Confidence is trust in one’s self. If I were to walk into a room and ask everyone if they currently have or ever have experienced insecurity, how many people do you think would raise their hands? If you answered everyone, you’re right. One of the most formative times for our youth is middle school into high school where teenage insecurity is about as common as finding gold fish crackers under the seat of my car. Thanks, Chase. I could go into a long explanation of why teenagers experience this, but I’ll save you the psychology lesson. Cut me some slack, I just spent 2 weekends back to back in class learning about human behavior theory. Man was Freud out there. Anyway. Let me explain to you why horses are a unique opportunity to overcome insecurities of any kind.
Horses are by nature flight animals, and until they’ve been gentled and taught by humans to trust us, they’re walking bundles of nerves. Will that garbage can eat me? Will that halter attack me? They won’t wait for the answer, they’ll just flee. Poof, gone in a puff of smoke. It’s literally the only defense mechanism they have, so I don’t take it personally when one does it in the early stages of their training. I do however, check myself, to figure out what I’m doing to engage their defenses. Seasoned horse trainers understand that training this animal is about forming a solid partnership built on trust and respect with the animal, but how do you get a 1200 lb animal to trust you? They have to see you as a good leader. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a bad manager? Everyone again? Read on…
We’ve all had good and bad managers, but it’s the good ones that you want to follow and work hard for. The ones that walk into a room and command respect, the ones that you feel supported by and trust that the way they are leading is the way to go. You've heard the stories of people that leave companies to follow managers? Them.
Horses force us to be good leaders, because quite frankly, they won't tolerate a bad one. This is typically when people notice their horses giving them trouble. As herd bound animals, horses rely heavily on their leader, and they often trust that leader to make important decisions for them like where to stop and eat or drink, when to get the hell out of dodge, or you know….nap…the basics. Horses also establish their position daily within their own herd – and in the case of the domesticated ones, this includes their human handlers. You got it, you’re part of the herd. Now here’s where you come in. Enter stage left. When you’re working with a horse in any facet, they will decide if they’re the leader or if you are.. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Which means just because you did something correctly once, doesn’t mean you can go on autopilot. They will test you at every turn.
So here’s the job when you’re working with horses: 1. Be confident 2. Inspire the horse’s confidence in themselves and in you. Being confident is something we all struggle with, but it’s a demeanor and body language that our four legged friends give us the chance to work on with them every time we meet them in the round pen. Having a bad day and not feeling up to the challenge? They’ll know and jump all over it. With our young people, it teaches them early on that they HAVE to bring their A game each time they ride just like class, a job interview, or any kind of social engagement. Over time, it simply becomes a part of their personality and follows through into the way they physically carry themselves. I recently posted an article on my Facebook about the I-Gen generation and how these kinds of soft skills, body language, and demeanor are disappearing in today’s youth. I’ve seen children as young as 4, change within 2-3 sessions of riding/working with horses. They go from shy, quiet, and fearful to excited, happy and confident. The transformation is incredible and you really have to see it to believe it. If you’ve got a kid that struggles with confidence or fear, give horses a chance, it just might be the ticket to get them out of their shell.