Thanks to the resurgence of the flu bug, I am sharing with you an article I wrote some time ago and which, coincidentally, one of my clients mentioned this weekend

I hope you find it interesting

I was reminded about the phrase “don’t go the extra mile for people going in the other direction” recently. I like this phrase and use it a lot!

It sums up a lot of things.

Partly it is about focusing our own efforts on where we will benefit the most.

Partly it is about our own emotional fitness – if I am spending all my time running after other people, then perhaps I need to re-examine my own motivations – am I doing it to help them? Or because of my own needs and values?

And partly it is a recognition that if we HAVE to go the extra mile – then perhaps that shows that our journey is not their journey and we are, in truth heading in different directions – following them will take us off our own path and end up not being healthy for either of us.

Having said all this – there are some other interesting aspects of this saying.

One instructor I respect said this recently about a couple of people in his workshop who had not asked questions, and so had not been offered any advice on how to cope with some of their horses’ behaviours. The instructor said it wasn’t his job to chase people if they weren’t interested. That they weren’t ready to hear, as evidenced by them not asking the questions.
I asked if something else could be going on – maybe they didn’t know HOW to ask the questions? Or what questions to ask – or even if they were allowed to ask questions!

We had an interesting discussion about how sometimes when we see someone heading in the other direction – or at least, not heading in the same direction as us, we often fall into the trap of making ASSUMPTIONS about why they are behaving that way.

I have even more respect for this particular instructor because after the break, he actually went and talked to these people – and asked them the questions I had asked him. Turns out they were scared of asking “stupid questions” – and in fact when talking to him one to one they came up with a lot of thoughts, ideas and queries that he was able to support them with – the rest of that session was a lot more positive for them!

Recently I had a similar situation. I was trying to organise an event ( a beach ride) and some of the people I saw as my “reliable friends” – you know, the ones you count on to show up at everything to make up the numbers! – told me they could not come. These are people I coach on a regular basis – and I knew the event would be valuable to them as a learning experience – it was something they had said they would enjoy – so what was going on?

At first I chose to feel hurt, upset even – they weren’t playing the game. I had been working with them and now when they had to travel to a place I wanted to do something, they were coming up with all the excuses – no time, too much effort, cost too much….

I was seriously questioning their commitment – -not just to the learning process, but to me personally. And of course, the saying “ quit going the extra mile for people going in the other direction!” rang loud and clear in my head.

I paused for a moment.

I did what I usually do when I find myself confused – I went back to the 8 principles and started working through them

Horsemanship is natural: well ok, they were interested in natural horsemanship – but I could take this further and ask myself – human ship is natural too, so maybe what they are doing is the NATURAL choice in their world – if I take that as a starting position – that from their perspective this choice makes sense and is natural, then perhaps I can see things differently

I was stopped in my tracks at principle number 2: Don’t make assumptions; don’t teach assumptions.

I was making a lot of assumptions here. How interesting – perhaps I could ask more questions to get past this…..
How interesting – I coach this stuff and here I was falling into the same traps I warn people against – just goes to show we are all human and sometimes need a reality check!

That was enough to stop me right there – I did some work on asking more questions and found out enough to show me that my assumptions had been flawed, and soon our relationship was back on track.

Interestingly, when I asked more questions I found out something that really caused me to stop and think:

I found out that one friend had genuine difficulties with affording the trip, another had work commitments – but one friend had felt “too much pressure”.

I thought to myself “how interesting” and then more or less just carried on (LOL)

Recently this happened again: I had an initial meeting with someone who was very concerned about being unconfident, and general anxiety and stress in her life. We talked, I thought we really connected, and made a plan for action moving forward.

On the day I was due to see her again, after agreeing the long term approach – she texted me to cancel.

This caused me to stop and think.

And yes, I realised that although I had had great ideas and made long term plans, with the intent of helping this person change – the RESULT was that she had also felt too much pressure and turned away.

Now I usually pride myself on applying my horsemanship principles with my human interactions – it’s something I get positive feedback about.

But I realised that I was not recognising something here – so I looked more closely at this “feedback”.

If I went out to the field to fetch my horse in for some play – and my horse, who usually walks up to me and sticks her head in the halter, was down the other end of the field with her back to me, not wanting to even look at me – what would I think?

Would I think she couldn’t be bothered?
That she was lazy?
That she was running in the other direction?

Especially with the knowledge that just days before she had been trotting over to me happily?

No, I would not reach those conclusions—I would realise that my horse was giving me feedback about the amount of pressure she had perceived the day before – that in her view of the world, I had been “making” her do stuff.

Wow. This set me back on my heels a bit. I found this hard to think about – how could I make a mistake like that? Surely I don’t put too much pressure on people?

Well, generally, no. Generally I am consciously aware of how the people I am working with are reacting, responding and behaving and take great care to match and mirror this.

However, I thought about how much “talking” vs “listening” I had done when I first met this person. I had been en route to another commitment, so I had probably allowed myself to be rushed – after all, I am the expert and know what I am doing so maybe I didn’t take the time to listen as much as I could have?

Thinking further, I also realised that this person had a lot of characteristics of the unconfident horses I meet in my work: introvert, quiet, needing confidence before being able to act.

So my talking most of the time had not allowed her any processing time, any reflection time – and time at all really.

Her cancelling the session – was ALL about the pressure I had put on without even realising it.

Positive intent had caused me to behave in a way that had a negative result.

I still feel bad about this – if I had been more skilful, better at what I do, then I could be supporting that person on her journey.

I can’t change what happened.

I CAN make sure I learn from it.

Have I?

Well, I guess I’ll have to wait and see, won’t I?

In the meantime, I reflect on this phrase “don’t go the extra mile for people going in the other direction” and realise how interesting this horsemanship journey really is when a phrase as apparently as straightforward as this can lead to something so much richer….

So — tell me, how are YOUR assumptions affecting YOUR horsemanship — and life?

yours, in confidence



3 thoughts on “Assumptions……

  1. Thanks for a timely reminder 🙂 I know that I often push folk too hard, or steamroller their ideas, I need to exhale and smile more often so as not to drive people and horses away! Even my brave little LBE gelding often puts a ‘shell’ round himself when I’m not being soft and open. Balancing this knowledge with the need to offer leadership that makes him feel safe is my challenge.

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