Who do we serve?
When working with a new client, especially children, there are three parties I serve.
The Rider, the Horse and the Parent or Significant Other.
I need to know what are the needs of each part of the triad. The triangle is the strongest shape, so if I am looking to get the best result possible for my client(s) I want strength. Strength in knowing that I am serving the needs of everyone involved, and that we are working as a collaborative team towards the same goal.
The horse is important as without him, we are nothing. He is the real teacher!
The rider is important as they are the facilitators of it all, and
The parents are important as they are the support structure that holds it all together. (Plus, they are usually the ones paying the bills - lets be honest here :) The parents are also the ones who spends most time with the rider. I might only see them once or twice a week. We need to be all on the same page, so there are no confusing messages.
To do this, It's imperative I know what does everyone need from me as a coach?
I need to know two things.
1. What are my clients highest values?
2. What is the outcome of this rider working with me?
This will greatly affect both what, and how I coach my rider.
To get a greater understanding of this we need to understand values. All three corners have values, including the horse!
An value can be an "emotional state we want to experience on a consistent basis" (Sharon Pearson) They are the things that drive us, make us who we are and affect our decisions. If we are wanting to facilitate change we need to make sure this change is congruent with our clients values.
Examples of values are:
Adventure, Courage, Calm, Excitement, Passion, Serenity, Structure, Organisation, Planning, Challenge, Compassion, Love, Comfort, Play, Security, Certainty, Trust, Confidence, Collaboration, Determination, Creativity, Respect, Connection
As you can imagine, the needs of someone who values Adventure, are going to greatly differ to someone who values Security.
Imagine being asked if you want to jump out of a plane? Someone who's values are Calm, Certainty, and Comfort are not likely to be the first one to jump up and down saying "Pick me, Pick me", however someone who values excitement highly likely will.
Where it gets interesting is, if a parents values are comfort and security, and the riders are adventure and courage then there may be some conflict. It even adds a new level if the horses highest values are trust, and confidence.
Here for an example is a rider who is wanting to change things up, challenge themselves at every opportunity but the horse is saying hang on, your moving too fast, I need to accept, and be OK with one thing before I can move onto another, then the parent is saying things are getting a bit crazy over here - I am not very comfortable where all this is going.
I often see this scenario. It usually ends in the horse loosing all confidence in his rider, the rider getting angry because the horse is now stopping at fences and stressing out. The parent is upset as she doesn't know how to comfort her child who is now totally frustrated and in tears.
This can easily be solved with a little imagination and creativity from the coach. A rider who values adventure and courage don't need to be doing crazy heights in order to get their needs met on a horse who can't handle having their thresholds constantly challenged without compassion and understanding.
I can facilitate this through making adventure out of being creative in ways to help build trust and confidence in the horse. You may do this through making smaller fences more challenging by asking the rider to see if they can jump between two cones placed on a pole, jumping angles, jumping water trays and walking over tarps. You can give them courage by showing how they can give their horse courage by giving him time to work out the puzzle, and waiting for the green light to proceed onto the next skill.
The parent who is needing comfort and security can see that there is progress being made in a safe and progressive manner.
This isn't saying that we should keep this combination jumping 45cms for the rest of eternity, it simply means that the combination can only go as fast as the horse is ready to accept new challenges. This in itself can be very difficult for the rider to do, especially when they just can't wait to move onto the next big thing, but once the rider understands to more they keep their horses needs first, the faster the horse will accept change and be braver.
Let's look at another scenario -
Here we have a horse who values play, is extroverted and confidant. The rider values connection and the parent values determination.
This usually plays out with a horse who can be clever and perhaps has a tendency to buck in exuberance. The rider doesn't want to be too strong with the horse as she see's that as being mean and the parents is angry at the daughter as she perceives the child as being scared and not getting on with it.
This often ends in tears as the rider becomes scared of the horse who is now completely running the show. The child is well aware that the parent is disappointed in her lack of determination and feels as though her mum doesn't think she is any good.
This is one of my greatest, but favourite challenges as I need to build the riders confidence in herself first, to allow her to play more of a leadership role for her horse. The main thing is to help the rider understand that to have a good connection with her horse, there needs to be a partnership, it's a little like dancing.
No one likes to dance with someone who completely takes over without his or her partner knowing the dance, and then repremanding them for not keeping up.
Neither do we like to dance with someone who is afraid to even step onto the floor or holds our hand like a wet fish.
We want to dance with someone who can lead as well as they can follow.
I help the rider to understand in order be interesting enough for our horse to pay attention and want to dance, we need to make it worth him joining in, otherwise he will want to make his own games up. These horses like challenges and love new things, so I tend to keep the sessions with these combinations moving quickly with lots of different exercises giving the rider plenty of opportunity to notice when she has taken on a leadership role. I keep explaining how to be connected and dance with our horses we need to reward when reward is due, and give ourselves credit for the ability to take small steps towards being worthy, and see the worth in stepping up onto the floor. This also helps the parent see the child making progress in extending her comfort zone and lifting her courage and determination.
Knowing what drives our clients is imperative, otherwise we are simply teaching what drive us as coaches. That will work for those clients who hold similar values to our own, but limits our ability to help those who's needs are very different to ours, unless we are willing to respect our clients values and coach in a way that is moving them all towards the same goal staying congruent to what is important to them.
Wish takes us to number 2 - What is their outcome?
I like to bring this one up early, as it can be tricky. It is important that everyone is honest and willing discuss their fears and desires.
Outcomes will, and do change as learning progresses, but I need to know are we all here to compete and succeed at the highest level possible, are we here to build the child's confidence and teach them skills in communication and trust, or do they simply love riding and want to be safe and have fun on their horses? All of the above are true to some degree in most cases, but I need this to be openly discussed so there is transparency and open dialogue.
Often times, the parents simply want the kids to be happy, whether they are jumping 80cm or 4* and it is important that the kids know that if that is the case. (see button Thanks Mum" below or http://www.rangaterasporthorses.com/blog/may-30th-2017
Other times, there is a great push from both parent and child to compete at the highest level possible, and that is great too. We discuss what will be required in order to make that happen so that everyone is aware of the dedication and responsibilities that decision holds.
This can often be an interesting conversation and there times where I have felt like a family councillor, but if we are going to be a team, then we all need to make sure we are doing our part.
I have had amazing results simply by having this conversation with the families, especially when I speak for the horse and make sure that both the rider and the parents see what is required from the horses perspective to allow him to be willing to join the dance.
Once the child understands what his or her responsibilities are, knows that we are all on this journey with them, and is willing to accept his/her part in the process everything works so much fluidly.
So who do I serve? Who is my client?
All three in equal doses!