When you think about your life and all of the people you have met along the way, the numbers can be staggering. Most of them might just have been a brief encounter that didn’t have much impact on you, and others might have had a profound effect on your life's direction.
Keith, Mel Hyland & Sid Cook at 2022 Heart Of The Horse event
The people that you spend the most time with will shape who you become in your life. I heard the other day, and I'm sure this saying has been around for a long time, that you are the composite of the five people that you spend the most time with. I think the lesson here is obviously in choosing your inner circle wisely. This is a life lesson for the person, but it’s also related to the horse. It might be while feeding him, cleaning his stall, or time spent in the pen that is affecting his perception of you and his life in general. You need to remember horses and people, for the most part, won't remember what you said or, moreover, with horses what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel.
Any time you are interacting with your horse, you are teaching them, whether you are aware or intentional or not. How you make them feel, whether it be safe, anxious, relaxed, stressed, or any other feeling on the scale of emotion, will, without a question, mould their perception of how you fit into their world. Will they perceive you as someone that can be trusted or someone they should be wary of? Do they feel that they must always keep an eye on you? Or can they relax in your presence?
The confidence that the horse has in you is a direct reflection of how you have made your horse feel, not only when you are riding him but anytime you are around him. It’s important that you be aware of this.
We know this to be true with people. Spend a moment in reflection, looking back upon a negative interaction. You may or may not remember what this person said exactly, but I'm sure you do remember how they made you feel. Have you ever thought of a person, and although you couldn’t remember what the situation was exactly, you have a negative feeling when you recall them to mind? You know that you had some interaction with them that was negative, not because of a specific memory coming up, but because of the feeling that accompanied their memory. That’s the lasting taste that will stay with you, even if you cannot recall why you have it.
Keith, Denice, family friend Theresa with Buck Brannaman & Buck's good friend Dave
So what do we do with this information? And how do we apply it to our horsemanship? Well, we know to be mindful in all of our interactions with our horses as they shape their perception of us, and we know that we need to be the leader of our herd of two.
A genuinely confident person will surround themselves with confident people. Confidence breeds confidence. In order to develop a confident horse, you have to portray confidence. In order to be a leader to your horse, as well as people, their perception must be that you know what you are doing and have a plan. Horses are pretty damn good at reading an individual. Your horse scans you for trustworthiness. He thinks, does he know what he’s doing? Does he know where he’s going? And so on and so forth. I know horses pick up on this quicker than people because they live in the now. How do you feel right now? Know that your horse has a connection to that. Are you comfortable? Are you safe and relaxed in your mind and body? A safe and willing horse has to be in this frame of mind in order to perform at its best. And your frame of mind affects their frame of mind. So be mindful that you offer your horse the best of what you’ve got!
I remember back to my rodeo days when you would have a group of guys travelling together that were all winning, their individual successes were spurring the others on to perform well. This success was manifesting into confidence, which in turn made for more success. The van full of winning cowboys created a vortex of success and confidence from which all the guys benefitted. Knowing this, I'm always striving to make my horse feel like a winner. This will give him the confidence to be the best that he can be! Furthermore, the confidence he has in me, because of the supported, directed and secure way that I make him feel, will get him up for more success and round it goes. Like one of my mentors, Buck Brannaman, once said, “horses and people, it's all the same.”
We’ll be sure to talk more about how to develop confidence in your horse in upcoming videos in The Cowboy Campus Club.