Part 4 Confidence
Get Off Me You Idiot
Awhile back I didn’t get off my horse when she was giving me all the signals that I should. But I ignored the signals and ended up in the hospital for three days and couldn’t ride for several months thereafter. You see, I got hurt because I didn’t allow myself to be scared. I can tell you when I got back on that horse again I sure allowed myself to be scared. I watched for any sign of upset in my horse. And it took me awhile to get my confidence back.
When should we get off. The very moment that it crosses your mind. Horses won’t give you a second chance to make a good first impression. What destroys confidence in you and your horse more than anything else is staying on when your horse has trouble.
Listen when your horse says, “Get off me you idiot”. Instead we tend to stay on no matter what. We don’t get off because we think he will win and do it again. We are told that we are teaching our horse to repeat the behaviour that made us get off in the first place. We think everyone will think, “I’m an idiot”. I can tell you from personal experience that it you will feel a lot less like an idiot by getting off than to being hauled off to the hospital in an ambulance and having to explain why you are there.
Sure, you will meet some people who don’t think about getting off because they are full of bravado, are naturally confident and can push through their fear but …. they still get hurt or worse.
Ego will tends to get in your way. Horses can cure you of that. They are great ego busters. Ego makes you think you can manage the situation. That is not acting like a horseman. A horseman is half horse and half human. They truly understand what it means to be on or with a prey animal and can see things from his point of view. They know what is apt to happen. They know the horse is going to do the fearful, self-preservation thing even if it means hurting you in the process.
Getting off the moment you feel uncertain is a great habit to get into and it actually builds your confidence because instead of feeling out of control, you now have a strategy. It gives you a feeling of being in control. In our program we put much more emphasis on teaching beginning students how to get off their horse than in getting on. We repeat it over and over until it feels natural and easy.
Most people never even think of getting off until the end of their ride so they are never really properly prepared. I like to make a game of getting off, by suddenly yelling out ‘emergency dismount’ to test my students ability in getting off.
When should you get on again? You should get on when you truly understand why you got off in the first place and know what to do to get your horse’s confidence back. If you can not get both his and your confidence back, do not get back on. Stay on the ground.
Do Not Confuse Bravery or Bravado With Confidence
Bravery is courage, daring, heroism, guts and nerve. Bravado is audacity, boldness, bluster, show.
Confidence is self assurance, poise, self-belief, self-reliance, coolness, belief in your own abilities, a trusting relationship, certainty, conviction, assertion.
I remember a story told by Linda Parelli about two of her friends who were on their first trail ride together when suddenly one of them felt her horse’s back rising under her. Alarmed at this new experience, she did what she was told when she was unsure and got off. The horse pooped. Still she didn’t make the connection and continued to ride.
Sometime later it happened again and again she performed her emergency dismount. Again the horse pooped. Then she made the connection. Now she had the knowledge to understand what was happening and didn’t need to get off the next time. It is a silly little story but one that shows how knowledge leads to confidence.
The thing is, do you want to have to experience all the things that can get you into trouble? We hear all the time of instructors who tell their students that they have to experience falling off their horse multiple times in order to prove their worth as a horseman. That’s why learning from someone who already has the knowledge can save you the pain of learning it the hard way.
Experience is often overblown and I was once told by a riding instructor that she had 15 years more experience than I did so she knew what was right and I didn’t. But I learned that she had only taken two years of instruction and then started teaching because she figured that she knew it all. So in fact she didn’t have 15 years experience, but rather two years experience repeated 15 times. She failed to understand that you have to continue to learn if you are going to progress. If you continue to do the thing you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.
That is why I take every opportunity to study and learn from horse masters which in today’s world of technology is a lot easier than having to learn it first hand. As Pat Parelli once said, “Old gold is just as valuable as new gold“. So seek out people who really know what they are talking about.
Remember, to be safe and successful with horses, you want confidence.
Be sure to click on the ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ buttons to let us know that you have read today’s column. It is an honour to have you as a reader. I welcome any comments, questions or topics you would like me to discuss. I hope you enjoy reading about the wonderful world of horses and the impact that natural horsemanship can have in making it a better world for both horses and humans.
In our ‘Spirits in Unity’ program we believe in developing a trusting relationship and a true partnership with a horse before even thinking about getting on his back. He probably prefers it that way too.
Whether you are just a horse lover, have dreams of owning a horse someday, or already have one, I hope these columns will give you some insight into the true nature of these magnificent creatures. I hope you will find them both informative and inspirational.
Until next time…
May all your dreams come true,
Garry “Horsetalker” Meek