when you don’t address them. I expect I will uncover more of my own behaviours that have gotten in the way because now I am looking for them.

In front of a large audience, Jack pretty much screamed the unaddressed behaviour at me. Oliver was a little more subtle in his expression, but both required I change a behaviour.

Like all habits and behaviours, for a new years confessional to be successful you have to really want to make a change. Most importantly I had to be willing to work through the difficult parts to see the other side.

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