The more horses and people I work with the more I am convinced that personal awareness is extremely important. By being aware of our mental outlook, emotional state and physical well being we can become more aware of our horses. There is a lot more that goes into training a horse that just physical exercises and maneuvers. Without the right balance of mind and body the task of training the mind and body of a horse can be more difficult than it needs to be.
Our mental outlook covers many different things. As it applies to horse training it is the way we perceive the training process. The attitudes we take into the process will to a large degree dictate our success. If the mental attitude is positive it will be reinforced with positive physical responses. Combining a positive attitude and positive physical aids can help us be pro active in our training. A negative attitude will cause more reactive physical responses. Being aware mentally will allow you the opportunity to notice what your horse has done for you or to you. You can then make a decision to respond with an appropriate reward or reprimand rather than reacting negatively to the situation. Mental outlook will also be a factor in the mental discipline that you take into your training program. Discipline is necessary to be consistent and consistency is important to achieve positive results.
Emotional state is essentially how you feel about what you are doing. Horse training can be a very dangerous process depending on what point of the training you and your horse are at. Green horses or horses that are not well behaved can seriously affect your emotional state. We can not easily control our emotional state and although you should not dwell on it do not ignore it. Before I get on any horse I try to be aware of how I feel at that particular moment with my thoughts on riding that particular horse. If I get a sense that things are ok I continue with my ride. Since I ride many young horses at various stages of training if I feel that the horse is not ready for whatever reason I do not get on. I make the focus of my lesson to help the horse deal with what is stressing it and leave the ride for later or another day. I am not prepared to sacrifice my emotional state and my physical being for the sake of one ride. If I get on and the ride does not go well apart from the physical risk there is a confidence issue. There is the possible destruction of confidence to consider, mine and the horses. Confidence is a fragile thing and once lost it is a very slow rebuilding process. Confidence is the mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.
Physical well being is just as important as the mental and emotional aspects. As I get older I seem to be more aware of where I hurt. If I am more sore than usual I will take this into consideration. I may feel well enough to ride some horses but too slow in my physical responses to be safe and effective riding a very green or sensitive horse that cannot compensate for small errors on my part. The better I know my horse the easier this decision is to make. The more I am aware of my physical limitations and abilities the safer I will stay.
After you take the time to consider your mental, emotional and physical factors take another minute and consider the mental, emotional and physical state of your horse.
What attitude does he bring to the picture? Is he scared, mad or happy? Is he as stiff and sore as you are? These things should help you decide on how to approach the day’s lessons. There is more to training than just the physical body of the horse. The techniques you employ are not nearly as important as the way you approach them. If you are honest and sincere with yourself about how you approach the process mentally, emotionally and physically then you will be just as sincere with your horse.