TRUST YOURSELF!

Some time back around the turn of the century I rode a reactive little Lusitano x Fell pony on a clinic with American trainer Mark Rashid. The main issue with this mare was that she used to run. Mark is a very good trainer and gave me some really useful suggestions on working with the mare to help her not to run, things like telling me to turn her as soon as she began to run and let her go straight if she didn’t, and telling me to think about trot or canter and not ask with the leg…

But the main piece of learning for me was gleaned from the initial conversation we had at the very start of session one:

MARK: What is it you’d like me to help you with?

ME: She tends to panic and run away very fast.

MARK: Is there any time when she doesn't do it?

ME: Yes, if I ride her on the bit she’s fine.

MARK: Why don’t you just do that then?

…EXACTLY! Why didn't I just do that then?! It sounds so obvious…

And there lies the learning, and it is something I see many times in many of my riders/ students on my clinics, that they have the answer but don't trust themselves to go with it. For me at that time I’d gotten into an almost religious belief that every horse should go on a loose rein in all three gaits before being on the bit and for this mare that just wasn't the case; I already had the answer but didn't allow myself to see it or trust myself to just do what works, i.e. ride her on the bit…

As a rider and trainer it is about seeing what works - and mostly our horses show us what works if we really to look. It is also about taking responsibility for seeing what our horses show us and making the choices about our training and what we do with our horses. But it is mostly about trusting yourself, rather than thinking that because you are still learning - and let’s face it we are ALL still learning and always will be - you don’t have the answers and someone else knows more than you so you should get them to tell you because they know better.

I’d been working as a professional horse person for over a decade by the time I took that mare on the clinic with Mark, I’d started countless horses, rode for an excess of four hours every day of the week year in year out, owned between 25 and 35 horses at any one time… but I still didn't fully trust myself to know what I was seeing and what worked and what didn't and go with it…

When people are on my clinics I help them with technical advice about their riding and the details of training the horse, how to make shoulder in, how to train piaffe or flying change or get the horse soft in self carriage or where to put your leg or how to best use the contact etc, but much of my work is about helping riders to really look at whats actually happening and trust themselves to act upon what they see.

It is helpful to have what the Buddhists call a ‘beginners mind’ when it comes to learning, but it needs to be balanced with self trust and action.

Having a rider with an open mind that also trusts themselves is especially important for the horse too. Without trusting oneself the rider takes on an attitude of not knowing and that can appear as self doubt. This is not a great state to be in if you want to give a prey animal like a horse the confidence, reassurance or leadership it needs…

So… trust yourself, you probably know more than you realise!

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