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I'll take your word for it...

Thoroughbred doing canter work in open fields at Pippsway Classical Natural Horsemanship Wellington Somerset near Devon

Today was such a lovely day. I’d had a really enjoyable time at the yard and was enjoying the pleasure of getting my horse Bronson groomed and tacked up ready for his canter work with Pip. Bronson is a thoroughbred and part of keeping him so mentally contented and physically fit is ensuring that he gets the canter work that he loves so much. At the moment I don’t have the core strength or balance, never mind thigh strength, sufficient to canter lap upon lap around the enormous canter fields at Pippsway whilst also maintaining an independent seat, ensuring that I am not at any time bouncing on his back, gripping with my legs or leaning on his mouth. As you would expect, Pip will only let me take over the reins, literally and figuratively, when I am able to do all those things with ease and also have the experience to keep Bronson ‘together’. At the moment he still relies very heavily on Pip and she is working on getting him to hold himself correctly, whilst I work on improving my physical and mental stamina.

In the meantime, I love going up to the fields with my Greyhound Luke and watching them fly past! Seeing Bronson so happy and watching Pip ride with such balance and complete control on a loose rein is a joy. Also, as I have learned from my hypnotherapy course studies, watching someone else do an activity activates the same areas of our brain as us actually doing the thing so when we want to learn a new skill, the act of watching someone else do it (this also applies to visualising ourselves doing it successfully), has been scientifically proven to improve performance! Worth noting too, that imagining ourselves getting it wrong has been proven to worsen our performance….So I both love watching them for the sheer joy of it AND I’m working on gaining those same skills for myself. Happy days!

So, as I was getting Bronson ready today Pip was having a much needed cup of coffee in between exercising horses. Bronson was standing beautifully and had enjoyed his grooming session. He was in a great mood and so was I! I went to put his breast plate on, only to find I had attached the wrong side to the saddle. Duh! I immediately felt like a complete idiot, said to Pip “that’s because you are sitting there!” and was berating myself inside, I hate making mistakes and especially in front of Pip (which of course makes me all the more likely to make them!). “I’m such an idiot!” I both said and thought. Suddenly the horse, that only moments before had been standing still, feeling relaxed and contented, has his pants in a right knot! Pip came past to get her hat and said “he’s gone like that because of how you have changed, he’s now feeling insecure”. I got myself together and tried to assert my leadership but the damage was done. Leading him over to the mounting block was not the usual seamless task, I had to present him twice for him to stand correctly and he was not happy. It’s always harder to correct a mistake like that than not to make it in the first place! Thankfully he then stood beautifully and waited for Pip.

What I should have done was notice that I had attached the wrong side of the breast plate and, without any comment or judgement, internally or externally, just corrected my mistake. Bronson would have been none the wiser and would have maintained his happy contented state. Instead I had announced to myself, Pip and Bronson that I was an idiot, my energy changed and of course his immediate response was “Oh no! I’m with an idiot!!!!!”, he took my word for it! He feeds off confidence and so my assertion that I am an idiot immediately undermined his confidence in me and my leadership, he went from calm and contented to neurotic in a flash!

I won’t lie, I was really shocked at how such an apparently small thing had made such a tremendous difference! But of course it isn’t a small thing, not to Bronson. Making the mistake was small, my reaction to it wasn’t. Another lesson learned! I take such pleasure from seeing how Bronson has been transformed since coming to Pippsway and I’ll be sure not to thoughtlessly undo all that improvement in future!

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