The other day when I was giving my pony Mya a massage, I was working one part of her body and then another, one side of her body then another. After about twenty minutes I realized that Mya hadn’t given me any feedback on the massage. Then I realized that I hadn’t given her any time to give me feedback. She has the sort of personality that needs time to express herself.
For the longest time my husband didn’t bond with Mya. It was only after several months of being around her that he came to appreciate her quiet strength and undemonstrative ways. Immediately after I realized that I hadn’t given Mya time to give me feedback during the massage, I paused and stepped back. Only then did she take a deep breath and exhale and slowly lick and chew, releasing tension.
Later in the day, I sat down with an issue of Savvy Times and, in particular, an article entitled “What Does Your Horse Need?” The article breaks horses into different personalities and then talks about what each one needs to become the best horse they can be. For Mya’s type, the advice felt strangely familiar. Mya’s type “shuts down because he is fed up with being pushed or bored to pieces…. What to do is simple: wait. But waiting is not easy for us because we want the horse to do it now!… We see what we want and we go for it.”(1) Guilty as charged! At least I caught myself in the act.
Between giving Mya her massage and reading the article, I had driven to pasture to check on the ponies. While riding in the truck, I heard an interview on the radio with a former FBI agent. He had successfully gotten intelligence about terrorism in an unconventional way: by developing rapport with an apprehended terrorist. He contrasted his rapport-building approach with the enhanced interrogation technique known as waterboarding. Waterboarding one apprehended terrorist led to intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which of course later turned out to be untrue. This story came to mind when I was reading the article in Savvy Times, especially when I read the following: “We see what we want and we go for it. And being mechanically oriented, humans tend to apply more force rather than better psychology.” (2) It seemed to me that the former FBI agent’s use of rapport was a testament to the benefits of using better psychology rather than forceful techniques like waterboarding.
I am a classic task-oriented person. Crossing things off my to-do list is often the highlight of my day. However, almost every day my list is longer than I can possibly complete. I have found it necessary to balance my use of my list with giving myself a chance to stop and wait and respond, ensuring that important things get done that never get defined as a to-do. The article in Savvy Times was a great reminder about the importance of balancing these two approaches. While there may be times where the use of force or pushing to get things done is appropriate, there are also times where thoughtful choices might be a better way to go.
“Training horses naturally is all about balancing confidence and responsiveness, because if you are forceful and aggressive, you are likely to intimidate the horse and make him all sweaty and upset, and if you are loving and friendly without enough leadership, the horse will just take over…” (3) I know I’m not alone in finding that natural horsemanship techniques often apply equally well in the human world, too. For this task-oriented person, it’s nice to know my study in one area of my life can do double duty!
(1) Parelli, Linda. “What Does Your Horse Need?”, Savvy Times, Issue 31, May 2011, Parelli Natural Horsemanship, Pagosa Springs, Colorado, p. 66
(2) Parelli, p. 66
(3) Parelli, p. 64
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011