Have you ever ridden in an arena where there seems to be a spooky corner, or a scary side, or a monster behind the mirror and your horse just doesn’t want to go there? Yes…. Let’s take a look and find out if there is indeed a reason for this.
Often these things start off quite innocent with your horse having a little shy or a look and a spook when they go past something that scares them. For example if a duck fly’s from the pond that is next to the arena, or a kangaroo pops through the trees as you trot down the long side, or your horse has never seen a mirror before. These things happen to all of us from time to time but how you respond to them makes all the difference!
Are you going to create a scary movie and continue the same experience or are you going to see it for what it really was, one moment in time?
Let me explain what I mean by this:-
Often when we have an experience we hold onto it and we will hold onto that experience for days, weeks or even months to come. If your horse shied at the mirror when it first walk passed it and you decided that “My horse doesn’t like mirrors” then what are you going to think next time you ride in that arena?
I am guessing it will be something like this:
• Here we go again, my horse doesn’t like the mirror in this arena so I probably won’t get a good ride.
• My horse is always scared of other horses and when he sees himself in the mirror he is going to think it is another horse and he will freak out again. I should just ride at the other end of the arena so we don’t get into a fight again.
• We never have a good lesson in this arena because my horse doesn’t like the mirrors.
If you have already decided that something is going to go wrong exactly where do you think your focus is going to be? When you expect your horse to shy at a particular place in an arena you automatically get ready and respond to what you think is going to happen, before it actually happens.
• We tense up in our shoulders.
• Our breath comes up into our chest and is more shallow.
• We physically get ready for the shy by leaning forward.
We basically create the horse’s response to the mirror by what we anticipate in our mind and confirm with our bodies reaction. And we make that response happen time after time, until we have ‘trained’ our horse through repetition that the mirror is scary and with that we encourage the shying. We are really quite clever at teaching our horses, without even realising we are doing it!
Now if you are finding yourself in this situation then here is what you need to do –
Stop talking and thinking about it before it even happens!
I am always amazed at the amount of people who tell me exactly what their horse is going to do before they even get on the horse. Thinking about something, then talking about it and finally feeling like it is already happening is the best way to recreate the same experience. If you don’t want to experience it again then just STOP IT and start to think, talk about and imagine your horse just walking and trotting past the mirror calm and relaxed.
Now I can just hear some of you saying: “That might work in the walk and trot but definitely not in the canter.” Can I point out that you are doing it again! Didn’t you hear me before? I said STOP IT…….
Let’s be realistic here for a moment, you don’t know what your horse is going to do in the canter until you are cantering, no matter how smart you are and how well you think you know your horse.
So let’s make some changes off your horse:
• Firstly decide what it is you want your horse to do when you ride past the mirror.
• Then think, talk and imagine that.
• Take a moment and visualize your horse just walking, trotting AND cantering past the mirror and your horse being calm and relaxed.
• Visualize the two different scenarios – the one where your horse shy’s and the one when your horse is calm and relaxed. Observe where you breath is in both scenarios.
When you are on your horse take a moment and let your breath go to that place where it was in your visualization when everything was good. It might take a moment for your breath to get there (deep down in your belly) but please give yourself that time as this is really important. When you start riding say to yourself: “My horse is calm and relaxed when going past the mirrors”. When you say it, say it like you mean it! It will help you relax and calm down, and your horse will be more relaxed and calm as a result. Saying “Oh my god I have to keep trying to relax but I know my horse is going to spook any moment now”, is not going help you or your horse to relax!
So remember that instead of predicting things stay in the moment and ride each stride at the time. When you think something might happen make sure it is something positive and worth creating.