Losing Confidence

equine behaviourist Trudi dempsey

The path to my door

Many clients find their way to me when they have lost their confidence. I’d like to think that’s because I am perceived as someone who is reliable in offering calm support. A sane and sensitive advisor who has been there and smelled the roses. Of course often one of my clients will recommend me as someone able to nurture nervous riders and handlers. Sometimes I’m approached by riders for whom ‘Classical Dressage’ is a last resort. Perhaps it’s  ‘you’ve tried the rest, now try the best’. But often just that I’m last (or close to) on a long list of approaches that searchers might try.

I  work with horse behaviour change applying science to enable humans to live with and share better the company of their horses. This begins with helping humans to understand why horses behave in the way they do and how to improve their daily lives so that they can lead happier more contented lives.

Recovering your confidence

Grow in confidence around your horse.
Trudi and Moralejo sharing air!

A big part of recovery from diminished confidence appears to hinge on identifying how the confidence was lost in the first place. Reasons can be diverse! Traumatic falls, feeling vulnerable due to decreased mobility, having children, lack of skill the list goes on. Maybe there is no incident that we can put our finger on, no culprit to blame. But it doesn’t make the lack of confidence any less debilitating, it looms each time we think of sitting on a horse or maybe even just standing by a horse.

Our brains are incredibly complex but in simple terms we need to rewrite history, change the paths that are laid down within it and that cause us to panic. We do this in the same way that we work with a horse that has lost confidence; in small steps. No actually not small but minute steps that take us gradually to confidence, calm and relaxation around previously traumatic triggers. It doesn’t matter what trauma, how obvious or seemingly invisible, led us to lose our confidence- what matters is taking tiny steps to recover it.

The first step to recovering confidence is to understand why horses do what they do. What triggers behaviour and how we can help avoid those triggers and build resilience to them. It’s often said that we should dream big. I recommend you dream small. Dream of being with your horse, dream of breathing together, share air together and let your dreams grow as you learn more about each other and what it means to be a human in a horse’s world and more importantly a horse in a human’s world! Did I say small- heck I meant huge because it truly is!

Get in touch

If you’d like help better understanding your horse and building your confidence around them please get in touch for a chat. I offer person to person coaching, small group interactive talks, clinics and workshops where we can work on a more confident future together. I also offer remote consultations and training. Visit my web site here. Or my Facebook page here.

Trust and Confidence (tales of internet woe and other miscellany)

It was good for a week; even two was bearable but as we are now into our fourth week without connection I feel justified in having a little whinge. I have judged all the Interdressage tests sitting in a corner of our library and forced myself to go ‘proper’ shopping for home furnishings but enough is enough and I really want my internet back. I have (yet another) appointment with an engineer tomorrow which is expected to resolve the issue but I am not holding my breath.
In an effort to settle my dispute with the phone company I have spent many minutes talking to different men around the world in BT call centres; strangely never a woman and I am guessing there is a reason for that. If you say ‘complain’ rather than ‘check my order’ when you get connected to the ‘machine’ then you will be asked by a gentleman with dulcet Dundee tones if you mind being referred to by your Christian name. No straining the ears to translate the Mumbai accent if you are close enough to the edge to say ‘complain’. No force-fed classical music while the operator pretends to speak to the engineer (they just look up the status on the installation plan online I have since discovered). The dedicated complaints operator is professional and sympathetic, totally agreeing with me that it is impossible to work from home without the internet and providing a plan for connection within (allegedly) 5 days. I wait with baited breath.
Confidence in an answer is equally important in equine terms; no horse wants to wait while you thumb through your latest dressage book discovering the next step for perfect half halts! Actions result in reactions – riding or working from the ground- finding the best reaction to your horse’s action builds his confidence and trust in you; that way he will offer the best reactions to your actions in the future.
Sometimes we- or they- get it wrong, just like the ‘phone company there are times when communication breaks down and the system fails but all need not be lost; the effect of dealing well with a misunderstanding can actually engender trust as long as lessons are learned for the future. If, when asking for a collected trot (from working say), we are offered a walk transition – then adding a walk cue will turn the situation into a winning one. If, on the other hand, we sharply drive back to trot and lose our cool because the new test we want to ride has collected trot in it then we end up with confusion and lack of trust in the future. We all need to have the confidence to act or react within a ring of trust- fear of reprisal kills the ‘art’ in dressage.
If our horse loses confidence in his ability to react correctly then he may become nervous and irrational, for some it can lead to a totally subdued set of behaviours where the communication channel breaks down completely. Riders and trainers can have their confidence sapped too; lack of trust in communication works both ways.
So how do we avoid the pitfalls of confusion? The phone company ship their call centres to India to save money but in reality I wonder how much this move costs them? Clarity in communication is essential and will ultimately lead to less errors and breakdowns.
In horse training terms- clear, concise communication leads to trust- break every action into tiny pieces that can be clearly taught and later combined. Be sure which direction you are headed in but be prepared to change direction or even step back a little to repair misunderstandings and trust. Don’t get bogged down in the bigger picture, see clearly ahead and when you can’t it is time to stop and take a break.
We all make mistakes but how you deal with them may mean you can recover lost ground and maybe even gain some; I’m hoping that I gain some internet ground very soon!