Change is not linear progression. It looks like this (yes I drew that myself!).
Acknowledging this messy and chaotic way of development is hard for us when we are wired for perfection. This can make us give up! Others tend not to divulge this process as they work their way through something, because it can be interpreted as failure. People might try to step in and help us when they see this happening…not always actually helping, but sometimes even hindering us. So, don’t be afraid of mistakes and setbacks. They are a normal part of growth, a frustrating part, but nonetheless necessary.
Here’s where I confess my setbacks. Well, I’m running through a succession of them at the moment. From going back to a basic paddock for training (having had to say goodbye to my sweat and tears hand-built sand arena at the farm I have just sold), to a number of unexpected training setbacks with the horses. It has been a lump of them at once and that has dashed my confidence a bit. However, I have pulled some strength out by remembering what has been achieved already. I can look back and be proud of those things which refill my cup as I go into tackling the difficulties I am facing.
This is our new place. A block of grazing land. My former barn and mud-free covered pens has been replaced by a couple of shipping containers with some tape for a makeshift pen on the grass. The electric fencing is a bit light in power and the horses have been breaking through frequently (daily for Gino the chestnut) into the lush grass. Sugary grass = wild ponies.
We’ve been taking it slow in the training department. I like to give the horses time to adjust to new surroundings. It’s been a big shift for all of us, and a break was quite welcome on my part too. But now, weeks in, I’m getting back to some sort of routine. Lily, the black mare, has had to cope with another 5 mares taking the attention of her boys in the next door paddock. She’s been policing the interactions, but Gino is quite smitten with some over the fence smooching. I don’t know if this is the reason that Lily has been a bit shifty and moody. I’ve had a hard time catching her lately. This seemed to intensify after I took her out on the weekend in the horse float (trailer for those outside NZ). She is not keen to get in the float, and it took me a while to cajole her into it on our way there. The methods for asking her to keep going forward (as advised by an experienced trainer) would not necessarily be too harsh when used with most horses, but she is a very sensitive horse. After this incident, I have spent days training her again to be caught with the halter. She had decided to show me in a big way that some trust was damaged. I could approach without the halter and feed and pick her hooves out, but as soon as I came up with a halter she bolted around the paddock, determined to outrun me despite the sweat it was causing her (unusual for Lily as she conserves her energy quite wisely). It just goes to show the level that she is able to communicate with me. It was all about the halter.
I’ve also come to realise that I know my own horses very well, and sometimes I downplay my own intuition when I’m taking advice from someone who seems to have a better skills. Unfortunately my penchant to defer to others does cost me time lost if the method is not suitable for my horse and I now have to undo more issues. Eventually things will get back to normal with patience. We’ve had hurdles before that have been overcome but it has to be in the time frame of the horse. Often we don’t know the agenda behind other people’s actions. You can only take a situation for how it affects your horse and what you are prepared to deal with as consequences.
My main goal is to enjoy my time with the horses. They are an expensive and time consuming hobby. There is no point in being on someone else’s timeline or agenda. This is my hobby, my money spent, my recreational activity. It needs to fit my agenda only, which is to develop a confident horse and a trusting partnership, taking the time it takes on my availability. I’m okay dealing with setbacks – they are not failures of my horsemanship. It’s part of the process.