I don’t know how many times I have gone out to work with a horse with an agenda – only to find the horse has little interest, certainly no intention and is quite content to just see what shows up.
Learning to adjust to the mindset of living in the moment and being prepared to adapt to the situation continues to test me. Rain is one horse that seems determined to test my resolve on being present. Regardless of progress in previous sessions we usually spend the first half of any session fiddle farting around to reach to a mutually agreeable starting point. Once and if that point is reached all moves along well.
I say if, because the if is dependant on me. Each ride is like a previous conversation where Rain needs to state his opinion and feel confident that I am listening. Working with a horse is truly no different than coaching a person along. I’ve learned that once Rain has had that opportunity to vent, he appears more open to a dialogue where he is willing to answer my questions. Push him too a point and his resistance and frustration grows, guide him through the discussion and pretty soon we’re loping along smooth as can be.
In his fabulous book “The Mentors Mentor”, Corey Olynik, suggests that a “mentor must first and foremost be a “Confidante: a person who listens without judgement.” Olynik’s many years as a mentor helped him define the six different roles he has played in coaching others. It helped me see that as a “Role model” my experience in starting other horses must demonstrate to Rain that I am willing to be a “Guide”, a “Tutor” and a “Coach” to facilitate his learning, and as a “Sage” I am willing to allow him time to understand.
Each role I play offers something different to define Rain’s development as a riding horse. As a “Guide” I have used the recent construction zone near the farm to help him see things that may appear foreboding, from a new perspective, as a “Coach” I am bringing accountability, discipline and motivation into the relationship by supporting, repeating and rewarding. As a “Tutor” I am looking for the right way to explain something new to him, recognising each horse will find understanding if we give them time. Finally as a “Sage” I can’t loose site of the ultimate vision – being one with the horse.
Olynik’s book has been a wonderful reminder for me to find the perspective that will be helpful with each horse at each moment. To enjoy what shows up and be playful. To use each experience to strengthen the relationship, finding the path together so I don’t end up being the only one taking myself too seriously.
Ever had one of those tangible moments when you actually believe, that others believe in you?
Of all the leadership challenges, belief in self often remains our greatest limiting factor. We can spend a lot of time learning and understanding but it is in the moment second guessing ourselves that stops us from applying our knowledge to take the risk and make that next step.
That would be the emotional part of our brain sabotaging the rational holding us back from something we have the skill, knowledge and experience to manage. Seth Godin calls that “The Lizard Brain – the prehistoric brainstem that all of us must contend with” — referring to it as the part that “doesn’t like being laughed at”.
Rhys the horse who continually creates memorable moments for me, offered another one today. It was the linchpin1 in our relationship. I used the word tangible to describe the moment because it left behind a glow, an actual feeling. Well at least that is how it seemed to me.
I was on Rhys in the outdoor ring, checking out where we were both at before heading out on a ride. Zoe, my other best teacher, surely must have decided it was time for my next lesson. She rallied the herd and headed to the back field. Heads up, tails flying, bodies rushed past the rails of the corral from two different directions and headed up over the hill, my only thought was “I should get off”. For those who understand how powerful a magnet a leaving herd can be to a horse you might understand that first thought. But I didn’t get off, my next thought was I can manage this I have the knowledge and skill to get through this. “Rhys we have been through a lot together this shouldn’t be a problem – let’s work through this.”
Rhys was concerned that others had left, but as soon as I asked him to get busy he was visibly relieved that I was still there. When a horse blows through their nose it can be a huge physical and mental release for them. That was what he offered me.
We spent a few more minutes in the arena to confirm he was connected to me and not the long gone herd, and then headed in the opposite direction to the stubble fields. Our part of the world is currently a construction zone – an old wellsite is being remediated just north of us and the County is putting a water line down the road we live on. Not counting the steady stream and rumble of dump trucks there are no less than 9 major pieces of equipment and one generator droning away all day, it is noisy and disruptive. It has become a perfect training ground.
I couldn’t have imagined taking Rhys past a backhoe even a few months ago, but today I believed we could. It was the best ride we have ever had. I believe Rhys is a completely different horse, what has changed however is me.
1- The linchpin – a locking pin that holds the wheel to the axel or the name of Seth Godin’s new book.
Photo courtesy of Sandra Anderson
Thanks for reading this – we’d love to honour your time by offering you a copy of A Year of Inspirations – an ebook summary of some of our best past essays, quotes & images.
“Horses are only afraid of two things, things that move and things that don’t.” wisdom imparted by Tom Dorrance when asked why horses are afraid of everything. Good horsemen are great at simplifying ideas, a horse fears what he might see, hear or feel. Whether it moves or not, what a horse perceives as scary, is tangible.
Humans on the other hand can fear everything, we fear what we see, hear, feel, imagine and believe. When it comes to something scary if it isn’t there we are quite capable of creating it. If we aren’t the creator, then we certainly feed a fear with what we listen to, read and who we hang out with. Humans, are a pretty tough act to follow.
In his New Year essay, Michael Enright of the CBC Sunday Edition referred to the decade as one of “adding and subtracting, of lost purpose fogged by confusion”. Ten years that seemed to capture our worst fears beginning with worldwide chaos the result of computer failure to uncontrolled viral contagions. From Y2K to H1N1, it is a decade exhausted.
When we learn from the past, live in the moment and plan for the future we not only do well, we excel. 2010 holds promise for a decade of optimism, hope and opportunity. Let’s take advantage of our ability to reason when something is outside of our comfort zone and manage our emotion when we sense, feel, think, want or act fearful, then figure out what to do with the information.
The Awareness Wheel is a tool we use to help people through a perceived fear of horses, injury or failure1. The wheel provides a guide to question the source of the emotion we feel welling up, to take stock of the moment and determine whether our emotions are working for us… or against us.
The rock that doesn’t move or the plastic that blows in the wind may not be what scares us. But the what if’s, could be’s or might happen’s can paralyze us and the reasonable is quickly clouded by the irrational.
It is funny how we stumble upon what we have learned. I was busy matching the shapes, colours and textures, of a Christmas puzzle, when Mom remarked that I have always been so good with puzzles. The comment made me stop and think as I do enjoy puzzles, I guess that is why I stuck with Rhys. I have had a few people “suggest” I find another horse, but Rhys has been my puzzle. Even his name reflects the chocolate covered peanut candies that come many to a box and I have often described our progress as having discovered another piece.
I worried so much about the what might happens with Rhys, that I missed what was going on. When I let go of the what if’s my whole perspective on him changed. I can honestly say I lifted the fog of my own confusion so I could see the potential Rhys held for me.
2009 may have been a tough year – but don’t let that hold you back. Treat this next decade as a whole new puzzle, one with many pieces, new textures and a rainbow of opportunity. It is simply a case of fitting them together based on what shows up.
1 – adapted by Fred Jacques from the work of Miller, Wackman, Nunnally, and Saline.アコーデオンドア！トーソー アコーデオンドア クローザ エクセル TD-5040/TD-5041 レーベル
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