GUEST BLOG: Embellished Horsemanship by Maja Lisac

GUEST BLOG:  Embellished Horsemanship by Maja Lisac

As I am on holiday this week, I thought it would be a good time to share a guest blog with you.

Sometimes when I write articles, people respond in e,ails.  I love those conversations and in this case they led me to ask the writer; Maja Lisac if she would write for the blog.

I am happy to say she agreed.

Over to you, Maja…

Hi! I would like to share some of my thoughts with all of you reading this great blog. My journey with horses started about six years ago, although I like to start counting from the day I got my first horse, three years ago (I was about eighteen). Since then, I’ve been looking for ways to improve everything – from the foundations of our relationship, all the way through confidence to my riding skills. Still, not only do I feel, I KNOW that I’ve just begun. Nevertheless, learning things about yourself and others is truly gratifying, so I’ve decided to share some bits of my own ‘epiphany’ in this longish read. Here we go:

How many times have you caught yourself being reminiscent, while looking at a photograph that shows how good you look while doing something? How many times have you relished in the thought of your personal success? We like to see our achievements. Maybe it is even more precise to say that we like to see ourselves meet with success.

Everyone is looking for appraisal, both from themselves and from other people, so that they could feel important. It is an integral part of our ‘defining ourselves’. This is normal. Our egos must be fed… But they must not become obese.

While this aspect of human nature can often go unnoticed, or not seem as relevant or intricate, spending time in the horse world reveals how much of an inhibitor it can actually be.

One of the most common problem-causes among us horseowners is the desire to prove to ourselves and our peers just how good a relationship we have with our horse. The event that inspired my thinking about the whole subject was an occasion when I almost ‘broke down’ after my horse refused to canter in front of other people. I believe almost everyone is familiar with this situation. There were several factors that made me feel so horrible, but all of them could be reduced to being utterly dissatisfied with the image which I, as a more experienced rider, was presenting to them, as opposed to what I was supposed to present. Once I put it this way, it made me realise how many irrelevant expectations I had.

Very often, we put the image of our relatonship before the relationship itself. We try to ‘trick’ ourselves and others into believing that we already have the desired relationship instead of admitting that there is still something we have to work on. On one side it is because of the great peer-pressure that we all experience when we are trying to define ourselves as anything, let alone capable horse(wo)men. We feel we have to confirm this image in oher people’s eyes, over and over again, in order for it to be real. After all, working with horses is perceived as an impressive ‘feat’, so people often tend to skip steps, trying to seem ‘natural’ as quickly as possible. Do you notice how little this has to do with the real relationship? We have to look competent in order to feel competent, and only then (we think) we can begin to be competent. The order is wrong. Which brings me to the other end of the problem. For some reason, people like to think in polarities. We are either competent or incompetent. We do not leave enough space for all the colours that lie in between. Our mind-image, to ourselves, is unequivocal. So, if something doesn’t work, we tend to grasp at lifelines – the quick-and-ineffective-fixes – instead of taking our time to build the needed confidence. Our picture has to look good NOW… Or we pronounce ourselves incompetent.

Allow me to go even further down the line, and look at the natural horsemanship itself. It is a beautiful concept at the heart of which is: keeping your relationships honest. It has become very popular in recent years (the Internet era) and there are a lot of people ‘demonstrating’ what such a relationship looks like, rather than what it is likeOf course, there are many people eager to explain, people who really do keep it honest, but what I have in mind are those pictures from the very beginning of the story. Suddenly, we are surrounded by successful people. Or at least this is how it appears. Among all the facebook photographs, and stories that are told, we may feel less capable than the people surrounding us. However, what we actually see is the human need to present us with an image – an image of their own success. Given all the reasons above, it is not difficult to understand why we are under such a pressure. Now, maybe even more than ever, people tend to embellish things and compare themselves with others. Some of what we see may be false, some of it may be true, but with all of us being so concerned with presenting the embellished image, the true relationship remains out of sight. Natural horsemanship is replaced by embellished horsemanship. It is a vicious circle, as all the reasons above cause the practice below, which in turn augments the reasons above… And all of it has little to do with how you and your horse really get along. Letting go of images, and trying to keep it honest is what horses will appreciate the most. After all, in my own case, it turned out that my dear gelding did not want to canter not because he was being stubborn, but because he had a bruised hoof. I would have done us both a favour if I hadn’t immediately resorted to blaming both my incompetence and his pigheadedness instead of listening to him, just because my primary concern had been how it was going to look like to others.

So, the next time you feel bad about not being as good as people surrounding you, keep in mind that everyone has (had) their own problems. No image is truly flawless. It is just a matter of embellished horsemanship vs. natural horsemanship. And to tell you the truth, the latter will always win. We may trick other people, we may even trick ourselves, but one thing is sure – we can never trick our horses.

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7 thoughts on “GUEST BLOG: Embellished Horsemanship by Maja Lisac

  1. Embellished is a wonderful word to capture the complex situation you dissected so nicely. What you wrote reminds me of some pictures taken of me lately riding and of ones I took at a recent clinic. Badly taken photographs.These snapshots freeze in time a certain moment that looks horrendous, me at the top of the rise in posting trot, the legs of the horse at an awkward stage. The pictures made me realize how much our mental image of horses’ and riders’ and handlers’ success is based on photos capturing only the most pleasing of moments, the embellished moments, if you will.

    • Exactly! And it is the same for wide(r) audience, too. People don’t seem to recognise the most valuable bit (and therefore the most real) when it comes to being with horses – and it is the progress and learning itself. All they can see (and often we cannot blame them for it) are those fancy pictures. So everyone is left with an idea of horseworld as it appears on screen/photographs/everywhere. And this is what leads us to so many problems, starting from people who buy horses who are too young, or people who get tired of it all and just neglect them, or quit the whole thing, etc. I think there is no need for counting it all.

  2. A good reminder of what is important. I know this sounds a bit weird, but I quite often wish no one else was around to judge me. Also I struggle with when people cannot see the point and think I should just get on and ride, I feel like I am being slightly ridiculed by people who, although are lovely just don’t get it..sorry went on about myself a bit there. Thanks for writing something to give me strength 😀

    • Yes! This struggle is defenitely not weird. I also have many examples of this kind of experience; after all, I have just begun realising it ‘fully’. I have friends who mean all the best, but make me uneasy when they push me into things I am not yet ready for, because they sincerely believe that simply doing it is a way of conquering your uncertainties.

      As a matter of fact, I have to thank you for bringing me to the point once again, for I have just realised that this ‘peer-pressure’ stage is something EVERYONE goes through, but we all have our different ways of dealing with it, so it is not as easy to notice. Not every kind of confidence is the right one.
      Those who have more self-confidence and/or skill often overdo things – try to do more than they are actually capable of, while those on the other side of the spectrum tend to do less, they withdraw. Neither solution is beneficial when it comes to building the desired relationship, but I guess we all have to go through (and possibly win) the battle with our egos. This is the stage when we learn the most, about ourselves and everyone else. Again, honesty is the best solution, but we have to find it ourselves, because we all naturally have to ‘grow up’ into being good horsepeople; surpassing the shaky-confidence stage. Reminds me of children on their way to become adults.
      Thanks!

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