Distance and Reflection

As I drove to the barn this Sunday morning I began to reflect on reflection. I have noticed that on my days off from the barn I find myself peacefully reflecting on the prior week. What did I work on with all the horses? How did they feel from day to day about their work? How did I feel during my time with each one? I found that after a little rest and distance, I could think about and consider all of what went on with each horse and rider during the week, and do so without judgement. I can then also have some ideas of what I can do better for the upcoming week, again without judgment.

So the question is, how do we have this peaceful reflection in the moment? How do we create a small distance mentally to get a clear view of what is taking place with each horse at the time we are with them? How do I take a fresh view instantly? I don't know that there is a simple answer to these questions but I do know that I have found a few things that help me.

I want to start out by saying that there is a difference between taking a step back momentarily and avoiding the subject. If our horse is struggling with something, or if we are struggling, we cannot avoid the subject, sweep it under the rug, skirt around it or skip over it. There are also certain instances when the horse is trying really hard, and you just have to hang in there so they can figure it out. More often than not though, I feel like the struggle grows worse when the rider doesn't know when stop working on something. Our intentions are always good of course, wanting to help the horses understand something, or help ourselves understand something, however we also have a want or need to fix things, and to fix them now. Knowing when to quit is probably one of the most important things we can learn as a rider and one of the hardest things for us to do. We always want just a little more.....

One thing that has helped me in this area is just changing the subject for a bit. If I'm having trouble with something, sometimes the best thing I can do it is drop it for a little bit and work on something else that the horse and I are comfortable doing and we find easy to do. It gives us both a mental break and helps the confidence come back up. After a little distance from the issue, we can revisit it and see if the break allowed both horse and rider to "settle" mentally and come at it with more relaxation and a fresh view. In other instances I needed to just drop the subject completely that day. The human part of us just wants to see some improvement and not be a "quitter" but sometimes we have to just get out before we make things worse and leave the horse in a non peaceful frame of mind. By giving it 24hrs, it gives you time to relax, reflect and distance yourself from the problem and any non helpful emotions you may have been feeling at the time......frustration, impatience, and the ego being the ones that interfere the most with problem solving. This allows you to have a more clear view of what took place and how you can improve on your approach next time. Its a hard thing for folks to do, just drop the subject and come back to it another day, but I have to say that most of the time when revisited in a better frame of mind and after some distance, the "problem" has gone away or gotten much less just because of the break. Another way of approaching this is to take a step back for a moment and think about how can you make what you are trying to teach the horse (or rider) more simple? How can I communicate better what it is I am asking of the horse? Even the most basic things in horsemanship can be broken down into smaller steps. Stop and reflect on where the confusion is happening and figure out what tiny little things can you do to prepare the horse for the subject at hand. Breaking it down and working on the small steps that prepare the horse for each subject will help clear up the communication, and when the small steps are good and understood then building upon them becomes easy and non stressful.

Remember-we don't have to solve every problem, fix every issue, or progress every day. What we do have to do is always consider how the horse is feeling about what we are doing, this to me is so much more important than how they technically perform movements or perform their particular job. And, the hardest lessons for most of us is that we don't have to stay up all night having anxiety over how we are going to fix the problem? How do we put the pieces together? What are we going to do if we can't figure it out?? We don't have to have all the answers today and worrying about it isn't going to give us the answers. Ray Hunt used to say Observe, Remember and Compare. I try to remind myself of these words when I'm searching for an answer to a problem. I have all the time in the world for the horse and I to learn and figure things out, and the only plan I need is to Observe, Remember, and Compare. If I am able to do these things I know the horse and I will eventually get it right, and we will both feel good about the process and the end result because we were able to get some distance when needed, break things down when needed, settle our minds, and relieve all of the pressure. Have confidence in yourself and your horse that it will all come in due time and when you're feeling lost or frustrated, just take a step back, gain some distance from the issue and reflect. Tomorrow is a new day!!!!

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