I've just finished a week working at a club in China where on arrival I noticed the ponies were considerably more spooky than most. The coaches needed to move quietly around them and it didn’t take much for the ponies to get a fright and jump away which in a riding school environment is not ideal.
I began by watching the coaches interacting with the horses both on the ground and while being ridden, and other than being a bit more cautious I didn’t see anything to tell me the ponies were being roughly handled or spooked in any way.
I did notice though, the coaches hardly used any games equipment, cones and didn’t even own any jump rails. It might mention this is a beautiful facility, with immaculately turned out ponies and all the newest gear but the arena was stark and spotless.
The answer became obvious when a coach mentioned he was having trouble with one of his students who had fallen previously due to the pony spooking. She was very frightened and refused to trot. In conjunction with some mindset strategies, I suggested some games to bring the fun back into riding and gave an example of having the rider pick up and place a plastic cup from one pole to another.
Oh, we can’t do that was the reply. The pony will spook. And there lies the problem…
Let me explain it to you a little more.
Imagine a pony who has had a normal start in life. He can handle some spooky objects but hasn’t been exposed to much.
One day a rider picks up piece of paper from mum and it spooks the pony and he jumps to the side.
Now we are going to look at this two ways: Rider A and Rider B
Rider A thinks that was scary. My horse can’t be ridden with paper. He is too scared. He never picks up a piece of paper on the pony again.
Rider B thinks, my pony didn’t like that much. I had better help him get used to and less scared of the paper and goes to work exposing the pony slowly to the paper until he can accept it confidently.
Next both Rider A and Rider B are both offered a drink on their pony. When they reach over to take the cup the pony snorts and steps sideways showing he is worried and about to jump away.
Rider A thinks my pony got a fright with the paper last time, so will probably get a fright with the cup so I can’t pick this cup up from him so I had better get off or not take the water.
Rider B thinks, my pony is worried about the cup. I had better help him to become confident while I reach out - before picking the cup up and make sure my reins are short and I am ready to help him if he gets a fright when I do. The rider then takes a few minutes to help the pony relax while holding the cup and makes a point of picking up and placing the cup back down several times to ensure the pony is fully confident.
Lastly both riders are asked to join in on a game where they need to pick up a an object from a drum.
Rider A chooses not to join in as he says, my pony doesn’t like things being carried on him.
Rider B chooses to practice picking up the object first while the pony is relaxed then when he is happy joins in on the game and has a great time.
If I had to put a young rider on one of the two ponies I know what one I’d choose. Just think if the rider got hung up in a stirrup or took their jacket off while riding one could be very dangerous as he would be spooky and reactive and the second would more likely wait and be accepting and calm.
Same pony in the beginning, but in a short space of time - two very different ponies at the end.
The same goes for us humans. I was reading an interesting article yesterday and it was talking about how the situation is created where some have major anxieties about leaving the house.
It doesn’t take much to get from an initial mild panic attack in the supermarket to full blown can’t leave the house terror and this is very real for many.
It starts by a young person not being taught by their parents how to handle small setbacks and problems with emotional intelligence and resiliance. The child’s problems are often solved by the parent stepping in and trying to rescue the child. The problem with that is the child never learns how to rescue themselves so when there is no longer someone there to rescue them they do not know how to themselves and can’t cope.
Often a young person in this situation will then be involved in a dependant relationship with a partner who follows on from the parent and continues to save them, but if that too fails and the partner is no longer around it can cause huge anxieties leading to high anxiety levels.
Only one mild stress or panic attack in the supermarket, may lead to more larger panic attacks as they start to worry about having another panic attack in public. This leads to another panic attack, and another to where they become so worried about having the panic attack that they have one just thinking about leaving the house.
This is a big generalisation but you seem my point
This of course can be solved, but it takes some time to learn how to manage their emotions and start to work through, process and move past those feelings.
It all starts the same way as the pony in the beginning.
When we are challenged we’ll either -
Step away from it and avoid any further challenges that look even mildly similar. As we lose confidence in what we can handle we take on less and less until we quit altogether
We continue on and do what we need to do to get to where we can handle it. We become confident at it. The next time a similar or larger challenge come up, we take that on too and learn what we need to in order to succeed.
In a short space of time one will be complaining that it is all too hard and their life is difficult, and the other will be handling success and abundance.
Both started with the same challenge in the beginning…
What will you do when the next challenge comes up?