I’ve been a bit bemused with myself recently at where I’m finding confidence in the training department. While I often have found that a short ride on my best equine friend will get me motivated to handle other ponies, instead recently it’s been working with my four year old stallion Willowtrail Black Robin. Nothing like young exuberant testosterone to get me focused and to provide instantaneous feedback on technique!
Ideally we are training all the time when we have equines. Every moment we are with our hooved friends is an opportunity for training not to be missed. Then, if we have brought a young horse into our lives, we have added responsibilities. And we may have an equine-related business where training is all or part of our job description. Confidence as trainers is so important, and not only because it helps ensure a productive outcome of the training. It is also crucially important to ensuring our own safety and that of the equines with whom we work.
One of the ways that we can lose confidence is dealing with a horse who doesn’t respond to our techniques the way that other horses have. We can start to question our abilities. Several months ago I was approached by someone with a problem horse. She was having serious trouble training him, despite having a couple of decades of training experience. She had several other horses that she loved dearly and whom responded well to her. I counseled that she send the challenging horse off to someone else to train. Alternatively she should sell it so she could focus on her other horses that wanted her attention. She was relieved and followed through, putting that horse into a different situation where he might do better.
Linda Tellington-Jones tells a similar story in one of her books. A trainer was having trouble with a horse. The trainer just couldn’t make any progress with the horse and was starting to lose confidence in her ability as a trainer. Tellington-Jones advised that she sell the horse to someone who had the time and interest to work with a challenging temperament. “Considering how many horses you have to ride and what you want from this horse, I would suggest you sell him to someone who is intrigued by a complex character and wants a challenge.” (1)
It can be pretty tough to make the decision to send a challenging horse to someone else. If we’ve invested a lot of time in getting it to the point that we have, we want to see some return on our investment. Our pride can get in the way, too, with that voice in our head saying we’re a failure if we give up. Doing the right thing – for ourselves, that horse, and the rest of the equines in our lives – may mean facing down that voice and deciding to choose what’s really best for us: retaining our confidence in our training abilities. I keep coming back to Linda Parelli’s summary statement about confidence: “Confidence is…Doing whatever it takes to preserve your confidence; there’s nothing more important… Confidence is so easily lost, so work to not lose it.” (2)
1) Tellington-Jones, Linda. Getting in TTouch: Understand and Influence Your Horse’s Personality, p.39
2) Parelli, Linda. “The Science of Confidence,” Savvy Times, Parelli Natural Horsemanship, October 2005, or http://www.parellinaturalhorsetraining.com/horse-training-tips-confidence-with-horses/?utm_source=Parelli+Natural+Horsemanship+List&utm_campaign=6037d2cd15-Parelli_Connection_4_17_12&utm_medium=email
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012