“Don’t worry, you don’t need to do it perfectly, it’s not like we are aiming at Olympics”
When I hear such statements being said to riders I feel both sad and incredibly motivated to carry on with my work. We are creatures of beliefs even more so than creatures of habits. When we believe in something (the deep down kind of belief, not the verbal “yes, I sure can do this” kind of belief), we adjust our habits, actions, tactics and goals to those beliefs. And they are funny things you know, they develop in us from an early age and are shaped by everything and everyone around us. Smallest daily occurrences, big events and everything in between wires our brains into an intricate pattern of unique being. Before we know it, we believe we do, can, make it happen or not…
Let yourself imagine you want to let’s say, become a pilot. What’s your first thought? Is it, yes I can do it or no I can’t? Whatever your first reaction is, it is influenced by your own personal beliefs about yourself, about pilots, planes, risk, heights, technicalities of flying etc
Words are powerful exactly because they can alter our thinking. If you heard everyday at school or home “Don’t worry, you don’t need to get your essays to be ever so good, it’s not like you are publishing them” – what chances do you think you would have to develop a mind set of a writer?
How many 10 year old riders, do you think, who are told: ‘your pony never canters on the right lead, go to the left’ will ask ‘why?’ ‘how can I help him canter to the left?’. From my experience, not many. They will follow an easy option teacher gives them. Option that requires no commitment to learning. After all, they are not going to Olympics.
Before you say, hey but many of us just want to ride for pleasure, our child’s pony is happy cantering to the left, we don’t care about competitions, why should we aim “for Olympics”, have a think again…
For many grassroots riders horses are a form of escapism. For very young children, the sky is the limit. The recreation and lower level equestrian sports are the mini quests for freedom, adventure, peace of mind. If you take lessons, every time you hear any verbal restriction, something you are “not going to do/able to do/need to do” it doesn’t only influence your riding progress. It adds a little building block to your general beliefs…
Ambition vs Self Development
If you are a riding instructor or a passionate teacher and you are helping others get the most out of themselves you might occasionally hear people say ‘I don’t have an ambition to do X, I don’t think your training or your lessons are for me’. If you are a “client” then perhaps you have said it yourself at some point. What if you didn’t say it? What if your progress had nothing to do with having ambitions to win/conquer/achieve but was more your personal self development for the good of the horse(s) [that you love riding]?
What if you becoming that tiny bit more skilful helped your horse be sounder and happier in his/her work? If you ride at a riding school, what if a small amount of open minded, intensive training bettered your balance, stabilised your seat and made a riding school horse’s life a fraction better each lesson with you at a time?
What if your knowledge of biomechanics, which you maybe thought of as an intricate advanced technique suited to ambitious (dressage only?) riders, meant that horse you rode in the morning didn’t have to have a sachet of bute in his evening feed?
There are coaching initiatives that help an average rider build self-confidence, balance and body awareness. Whether you ride once a week or once a month, think about joining training that develops you as a rider, as a horseperson. You never know, you might find that by doing something for the horses you ride, you will do a lot more for yourself too…
So, who’s stopping you? Who are you stopping?
Telling somebody what they can’t or can do is to me, the worse thing you can do to that someone’s future ability to reach whatever goals they might have. This is especially true if you are a figure of authority to someone and you know they are likely to take you seriously. They are likely to develop a belief around a comment you didn’t even think twice about because you just wanted them to have fun. They might even pass it on to their children and they might pass it on to their best friends.
I would hazard a guess that horse riding, with its intense emotional experiences of joy, fear, enlightenment, peace, adrenaline, happiness, sadness how we think about our riding and what beliefs we have about our abilities to communicate with horses can resonate in many other areas of our lives.
You know when at times, when you had a really good ride or a really good lesson when you communicated well with your horse, you just feel like you are on top of the world? How powerful this feeling can be? How empowering?
Next time, when you find yourself considering if you are good enough, ambitious enough, talented enough, important enough to go for more knowledge and skill ask yourself, who the hell put these beliefs in my head? Then challenge them.
Quality training at grassroots levels is not about the Olympics, ambitions and glory. It’s about empowering everyone to dig deep and get the best out of themselves. And equally important, it’s for the horses.
What do you think? Do you agree only you can stop you?
Happy weekend 😀