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How the Definition of Confidence and Sticking to the Plan Can Stop You and Your Horse from Moving Forward

Contributor Julie Saillant looks at what it really means to make build confidence and make progress with your horse.

Photo by Kristen Lee

THE DEFINITION OF CONFIDENCE: 

Confidence is defined as the state of feeling certain about the truth of something; a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities. Notice anything interesting about the definition of confidence?

Let’s take another look: “A feeling of self-assurance arising from ONE’s appreciation of ONE’s OWN abilities or qualities.” Strangely, there is no mention of a horse or even a team of horse and human in the definition of confidence! How completely inappropriate!

Most equestrians understand the relationship between horse and rider is a real one, with two participants and a 50/50 partnership. When one half of the team has a “man down,” sometimes literally, the other half cannot, in any way, adequately pick up the slack on their own. It is a team sport.

From my intuitive discussions with horses and experiences boarding at different barns, I am going to generalize how some riders feel about their partners.

Disclaimer:  The quotes I have written below do NOT mean that every owner feels and thinks this way about their horse.

  • “I AM the show! People come to see ME not my horse, and I train very hard for that appreciation as an equestrian.”
  • “I dictate the rules and speak for my horses.”
  • My main job is to keep the two of us together, as a unit as much as possible, and my horse must be a willing participant. If he isn’t, there are consequences.”
  • I expect the best out of my horse each and every time we train. Period.”

What do you notice about the phrases above? The human has an inflated ego and it speaks volumes about their “partnership” with their horse.

On a positive note, every horse needs an advocate and who better to be that advocate than their owner or rider. This is, of course, provided that the owner truly cares for the horse and has their best interests at heart. This person clearly establishes an open dialogue with the horse, noting their positive or negative movements, and how he is communicating through his emotions and body.

The negative aspect becomes clear when the human has no concern for the wellbeing of the horse, despite obvious signs of distress either physically or emotionally. This is a partnership, and break downs happen when there is little or no communication due to the human not including the horse in on their process. However, most riders want a true partnership with their equine that promotes harmony.

WHAT IS “THE PLAN”?

“The Plan” has been adopted by riders regardless of size, shape, age and experience and is not dependent on your horse’s breed, sex or discipline. It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie or have had horses all your life.You know “The Plan’, you just may not know it by its name.

“The Plan” is the thought process of TODAY WE WILL BE MASTERS IN OUR TRAINING SESSION, NO MATTER WHAT! Translation:  We WILL accomplish something, no matter how you or your horse is feeling, thinking or moving.

This thinking is paramount in many riders’ minds and is reinforced by trainers, friends and even loved ones. The problem with “The Plan” is that, unfortunately, the most important partner didn’t get the memo — your horse!  Is it any wonder that things can get out of whack when either we, or god forbid our expensive horse, has a day when things don’t go as we’d hoped! Clutch my pearls girls! Sometimes it just ain’t happening! #TruthBomb

WHAT ARE PERFECT PICTURES?

Horses have feelings, y’all. They have good days and bad days, both emotionally and physically. There will be times they just don’t feel like putting in the training due to their body or mind being “off.” This is usually when we clash with our mounts.

We have an agenda filled with “perfect pictures” of how things should look in our heads. For example:

  • A perfect picture can be from when we were 20 years younger and a heck of a lot slimmer. We rode in shows and ribbons were easy to come by.
  • Another perfect picture may be of a top equestrian we admire. She makes all the right moves, attends the dreamy shows (think Paris and Monaco) and is constantly in the ribbons.

No matter that they are PROFESSIONALS and we are AMATEURS who may only ride occasionally, we still keep these “perfect pictures” running through our minds and sadly, this is what we expect from our horses. Perfection. Every Day. Forever. Does this seem realistic for you or your horse?

HOW CAN WE ACCOMPLISH OUR GOALS?

The horse may know “The Plan,” but physically can’t perform like he used to. They get older, sore and may have ailments. Bad weather makes their muscles hurt and they are uncomfortable jumping at a height they used to sail over. What was a simple exercise last year, can be difficult to perform this year. The best way to change “The Plan,” is to put a better one in place that takes into account how you – as a team – are functioning.

TRADING IN “THE PLAN” FOR “THE BLUEPRINT”

The focus of “The Blueprint” will be on flexibility, cooperation and grace, taking into account how both partners feel and act at any given time, according to how well or poorly either partner is performing.

7 POINTS OF “THE BLUEPRINT”:

1. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS — We will lower our expectations of both ourselves and our horses. These expectations can come in the form of both shows we want to participate in, personal goals or moving to the next level in competition. This does NOT mean we won’t have concrete goals. It means that the goals will be realistic in terms of giving us the time to attain them.

2. ADOPT FLEXIBILE TARGETS — Targets we want to achieve in training will be flexible and will change on a daily basis to account for injuries, physical pain and emotional well-being of both horse and rider. This flexible model allows the team to perform without time constraints.

3. THE BATTERY METHOD — We will liken both ourselves and our horse to a battery, with 100% being fully charged and 0% with no charge. When either party is less than 35% – 40%, we will call it a day and not train.

4. GRAB A FUN PASS! – We will give ourselves and our horse, the patience and compassion we easily give to others, but rarely give to ourselves. You don’t need a reason; it can be an intuitive nudge that either one or both of you needs some time off. Take your horse for a graze or do some groundwork, just make sure that it’s fun!

5. TAKE ADEQUATE TIME OFF AFTER INJURY — We offer ourselves and our horse the time needed to completely heal. This may mean cancelling plans to attend a show or giving yourself more time off to heal a broken bone. This crucial time off for both horse and rider until you are 100%, allows you both come back stronger than ever.

6. CHANGES IN LATITUTDE — Getting bucked off means you land in a new reality and are given the perfect opportunity to see the relationship for exactly what it is, as it is. Let’s trade in the romantic notion of us elegantly riding Black Beauty for an honest relationship with our horse, where strengths and weaknesses get challenged and refined. As the smoky mirror clears to leave a very real picture of what you and your horse can or can’t achieve, you get to decide which goals you can realistically reach. This new reality may sting a bit, but it’s the perfect starting point of you being real with yourself about where you are with your horse. It’s begins with an open dialogue, allowing you both room to grow and blossom into a beautiful picture of a cohesive team.

7. ADOPTING A CONFIDENT STATE – This is where we bring in confidence as a reality, nurtured with lots of positive affirmations, taking our sweet time to learn more and showing ourselves just as much grace as we extend to others. Both Changes in Latitude and Adopting A True Confident State are loosely taken from Anna Blake’s blog post, Confidence Lost and Found.

This “Blueprint” gives both you and your horse a way to reach your goals safely with lots of time and patience working for you, instead of against you.

Julie Saillant is an Equine Communicator and Intuitive Mindset Coach who helps equestrians in the areas of stress, time management, performance issues, communication skills and boundary setting.  She is the bridge between horses and riders and is here to give you tools so you can interact with your horse on a deeper level. Book a time to talk to her at https://www.motivation-addict.com/book-with-julie

Photo by Kristin Lee Photography

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