One of the things I have learned from my time with horses is that whenever I let my ego take over, I get hurt.
One time I was showing off by riding my horse over to my friend’s landrover to talk with her. I distinctly remember thinking “Oh great, I will ride over and show her how well we are doing in our riding now”. Ha! This was just after my horse and I had had an interesting discussion about canter follow the rail in the 17 acre field. She was sweaty and tired. And not paying attention. Neither was I. When my friend started the landrover to leave, and the attached trailer rattled loudly – my horse spooked and I fell off, landing on my back and fracturing a vertebra.
Totally my own fault. Totally down to ego. When I am with a horse I need to be 100% WITH THAT HORSE – not thinking how cool I look, or how anyone else will view the picture.
So, my question was, how can I get on a new-to-me equine for the first time – safely, securely and setting myself up for success?
First I needed to set my ego aside – and look at the reality of the situation.
And of course, the 7 keys to success from Pat Parelli came to mind.
Attitude: was my focus on the equine? Was I there FOR him and not me? Check!
In fact I arranged to ride him at a time I knew there would be no one else on the yard, no one watching. In the front arena, which is not overlooked by anyone – so I could sustain the positive progressive attitude
Knowledge: well, I knew he had a good foundation (by one of the best colt starters) so his knowledge was there and I was confident that mine would be “good enough” – -if I ran out I would stop and rethink so check!
Tools: yep – I had his own saddle, his own hackamore – so that was a check too
Techniques: check: prior and proper preparation on the ground, permission to mount, lateral flexion – yes I was confident with the techniques
Time: check – I had ALL DAY and in fact I have many more days too – -so that was set up for success
Imagination: well, I was able to use mine to visualise all the what ifs and prepare for them – so that was a check – -and I had used it for positive visualisation. And when we played on the ground when it became clear that to get a canter on the circle would take a LOT of discussion, I used the cutting game and stick to me to motivate him to a canter – so was happy with that use of imagination!
Ah, the seventh key – support
Now some of you may be thinking – what support do YOU need? You are happily taking on other people’s horses to ride; you are confidence coach for humans and horses – why should YOU need support?
And you know – those thoughts crossed my mind too!
I listened to them – and realised those thoughts were my EGO talking!
A much better question to ask myself was – why SHOULDN’T I have support?
How many times have any of us battled through on our own, not asking for help or support because we thought we “ought” to do it ourselves?
And yet how many of us would jump at the chance to support a friend or family member if they were doing the very same thing?
Our ego leads us into double standards; unsafe expectations – and dangerously false confidence.
When I did a reality check – and looked at my “unconfidence score” about my first time on Mr Malaga – I was at a 5. Right in the middle. The thing that kept the score that low was my confidence in the first 6 keys. The thing that kept the score that HIGH – -was my awareness that there were a LOT of unknowns in ANY first time on a new equine.
I asked myself – what could I do that would be ego-less – and would truly set me up for success?
The answer, of course, was to use the seventh key to bring the unconfidence score even lower. That would be far better for me AND Mr Malaga.
The answer was – to have support.
So – I invited a friend to come and meet Mr Malaga, take photos – and just be there. I chose a friend who is also natural, positive and progressive; someone who believes in taking the time it takes – -someone I was able to be ego-less with.
Judith turned up at ten am – and was the photographer and general aide de camp! It helps that she loved Malaga and likes me LOL
With her being there, I was at a 2 – how interesting – -and the whole riding Malaga for the first time went smoothly and calmly for everyone. So much so that with Judith walking level with the saddle, I rode Malaga out of the gate and we did our first hack together.
When we first went out of the gate – I think BOTH of us were at a 5 – -Malaga was concerned, wondering whether to be worried.
By having Judith there, I went back down to a 2 – and was able to stay calm, relaxed – and, more importantly, be there for Malaga to be HIS support on this first ride out together.
After a while his worry evaporated, he sighed, let go of his tension and started turning loose to what we were doing.
THAT was what I was looking for.
So you see – having that support DID make a difference.
Did I NEED it? COULD I have done all that I did today without that support?
Sure, I COULD have done.
But can anyone give me one good reason why I SHOULD have done?
IF the horse truly comes first – then using all 7 keys is what leads to success, regardless of what your ego thinks LOL
And the seventh key is SUPPORT
What are YOU doing for Support in YOUR horsemanship journey?
yours in confidence,