My work takes me out to meet all types of people and their horses. All have very interesting stories to tell. Mostly people want me to help them with a problem of some description. Sometimes I am a last resort call. Horsemanship by nature is inter-species communication. So it not surprizing that when horse and human are learning a new shared language, great learning opportunities are brilliantly disguised as problems. My calling is to help people and horses. The first thing is to help them make peace with the problems, no matter what they are. These problems can be the “golden gifts in crappy paper”.
It is a matter of perspective. A problem is often an opportunity to explore. Sometimes it is about starting a fresh. This time more intelligently, to learn new skills, to build a strong foundation to build success upon. The trouble with a problem is it can be viewed as hard work and not worth the effort. How about thinking it could be a fun journey? There could be opportunities for personal growth. It is sometimes about switching mind sets. A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. However an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Opportunity rarely arrives easy or neatly packed. Most people miss opportunities because they arrive as problems.
Opportunity dances with those on the dance floor, so my work is often about getting horse and rider as dance partners. I help people and horses to walk confidently onto the dance floor, with the skills they need. My aim is to facilitate them being able to dance together without me. For this I use a blend of horsemanship, cognitive behavioural techniques and when required healing.
Horsemanship technique will get you so far. It will only work with the correct mind set and emotional state. Time and time again I can show someone technique and the person can try to replicate it. However if the person is not in the right emotional place the horse will know. Horses know if we are nervous, anxious, fearful, tense, apprehensive, tentative, etc…. Horses are hardwired to read emotional state within their own species and that of other species. You cannot wear a mask, the incongruence rattles them. For horsemanship to work horses require us to be authentic, consistent, trustworthy, respectful, calm, confident, patient, listen to understand, and above all honest. Horses are divine mirrors and will reflect back to us what we must work on from within. Horsemanship is as much about personal development as it is about being great with horses. This is why cognitive behavioural techniques bring so much to horsemanship. As some people need help to deal with issues such as anxiety, fear, stress, depression, lack of confidence, the what ifs, the negative inner dialogue, the self-doubt, etc… And often their horse and a little help is the only way onto the right path.
When I meet a new horse and human partnership presenting with a problem I have to come at it with a problem solving mind set. This is what I will share with you, as problem solving is essential in almost every area of life.
Firstly I need to establish the root cause of the problem. Not that easy as humans are great at burying their heads in the sand and avoiding the problem. Avoiding the problem doesn’t make it go away. It builds up in the background until a crisis point is reached. The problem may have been inherited. Humans are great at passing the buck. Sometimes the problem gets given to a professional to train the horse. The horse returns fixed, however the horse is only 50% of the partnership and the problem resurfaces. Then it can lead to the blame game. This sadly leads people down a negative pathway where others are less likely to offer assistance. I have to help the person to see the problem, and take responsibility, be willing, proactive and committed to working through to a solution.
Emotions play a huge part in horsemanship. You can’t convince me that horses are not emotional beings. So understanding the horse’s and the human’s emotional state is critical to success. We invest so much into our equine dream. Emotions are so powerful they can have a huge impact on decisions and actions. A massive part of helping someone; be they have 2 legs or 4 through a problem is to respect their emotional state. And offer appropriate support, guidance and encouragement. Some emotions take time to unpack. Taking ownership of feelings is the first step in how to work through emotions. Horsemanship requires horse and human to centre them-selves so they are composed, calm and confident, enabling thinking, rather than reactive behaviour. This enables an effective choice for the correct response in a situation.
Success is not just for the gifted and talented. When faced with a problem, knowing the true root cause and the desired end result enables us to put in place a step by step plan. You can read for FREE my published article Set Yourself Up for Success.
Listen to Understand
I have to listen to not only the human but also the horse when I am asked to help solve a problem. I need to make sure I really understand what I am being told, so I often ask lots of questions, observe, reflect and check back with the person and horse so I really understand. With complex issues it can take time for the layers to open up and the information we need come to light. It is about the relationship I have with the client and their horse that enables delicate topics to be aired. Some issues run deep, abuse, trauma, frightening experiences, etc… I am 100% committed to my clients, dedicated, and above all what is said to me is confidential. It is not just listening. It’s about being compassionate, supportive, caring and empathic.
There is always more than one answer to a problem. Spending time considering each and this will lead you to the one that feels appropriate. Plus enable you to be flexible in your approach as there is always more than one way to work through things with horsemanship.
Review and Evaluate
Once you have embarked on your problem solving journey from time to time, stop and reflect. Keeping a journal can be a very useful tool, as it will enable you to see the distance you have travelled. Your journey is not set in stone so you can review and evaluate your progress and adjust your plan as you go along.
Dealing with Set Backs
On our journey through solving a problem, there can be setbacks and times you feel like giving up. This is the time to use tools and strategies that help with keeping you and your horse motivated. You can read for FREE the 7 articles I wrote on motivation that appeared in Horsemanship Magazine. Start by reading the article - Panning for Gold, then the 6 in the Motivation series.
I have shared with you a few insights in problem solving, which hopefully you can test run in any area of life.