Questions, Questions……How to improve your own AND your horse’s confidence…
One thing I have noticed that affects our confidence when we are with our horses or with other people, is knowing which questions to ask.
How many times have you heard someone really interesting, and want to ask them something – but don’t quite know how to say the question? Or you are worried the question will sound stupid?
This not knowing how to phrase questions can make a big difference with our horses too
After all, if we don’t know how to ask clearly – why do we expect them to answer clearly?
As I said on a recent photo-quote I put on my facebook page, “sometimes we criticize the answers our horses offer us without wondering about the quality of our questions”.
First of all, let’s explore wy questions are SO much easier and better for our confidence than commands.
When we say to our horse “GO THERE!”, “DO THIS” or even “DO THIS PLEASE” – in our mind this is a binary things: the horse either does it, or they don’t. This puts us in a difficult situation – if they DO it, great – -bt if they DON’t – -we are kind of stuck – and using commands means that if our horse doesn’t do it, they are being disobedient, disrespectful – and so it all becomes an argument – which is not good for anyone’s confidence.
In a post two weeks ago I wrote about how difficult it is to run life using binary code – with things that are black/white, yes/no and right/wrong. (the post was called Bardo – the space between)
When you give a command, the horse can only BE right or wrong – -and that is not really fair to the horse.
Especially when we are teaching something new
So what if we changed the binary to a scale – how could we interact with our horse in a way that gives a SCALE instead of a binary reponse?
Simple: we ask a question.
If instead of saying “BACK UP!” I say “hmmm, how well can you back up today?” or even “How IS your back up today?”
I have instantly created a scale.
And if my horse backs up – I can rate it from 1-10 in quality (straightness, softness, rhythm, regularity, enthusiasm) – -and then I can think of how can we work together to help you improve that back up
And that changes the WHOLE dynamic of the relationship – instead of it being about right and wrong, and about making my horse obey me – it becomes seeing where my horse is today and then thinking about how we can work TOGETHER to change things.
This is a huge mindset shift for most of us – but it is important for confidence because it changes the situation from confrontational to collaborative – and working in partnership with your horse is MUCH more confidence building than being in an argument with them.
When I work or play with horses, I am very careful to think in terms of questions. Sometimes it is a simple question “what do you think I am asking you when I do this?” to see if we have a common language
Sometimes it is more of a “CAN you do this yet?” when asking for a movement and I want to see if their balance allows them to do it, or if I am asking them to do something that they haven’t done before
Sometimes it is a “how do you feel about doing this?” when I want to help them – for example I often ask this question in trailer loading – if I find out how they feel about it, then I can come up with a plan for helping them feel differently….
Sometimes it is “how much does me doing this help you understand my question?” when I am using body language to make it clearer what I am asking
What is the difference to the HORSE when we ASK instead of ORDER?
To be honest, I don’t know. No one really knows what goes on inside a horse’s mind. I can say that I personally feel a HUGE difference between being told to do something (it makes me instantly brace and feel like saying no) and being asked to do something (I generally think about it and do it) – so I could assume my horse feels the same
What I CAN say is that when I coach people to change from ordering to asking, and when people get the hang of using questions to create the scale – I see their horses change.
The horses relax, become less bracy (less “armoured”) and try harder to understand their human. Their eyes soften, the demeanour shifts – and they learn quicker too.
Interestingly, the humans change too. Guess how? We become softer in our body language, more relaxed (after all we are only asking a question, and we are asking a question without a “no”!) we pay closer attention to our horse’s efforts to understand us – our eyes soften, our demeanour shifts and yes, we learn quicker too.
In a way this post is about yet another way to be NON-confrontational….and yet still be a leader….
If you ask good questions, that your horse finds easy to answer – and you keep the questions interesting – then your horse is going to look forward to being with you and WANT to work with you – -and that is very confidence inspiring.
Since we are talking about how changing our mindset from orders to questions can change ourselves and our horses – how much going from binary to a scale can make a difference – there is another one to think about.
How does saying “thank you” rather than “good boy” change things…..for you AND your horse…
I’d love to see your thoughts on that in the comments below….
Yours, in confidence