One of the most frightening things in this world is to confront your problems. To confront the things that does not work or the things you fear will go wrong. Often we are not aware ourselves that we to go around the problems smooth and easy to avoid confronting them and at other times we do it completely on purpose. I believe I am not the only one who has a horse who likes grass and that can cause quite some trouble if you are training nearby a green lawn with fresh and juicy grass. Obviously it was no different with me since both of my horses are in heaven when they see grass and does almost anything to get just one single bite of it. Now that is pretty annoying when you plan on training and the horse simply turns his butt towards you and starts eating. I have previously seen myself simply avoiding ever training on or nearby grass instead of just deciding once and for all to confront the problem and get is solved. When we choose such an approach to a problem we do not in any way solve it, but instead we hide it under the carpet and pretend it never existed. The problem about this way of handling the problem is that we will never really get it solved and chances are that we someday WILL be confronted with a situation in which we need to deal with this problem of our either way.
It is not really important what the problem is, but the important part is that we dare to confront it and maybe even provoke it to be able to find a solution or at least to move in a direction towards improvement. To illustrate this approach I want to share with you a little story from a lesson I taught just a few days ago…
This little icelandic mare standing in front of my was rather adorable and such an attention seeker. She had a lot of willpower and she never doubted for a single moment what she wanted and what she didn’t. In order to ever make her want to cooperate her owner has quite a job in front of her to make her wish to take part in what they do and to make her want to fulfil the questions from her rider. The problem that had recently occurred to them was that she either wouldn’t start walking when they stood still or that she stopped and refused to move. Yet she only did so in the arena and was more than happy to walk forward when they rode in the nature. I was thinking for a little while before I decided that the first thing we should try out was to confront the problem. No more than a few minutes passed after she got onboard the little pony before she started tensing up and stopped multiple times. Even lifting her front legs of the ground a few times when she was asked to move forward. Previously the rider had (for obvious reasons) tried make as few stops as little as possible during their lessons in the arena as she then wouldn’t have the struggle to make her go forward again afterwards. Yet today we did the exact opposite!
We started this way… First of all I guided her to minimize her signals. She should be softer on the rein, less asking with the leg, lighter in the seat and give the pony a little more time to think before asking again. Secondly I guided the rider to change her mindset about this whole situation. I wanted her to believe that the pony would move when as she asked instead of already doubting it before even asking. That was the number one step in the right direction and even this seemed to take off the tip of the iceberg of the problem. Then the confrontation with the problem was ready to begin. We spend almost all of the session starting and stopping the little pony. Riding 10 meters, asking nicely for a halt, giving her a few seconds break and asking her nicely to move forward again. The first 15 times starting from a halt were better, but still not as great as we could hope. It didn’t take much more though before the pony suddenly seemed to realise that she would not have to become stressed up, pushed forward nor punished for not moving, but instead praised for offering movement and then given another break briefly afterwards.
As the pony became more confident and calm about the whole situation so did the rider. Every time one of them took a step in the right direction the other one followed along and improved as well. One of the greatest moments of this session was shown when they stood in the halt and I told her.. “Now you ask her to move forward again. Take a deep breath, get a little lighter in your set and ask her very easy with your leg”. Before the rider even found the time to fulfil my guiding the pony HERSELF starting moving forward and the girl on top was so surprised as she wasn’t even ready for the movement yet.
The point of the story is that sometimes it is no use to go around the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist as it will still be there even though it is hidden behind other things. It will not solve itself while you look the other way and often it will be a even bigger success than you expected to take a serious look at it and try to find a solution or work towards at least a bit of improvement. Do not be afraid of acknowledging when something does not work perfectly and do not be ashamed that it doesn’t. The brave people are those who are honest about the things they need to work and and the people who has the courage to jump right into the problem instead of going around it!