People often ask me “What is the Key to real and lasting confidence?”
I used to respond that there is no one magic wand, no one thing. But recently I have begun to change my mind….
It seems to me that one word can sum up the key to confidence:
Listening to your horse and listening to yourself….
Listening to your horse:
On one of my Hacking with Confidence courses one person, Sandy, was getting frustrated at how unconfident she felt.
“My horse is doing nothing wrong, but I just don’t feel safe about riding her out, or cantering in the school – what is WRONG With me!”
We had worked through measuring her confidence, and developing strategies – but she was still feeling unsure and anxious.
When I watched her one day, riding her horse in the arena, and then taking her out down the track for a few hundred yards, I realised what was going on….
Her HORSE was unconfident, and Sandy’s unconscious was reading this, and making sure Sandy didn’t push her horse beyond her own confidence levels.
Sandy’s Unconscious was, in fact, listening to her horse and hearing her feelings…and then keeping Sandy safe in the only way it knew how – by causing HER confidence to falter.
When we explored this, Sandy felt a huge sense of relief, and started paying more attention to her horse. Unlike her previous horse, who had expressed himself in large behaviours (eg stopping, turning, bucking!) her current mare would just be slightly slower, a bit “sticky” with her feet – and these were the signs Sandy was missing consciously, but noticing unconsciously
Once Sandy started paying attention and really listening to her horse, her confidence returned and she was able to progress both her own and her horse’s enjoyment in riding…
Sometimes your own lack of confidence is a reflection of something your HORSE is feeling.
On another level, listening to my horse is important. If I prove to my horse that I am listening to her, how much does that do for HER confidence, and HER ability and willingness to listen to me?
I was working with a new horse the other day, she didn’t know me and hadn’t met me before. Early on, when I was just holding her and talking to her owner, she turned to scratch herself – so I joined in to give that place a good scratch. As we stood there, she started pointing out more places that itched. And I listened. And scratched. Her communication got more subtle. And she relaxed more and more. Listening built the beginnings of a relationship with her that gave both of us confidence in moving forwards into training.
I have one more very personal example of how important listening to the horse is:
Yesterday I was playing around with getting on Gracie again. Those of you who read this blog regularly and follow my facebook page will know that Gracie has previously had a pattern of shutting down under any slight pressure (sort of going inside herself to watch her happy videos) and then, when something snaps her back into the real world she has spooked – and I have decided to restart her to unpack this.
I shared on my fb page a photo essay on how this year the first time I sat on her it was with nothing on her head, and with a bareback pad, to make sure I had her full permission and was paying attention to her levels of relaxation
So yesterday a friend was with me and I decided to do a repeat of this. I put the bareback pad on her, and invited her to line up by the block. After a few laps and a few times of not quite lining up, and me just “allowing” this, she lined up nicely, I scratched her and she had some massive emotional releases – yawning and stretching.
When I was lying over her, and with my leg along her, preparatory steps for sitting on her – I realised I was NOT in my comfort zone. Something was putting me at a 6 or 7 on the unconfidence scale.
I started paying very close attention – -and although her bottom lip was loose and wobbly, her head was low – and she was inviting me on – I felt uncomfortable about her eyes….
While lying across her, she hadn’t licked and chewed or shown any relaxation and I just felt something was “not quite right” so I was not going to swing my leg over and sit on her.
Just as I said this to my friend, Gracie took one small step forwards – I quickly slid off – and as soon as my feet touched the ground Gracie stepped away, bunched up – and started broncing….
It was only a few broncs, and she stopped after about fifty yards. I remember thinking “if I had a saddle I could have sat that”
But that wasn’t the point. The point was that by listening to my horse, and realising something wasn’t quite right – I had stayed safe.
More importantly – and it had been much more difficult – I had listened to MYSELF
How easy it would have been to have said “nah, don’t be silly, you’re being a wimp, just get on!”
In fact I had said to Tracy, the friend with me, that I felt like a wimp!
Here I was, a Confidence Coach, feeling unconfident about sitting on a horse I had sat on before…feeling unconfident was stupid!
And yet it wasn’t.
In fact feeling unconfident and listening to that feeling had saved me from a potentially nasty experience.
It is HARD to listen to yourself. When you are with others, who are encouraging you to get on with it – it is hard to hear your inner voice that is trying to keep you safe.
It is hard to listen to yourself. When you are alone, and no one else is there – it is just as difficult.
It is as if within ourselves we have different characters, different voices. And metaphorically we do. We have our conscious mind, our unconscious mind – and there are probably other parts all still inside us
So when we think of riding, one part of us says “yay! I really want to ride!” while another part of us is saying “heck no! You’re not safe and I’m not going to LET you ride!”
SO it seems whatever we do, we are going against part of ourselves. If we stay safe and don’t ride, then we regret it and feel we have given in
If we force ourselves to ride, then we still feel scared afterwards and in fact we feel worse, as the ignored voice starts shouting louder to get our attention next time, and feels it can’t trust us now…and even though we have ridden and think we should be feeling happy and content – we don’t and we don’t understand why.
We are in conflict with ourselves.
And for most of us, that is the main problem with any confidence crisis – it’s puts us into an internal conflict and we can’t see any resolution – all outcomes end up with one part of us being unhappy.
Unless we find a way of listening to ALL our voices….
Find out what they are REALLY saying….
That voice that says “don’t ride! It’s not safe” – is RIGHT!
Find out what it is REALLY saying. Is it saying:
“It’s not safe because –
– your horse is not relaxed
– you don’t know enough about what you are doing
– you are not in the right frame of mind for this
– you tend to blast past your thresholds and put yourself in scary situations
– you are just doing this because you feel you SHOULD
– you haven’t thought this through
– you don’t have any strategies for coping if things don’t go well
When you listen to what the voices are saying, they are almost always right.
If we don’t listen to them, they start to shout, and make us more and more scared to make sure we stay safe and take care of ourselves
If we listen to them, and find out what they are saying, they will learn to trust us, and work WITH us…. to build and keep our confidence
The door to confidence DOES have a key.
Yours, in Confidence
PS if you find this blog interesting, and want more details on HOW to listen to yourself, take a look at article 5 in this blog: https://effectivehorsemanship.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/confidence-kidnappers-how-to-negotiate-with-them-2/