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Discomfort Zone

After my last video post with the horses spazzing out because of a slamming arena door, this seemed timely...I am a strong believer in getting out of your comfort zone. For horses and humans, discomfort is a constant companion for those who are searching for a better way, learning new things, and advancing in their capacities (maybe that's why I picked up volleyball at 50?).

Perseverance in the face of adversity is key. You have to learn how to work through your discomfort (like facing your fears). Once you find you have been successful even while uncomfortable, your confidence rises and you are less stressed out about the next wave of discomfort coming your way. (And come your way, it will!)

In the video, my horse is faced with a new accessory that will be touching his belly. I could baby him through it, bully him through it, but neither way would be productive, nor authentic for me. I simply present it to him and try to explain through movement and language (I know, horses are not verbal, but I am, and it helps me refine my body language when I speak my intent) that he needs to trust me; if I have put something onto his body, it will not kill him. I want him to "conquer it" and face his fear; you never know when something might attach itself to him on the trail (a berry branch), a rope might get caught on his body, etc...he needs to know that running and jumping around is not the answer. He needs to know that looking to me for the answer is the right thing to do, and, if I am calm, he can be calm.

This is how I approach teaching my horses how to deal with accessories, events, scary infrastructure, weather, other people, animals---all things that might, in that moment, make them uncomfortable. I assess whether my horse's life is in danger from the uncomfortable factor and, if it's not, I help my horse understand that discomfort is not fatal. If you face it, and analyze it, accept it, it fades away. In its place comes experience, maturity, and confidence. Nice.

P.S. After this clip was taken, I rode him without the back cinch, thinking, "Oh boy, it's going to take a while for him to get used to this." I was WRONG. We wore it on the trail a few days later and he was fantastic. Now he doesn't even know it's there. Yippee!

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