The great German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, famously said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” I owe Nietzsche deep thanks for teeing up the next ingredient of Leading the Change so, um, epically well. Before we talk about that next ingredient however, please allow me to quickly recap for those of you who may be new to my blog, or the concept of Leading the Change. The Archives on my freshly updated website contain the full story :)
Change is an inevitable part of life, but we usually think of it as a really crappy, scary, icky thing that we must endure, and, we avoid it like the plague. When training horses, however, we WANT change! Change is THE GOAL. How quickly we can make that change is one of the metrics we use to determine our success. By focusing on the change we want, instead of being reactive to change when we find ourselves in the middle of it, we ‘Lead the Change’ where we want to go. Leading the Change is HOW we achieve our wildest dreams. In addition to training horses, I also love to cook, so I like to to think of the tools we need to Lead the Change like ingredients to a gourmet meal. Similarly to cooking, we can add more or less of each of the key ingredients to the meal based on your tastes, preferences, and needs. We’ve already covered the first two key ingredients, Presence and Perception, and today, we're adding Persistence to the pan.
Persistence is defined as, ‘a firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition’. For us, the ‘course of action’ is the achievement of our goals and dreams, which if you have been following along, we identified in our Dreaming Big post and then actioned in Making Your Dreams a Reality. ‘In spite of difficulty or opposition’ is another way of saying ‘that which does not kill us’. (Thanks Nietzsche!) For our purposes then, persistence is making our dreams come true no matter what obstacles life throws our way.
And life sure does like to throw obstacles our way, doesn’t it?!? This last fall and winter have reminded me just how much life COULD challenge me with, if it wanted to, and not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars that life seems to be throttling the challenges it’s giving me, just a little bit. Being able to shift my perspective helps too! When things get difficult, and I mean REALLY difficult, quitting and changing direction no doubt can seem like the easier solution. For me, this would look like following my mentor and friend, Brandi Lyons', advice to sell my seemingly cursed property in California (that’s right folks, I’m STILL trying to get my barn permit) and move to Arizona, near her, but, 'Momma, didn’t raise no quitter!' Pride is not the reason that Persistence is important to Leading the Change however, because we are humble horse people. Respecting the way horses learn is the reason we care about persistence.
Horse’s learn our language through the classical conditioning techniques that Pavlov made famous with his salivating dogs. Without geeking out on you too much, repetition is the key for horses. Pick up the left rein, turn left. Pick up the left rein...turn left. It can take ONE THOUSAND repetitions of the same cue (pick up the left rein) for a horse to really truly LEARN what you are asking them to do (turn left). What happens then, if after 10 repetitions where our horse seems to totally be getting it, they stop instead of turning left, and we aren't Persistent, instead quitting because ‘the horse must be tired’ or 'doesn't like this exercise,' or my personal favorite, ‘'cause we must not have asked correctly.' Then the next time we get on and the horse stops when we pick up the left rein, we get frustrated, or angry, and move on to something else again, or even switch trainers or disciplines because the horse really doesn’t like or understand this, when in actuality, we had yet to do enough repetitions for the horse to learn what we wanted. They were still going through the process of elimination that helps them figure it all out. If we do this too much, our beloved horse gets so frustrated that they act out, earning them the “problem” horse label. We had the very best of intentions, were just trying to make our horse happy, but by not maintaining “obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition,’ the impact on our horse is anything but.
Persistence: it’s not just about making our dreams come true no matter what obstacles life throws our way, it is the key to understanding how horses learn. In order to Lead the Change, we must be obstinate in our pursuit of our goals, no matter how big and crazy (like turning a junk yard into an equestrian center by building everything yourself) or seemingly simply (pick up the left rein, turn left) those goals may be.
Be well my friends, and never stop Leading the Change!
Visit our website at www.defrateshorsemanship.com/blog to learn about the other ingredients of Leading the Change. While you’re there, sign up to receive notifications of our future posts, or better yet, contact us and set up some time to start Leading the Change with your horse! No seriously, go check out the website :) We’ve made some major updates and would love to know what you think!