The Attitude of Gratitude

The Attitude of Gratitude

Something as simple as saying “Thank You” can radically change your relationships with your horse, your friends – and yourself.

Interesting, isn’t it?   Just saying those two words can lead to totally different dynamics between us, and yet many of us don’t realise this.


This post was brought to mind this month as many of my American friends are posting their “daily thanks” posts on facebook in the build up to their Thanksgiving day at the end of the month.

I know some people find this inspiring, others find the daily posts irritating – how we respond to gratitude varies widely, but one thing is known:  saying “thank you” to someone changes how that person perceives you, and how they feel about you.

There is even an article in the Wall Street Journal citing evidence for how people who have an attitude of gratitude are “better off” in many ways :


Let’s take a look at this, and how it works with our horses, our friends, and ourselves.


With our horses:

Most of us like to be nice to our horses.  When we are with them we often say “good boy” or “good girl” – and pat or stroke them when things go well.

So here’s a question for you:  “What is the difference for you and your horse when you say “Thank you” and when you say “Good boy”?


If you think about that, or even take a moment to go to your horse and try this – you will notice there are some rather large differences.

When we say “Good boy”  (or girl) —  we say it as praise, as a congratulations for doing something well or right – which immediately means some form of judgement is involved.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is still a judgement, an assessment – and can be heard as such.

“Good boy” can mean “you did that right”,  “you accomplished the task”,  “I am pleased with you” “you have pleased me”.  It is a more direct line, outcome related upward energy….


When we say “Thank-you”, we say it as a release, a softening.  An acknowledgement that we have received a gift or offering.

Thank you can mean very different things to “good boy” – it is a being-related, downward energy


Try this with your horse:  when he offers you something great, or something you appreciate – say “thank you” .  You will notice your energy is different, your emotional state is different – and you will also notice your HORSE will be different.


With our friends:

Sometimes it’s hard to say “thank you”.  But it makes a huge difference.

How many times have you stopped at a zebra crossing (for those of you not in the UK these are road crossings for pedestrians which are not controlled by lights, so rely on the drivers “agreeing” to follow the road rules and stop to let people cross) – and  watched people cross and they haven’t even acknowledged you?  How did you feel?

And how do you feel when they DO give you a little nod or wave to say “thank you”?

There’s a big difference….


When someone says “thank you” it creates a positive emotional state in BOTH the thanker, and the thankee – and that changes how people view each other.  Research shows that people thanked for their behaviours are more inclined to offer more supportive and altruistic behaviours, and become more positive in how they view others; whereas those who are not thanked tend to reduce their offerings, and also become more negative about the people they interact with.

Two words that can make such massive changes in how people respond to you, and how eager they are to help you.


Interestingly though – there were differences in the people who were DOING the thanking:  people who say thank you more often are generally happier, more relaxed, more positive in their outlook – and the simple act of saying “thank you” triggers a positive emotional state in us.

This can be VERY useful


One of the things about working with confidence is that often, there are loads of people who suddenly know what we should be doing, and how we should be doing it.  In fact, this is true of most of the horsey world!

This can get annoying – and I know it is easy to end up in a very negative state about all this advice.  We often get to the stage where we avoid people, or end up arguing with them – which takes an awful lot of energy and isn’t pleasant for us OR them

So – what if we just said “thank you”….?


I was on a yard where I was the only person using what most would call a natural horsemanship approach with my horse.  EVERYONE had advice on what I should be doing….

So I started listening to their advice, waiting until they finished talking – then simply smiling and saying “thank you”.

In my heart I was thanking them for the time and effort they were putting into their well intentioned efforts to help me do what they thought was best.

And something interesting happened:

The interactions became softer, more positive.  On both sides.  As people saw me listen and heard my thank you – -they relaxed, became less pushy about their points of view – -and the whole dynamic changed.  Monologues became conversations – and my time at the yard became a lot more enjoyable.

This was great for my confidence too – instead of feeling under pressure to do things differently, I was able to continue in my own way without pressure or stress, and without having to argue with anyone.  And because all I had to say was “thank you” – I felt differently about things too.

What a difference.


With ourselves:

I have talked before about how to handle fear, and negotiating with our unconscious to help us find our  true confidence ( and

And here is the first thing to do whenever you notice you are feeling unconfident, worried or anxious about being around or on your horse:

Say “Thank you”




As you are driving down the lane to your stables, and you feel those butterflies starting to flutter around in your stomach:  say “Thank you.  Thank you for wanting to keep me safe, and make sure I pay attention to myself and my safety”

That is all your unconscious is doing when it causes you to feel fear or worry – or to “lose” your confidence:  it’s just trying to keep you safe.

That is a wonderful thing.  To know that a part of you is always looking out for your safety is a wonderful thing.

So let’s thank our unconscious for doing this.

And we find that something interesting happens:  when we say “Thank you”,  our unconscious believes we have heard it, that we are taking it seriously – and it starts to work WITH us instead of against us.

Things change, just like when we say it to other people.  Things change from an argument to a conversation.  From an argument where no one is listening and everyone is shouting, to a conversation where we hear each other, understand each other and work to find outcomes that work for both of us….

Just learning to say “Thank you” to your unconscious can make a huge difference to how you feel.  IT can make a huge difference to your confidence.



So there you are:  just three ways in which saying “Thank you” can make a massive difference to your horsemanship and your life.


An Attitude of Gratitude – worth practicing…..


Yours, in Confidence














6 thoughts on “The Attitude of Gratitude

  1. such an apt post for me!
    when I got Bruce and he was so distracted, couldn’t keep still mentally or physically for a minute. A true “head case” and we had nothing but jarring, damaging problems together.
    I was lucky enough to find a teacher who summed it up with “if you can find him a quiet place, he’ll want to be with you forever”. How was I to do that when I couldn’t even find a quiet place for me?
    Four years later I have a regular meditation practice, I endeavour to be mindful, I’ve changed my life, the way I relate to horses, and the way I ride- and all this happened because I was trying to find a way for him to have a quiet place.
    On Saturday I was sitting at a silent retreat day and had the most overwhelming feeling of gratitude towards Bruce. A debt I can never repay. In saving him I’ve saved myself.
    They say you get the horse you need when you most need it. . .and yes, I say thankyou to him every day (and I tell him I love him)

  2. Love this blog, Cathy! My gelding is a very proud and opinionated horse and when I say “Thank you Magnum” (which I do often), his whole attitude shifts and he is much more apt to agree to my requests. He really just wants to be heard, and don’t we all? Thank you for your insights, they are very helpful.

  3. I sat on the road having been bucked off for the second time that week and said thank you to my pony for putting my hip back in, it had been troubling me for a couple of years and suddenly the pain had gone. A year later we’ve parted company several more times but still say thank you to him on a regular basis because he has taught me alot about natural horsemanship and how to turn negatives into positives – what a journey taken me on, mentally I am so much stronger than I have ever been, even though I’m a bit battered and bruised !!

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