Riding evokes multitude of emotions in riders regardless the level of the skill. A couple of weeks ago I light-heartedly suggested in a conversation with a fellow instructor and several riders that should there was a possibility to run a psychology clinic alongside riding clinic we would have much better results altogether. What started as a joke and a laugh with a group of riders led to a very interesting exchange of experiences…
It seems that frustration tops the list of emotions riders often feel when schooling their horses or when trying to get the hang of a skill. Impatience with oneself and/or the horse follows suit as does feeling of inadequacy. Small degree of frustration appears to have a positive effect. To me personally, the fact I can’t do something as well as I wish is a driving force, it motivates me to practice or learn more about whatever it is that I can’t do well.
However, I meet riders whose frustration levels are so high they in effect paralyse their ability to progress. They often become aggressive towards their horses and don’t know how to break the cycle of inability, disappointment and anger.
Why is it so do you think?
Could it come from lack of understanding of how we learn? Lack of understanding of how horses learn? Perhaps it’s because we humanise horses and assume they behave in a certain way “on purpose” ?
Maybe it’s the desire to be very good and perfect as fast as the newest sat nav app which avoids all traffic jams that makes us impatiently demand instant results both from ourselves, others around us and our horses?
I don’t think there is a single answer to emotional riding issues which is why I am hoping you will pitch in and leave a comment 🙂 I personally deal with my own impatience and frustration by seeking the answers to the “why” questions as well as never involving myself in horse’s problem. I received the latter advice some years ago and it stuck with me ever since. If I ride a horse that is very crooked or runs through the bridle or works with a back so hollow I feel like I am climbing out of a ditch each time I try to do rising trot on it, I make sure I take care of my part of a deal and ride as balanced as I possibly can given the circumstances and my own skills. I find that even if I need to be strong for a stride or two but do so without anger or annoyance, I eventually get the response and trust I was after.
From my observations of many riders of different levels, in different countries and riding very different horses, the most destructive emotion in a rider is anger and most misunderstood is the assertive reaction.
This also applies to coaching riders. Thinking of some of my “shouty” instructors over the years I can fairly easily divide them into those who shouted without anger and those who were somewhat eaten by great frustration at my inability to follow this or other exercise. I don’t have to think long to know who I learnt more from and enjoyed lessons with more…
When I teach I try to see a whole picture, a process if you like, and this gives me a lot of calm and confidence that with time, the rider will be able to do what I want them to do. I feel this is a great control tool for any feelings of disappointment I may have in myself as a teacher or in the learning ability of a rider who most of the time do the best they can at given moment.
Then there is the feeling of inadequacy…not being good enough…I think we all have days when we wake up feeling like anything is possible and days when we feel like everything we know and everything we achieved in life is absolutely useless. Days when we have a great ride as if all puzzles of all riding knowledge all of a sudden slotted together into this grand masterpiece and then days when we can’t even ride simple 20m circles without feeling somewhat unbalanced and out of sync.
Sometimes I look at a rider and with no effort or concious thinking I know what I need to correct for them to feel and ride better, for the horse to go better and for the whole combination to move forward. Then there are days when I look and look and look and have to employ all my grey matter to come up with something of meaning and relevance!! It can be painful and sometimes disheartening but I reckon it’s how life goes…Perhaps we need to doubt ourselves and question everything form time to time and feel low at times because that’s when we have a chance to consciously deepen our knowledge and understanding…
Classical riding masters used to say, show me your horse and I will tell you who you are. What do you think? How do you deal with negative emotions when riding?