Last week, we were tacking up horses at the hitching rail. I pulled out the stick with the plastic bag attached to the end that we use for many things - desensitizing, rhythm and pressure games on the ground. The same student's own horse here at Avalo reacted to the bag and jumped backwards at the bag predator. In my human-ness, I heard my self out loud saying "oh come on, you've seen it before. Don't be silly, you've seen it before...". Sound familiar? Talk about being hit on the head with a, uh, plastic bag!
|The Bag Predator|
It appears that I needed a bag to give me a reminding BFO (blinding flash of the obvious)! It doesn't matter at all to my horse if he's seen the bag before or not, today's a different day! Putting any sort of expectations or pressure on my horse isn't going to help. I have to treat him in the moment, and deal with the horse that showed up. As with a student, I have to deal with the one that shows up. Whether she's cantered before or not, jumped a jump, or even mounted before might be a moot point depending on the day. Confidence is a challenging, sensitive and easily torn feeling. What is not pressure to one can be devastating to another. And, we are our own worst enemy.
The student did not jump the jump. Instead, she retreated from the lesson, relieved from the pressure, yet feeling somewhat confused, frustrated and embarrassed. She approached the same scenario at a later date in a different situation, with NH approaches, allowing confidence to prevail.The horse had a change of plans for the day. Instead of practicing the anticipated lesson, he got to play online games with the bag to build his confidence and trust.
The more I thought about my response the more I realized we humans we react this way - "he's jumped the ditch before..., but she always gets in the trailer..., don't be stupid you've seen a tarp before..., he's always nervous in the water...". Enjoy the moments and challenges even if we can't do what we did last week or ten years ago.Our expectations can be pressure. Sometimes it's about building confidence in a green horse or rider, sometimes it's about re-building confidence from a shaken horse or rider.
At the end of the day, the student and the horse had 'done it before'. Taking the pressure off, adjusting to fit the situation, practicing approach and retreat for both the horse and human is essential. They both had "done it before". And they will both "do it again" with confidence and trust and support. And, try to live more in the moment, our horses certainly do!