Giving the gift of confidence
One of the most rewarding things is to be able to give the gift of confidence to a worried horse.
All too often a sensitive or poorly started horse is cast off with a label of being untrainable or unsuitable.
But more often than not, all they need is some support and understanding to find their confidence, build their trust, and develop their willingness to try.
Insecure horses with an anxious or worried personality seem to be always on the look-out for trouble, whether real or imagined.
At their worst they can be highly unpredictable, escalating to a defensive flight or fight mode in an instant, totally focused on the perceived threat.
Beforehand they will have already tuned out, searching for the inevitable problem that they need to react to for survival.
Once the fight or flight mode kicks in it is a challenge to regain calmness, responsiveness and attention – assuming you had it in the first place.
Not only is this an impossible foundation to build upon, it can be downright dangerous.
Especially if the horse decides your actions are part of the problem or if they simply run over you because they are so focused on defending themselves anyway they can.
Jade is a hyper anxious horse
For Jade, everything is something to be wary of and perceived to have the intent to harm her.
She doesn’t trust people much either.
As a result, she is nervous, unpredictable and dangerous in her instinctive reactions.
However, occasionally we do get to see a rare glimpse of her inner self - affectionate, sensitive, and frightened of getting things wrong together with the potential consequences.
We can’t be sure about Jade’s background, but everything points to poor experiences with people.
The guess is that the people were either threatening themselves or unable to provide the support and confidence, (i.e. the leadership), that she needed.
Our aim is to help Jade relax and engage with us positively.
We can then offer her the security she needs to get into a stable emotional state for learning
Positive leadership is required to turn our anxious horse into a relaxed, confident horse
Before we can start developing Jade we need to help her relax and believe in us for her safety and security.
She needs to see us as a leader that is capable of taking responsibility for these things and one that has only good intent for her.
Jade certainly doesn’t need to be criticised for her actions and made to feel wrong.
She is already insecure, her fears are real and genuine, even if the basis for them is not.
Taking a critical approach would mean that we have to become more intimidating than the perceived threat.
In effect we would be promising Jade that she will do the right thing and obey us because we can apply enough pressure to be more of a threat
This is no basis for communication or relationship.
We want a confident, relaxed horse, not a ticking bomb set to go off when something comes along that is scarier than us.
We want a horse that will trust and look to our leadership in intimidating situations, not a horse that is trying to hold it together and unable to concentrate on anything else.
These principles have enabled us to work positively with Jade through the process of progressing from worried and distracted to relaxed and locked on.