Emotional fitness – more than self-control
When it comes to being around horses, emotional fitness often gets talked about in terms of self-control and keeping your emotions in check.
The idea being that the horse is very tuned into our emotions and will tend to mirror them.
We can't fool the horse by faking how we feel either.
The horse will spot it easily. They get uncomfortable when there is any lack of congruency between the true emotions we are feeling and what we are trying to display.
However, whilst this is one important aspect of emotional fitness, there are others that shouldn't be ignored.
Emotional fitness is generally considered to be concerned with two main competencies:
- Personal competence for self-awareness and management of emotions and behaviours
- Social competence for awareness of others and understanding of their behaviours and motives
Both competence areas are important.
Awareness and empathy are particularly significant to developing feel for the horse, while self-control and authenticity help the horse develop feel for us.
The horse is just a horse.
This isn’t meant to be a derogatory statement.
It is an acknowledgement and emphasis that it is our responsibility to come down to the current level of the horse.
We need to be in the moment and present.
From that position we can then determine what is needed to incrementally raise that level towards our reasonable goals.
And we will do it with consideration of the horse’s current capabilities.
This is all wrapped up in developing effective leadership.
We need to understand and master ourselves first.
Then we can offer the horse the support it needs and deserves from us as a self-nominated candidate for the leadership position.
Our performance can be greatly enhanced by understanding how our own behaviour, thinking, and learning is influenced by our own internal workings.
The human body has a complex combination of neurological centres, effectively multiple brains, which should be understood, coordinated, and taken advantage of.
There is also a range of chemicals released by the body in response to different stimuli.
If not recognised these have the potential to impair as well as enhance our judgement.
It is also useful to understand the process of learning and the process of eradicating or establishing patterns of behaviour in ourselves, whether they are reflex reactions or driven responses.
Additionally, understanding our own automated drivers of behaviour and how to change them helps us consider the horse from a similar perspective.
Hopefully making us less judgmental and critical about some of their responses.