The idea of personal coaching isn’t new. There have been life coaches, business coaches, performance coaches, mindset coaches, and just about any other kind of coaches you can think of for the last few decades and coaching for horse owners is also a thing. Although coaching for horseback riding is the norm, coaching in becoming a good horsewoman and horse owner is not as common, but can more profoundly affect your understanding of your horse (as well as of yourself), in ways that riding in lessons doesn’t usually touch.
#1 – Self Awareness
If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know that I’m a big proponent of self-awareness. This is the key factor in making any positive change in your life, whether as a horse owner, a mother, an employee, or a successful marathon runner.
What self-awareness will do for you as a horsewoman:
- Allow you to spot where you have stress triggers
- Help you discover and defuse the negative voice that plays constantly in your head. Important note: I said to discover and defuse, not delete. Our negative voices have been with us since time began. While we’re not likely to ever make them go away, we can learn how to minimize their negative impact on our lives.
- Help you be fully present with your horse so you enjoy your shared time to the maximum.
- Open new ways of seeing and thinking about things you’ve taken at face value before, like self-limitations. If you could change the limiting beliefs you have about your riding and being a horse owner, what could your Best (Horsey) Life look like?
Imagine you had new insight into how past experiences are shaping your current reality with your horse. Upping your level of awareness will help you to be more present with him, and to forge a deeper bond. You’ll become more aware of when your horse becomes tense, relaxes, or really likes the spot you’re scratching (although, if he’s like my horses, that one’s kind of hard to miss!)
By becoming more aware of how he sees the world, you can begin to adapt your “language” with him to help the two of you reach a new level of understanding based on mutual respect and trust. Your silent communication will become deeper, and the relationship more rewarding for both of you.
#3 Learning to Envision Possibilities
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
We, humans, live in a world of negative bias. According to PositivePsychology.com, “Negativity bias refers to our proclivity to attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information. (Vaish, Grossmann, & Woodward, 2008, p. 383).” Basically – we believe that if anything’s ever gone wrong in our past or has the slightest possibility of going wrong – it will.
Think about it for a moment. When was the last time you worried about something? Or the last time you replayed something unkind someone said to you over and over in your head? How about the last time you said to yourself, “Just my luck – of course this all went wrong – that’s what always happens to me!” Sound familiar?
Let’s flip that on its head for a moment. When did you last hop out of bed thinking – “What a great morning – I love the possibilities my day presents to me!”, or “I can’t believe how everything always works out in my favor?” Chances are, multiple examples in the first group of statements pop right up, while it may take a bit longer to think of even one or two times you’ve believed anything in the more positive group.
I’ll close this section with another quote: “Dreams are not reality; dreams have the power to create the reality we are dreaming about; all we need is the courage to believe in the power of dreams.”
― Amar Ochani
#4 – Learning New Skills
I hope that the dream of forging a deeper bond with your horse sounds great to you. But, I can also hear you saying, “Sure – sounds great – but just how do I develop self-awareness, or tune in to my horse more, or even learn to believe that some of my dreams are possible?”
One word – skills. You see, none of these come naturally to us, at least not as adults. When we were kids, many of us had absolutely no problem believing that we could ride every day, own a horse, or ride in the Olympics, and yet, as an adult, the ability to believe in our dreams seems to present more of a challenge. Not only is this another facet of negativity bias, it’s also a sad fact that our society doesn’t encourage dreamers. “Grow up.”, “You can’t just be a riding instructor, get a real job.” We’re encouraged to join the masses who have learned to put aside their dreams in favor of “reality”… how sad… (and who gets to decide the definition of reality for you? Hint,… the person you see in the mirror every morning!)
Now, just wishing things were different won’t change the beliefs that have shaped your entire life. It takes work, beginning with self-awareness, and learning how to over-rule your negativity bias more and more often, and learning how to “grow down”, and recapture the joy of believing your dreams like you did when you were a kid.
#5 Celebrating Yourself and Your Horse
When’s the last time you gave yourself a metaphorical high-five? If you’re like most people who grew up being told that you were “too big for your breeches”, you might not even be able to remember it.
But here’s the deal. Becoming a great horse owner is challenging. Heck, becoming a good anything is challenging – and with horses, you have a whole separate being to bond with – one who doesn’t share our language, who has a highly developed sense of self-preservation (typically using flight rather than fight), and – oh yeah – weighs a half ton or more! Simply being able to put a halter on your horse and lead him out of the field is an accomplishment – so stop looking at Olympians and beating yourself up over all the ways you don’t measure up.
The only things you should be comparing with your horsemanship skills of today, are your horsemanship skills of yesterday. If you’re working to improve, than you’re succeeding – and that, my friend, deserves a high-five.