We use this word a lot as equestrians.. when talking about our horses.
"He is resisting my rein aids"
"She won't back up, she's resisting."
And while resistance is a real thing, it's not a result of being manipulative, fighting back, stubborn, rude, "stupid", or vindictive like is so often expressed in the undertones of when that word is used.
When we see resistance in our horses it usually stems from one, or both, of two sources. Lack of understanding (confusion), or self protection (fear).
And while I could talk about this topic all day long as it pertains to horsemanship and training horses, I want you to consider how this applies to yourself.. the human on the other end of the lead rope.
We resist. Often in new areas and when new information is presented. We resist giving up old ideas of what horsemanship should look like. We resist the idea of releasing control. We resist the idea of learning new ways to train behaviors. We resist being told punishment isn't the best way to fix problem behaviors. We resist a lot. That list could go on forever. And yet.... We have so little sympathy for when our horses resist us.
What I would like to ask you is to consider is the reason why you resist. Here are some reasons that come to mind.
➔ It’s unfamiliar and because it’s unfamiliar it feels unsafe
➔ You don’t don’t know how to do it and so can’t
➔ The way it’s being presented is confusing or feels threatening
➔ You physically can't do it or it hurts to do it
➔ Mentally you feel overwhelmed and are worried about failure
➔ The environment doesn’t feel like a safe place to try new things or ask questions
➔ You’ve tried this thing in the past and the results weren’t ideal, so you are reluctant to try again
These are all very reasonable causes for being resistant to change and learning new things! For both us and our horses.
When it comes to our horses, it is our responsibility to recognize these things and provide a safe, consistent, comfortable learning environment for our horses so that they can learn new things.
As parents, it’s our responsibility to make sure our kids have that same safe, predictable, and comfortable environment to learn in.
As trainers/instructors/coaches, it's our responsibility to create a safe, predictable, and comfortable learning environment for our clients.
And when it comes to ourselves and being presented with something new that we are wanting to resist? We need to evaluate these things for ourselves too!
We need to ask ourselves why we feel resistant…
Does the environment feel unsafe? Some Facebook groups, for example, certainly feel unsafe to me! I personally prefer private networks and smaller groups of trusted people to share my learning journey with. This is why I created the TWE Academy! However, there are other environments that may feel unsafe too. Some clinics I’ve been to… riding lesson programs.. The trainer themselves may be the one that is creating an unsafe feeling environment! Don’t give up because you haven’t found “home” yet.
You have tried something similar in the past and not had the results I was looking for? so am reluctant to try again? This is a legitimate reason to not try something again for sure. Repeating something over and over again and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity right? BUT, sometimes.... our first attempts are riddled with so many mistakes that the results we get are not an honest representation of the thing we are resisting trying again. This is what happened to me the first time I tried clicker training horses! I made so many mistakes and created quite a monster of a horse the first time around! So much so that I said I would never do it again. I brought myself to try again about a year later though and with more help that time. The results were SO much better and I was blown away! I’ve never looked back since.
This thing is new and unfamiliar, so you're not sure about giving it a try. Maybe this is a perfect opportunity to try something new and step bravely forward! Just because it’s unfamiliar doesn’t make it unsafe. Having a guide/coach through the process, with a strong support system, can really help this.
You don’t know what you're doing and other stuff feels more familiar, so you're going to stick with that. There’s no better time to learn something new than right now! Having a coach and support system will help make this process easier, but just know that you don’t know what you don’t know. And you can’t know something until you’ve gotten past the phase of trying something new and learning something new. It’s going to be a little uncomfortable at first, but so worth it!
You're feeling very confused and overwhelmed. Perhaps this just means we need to find a different source of information, or a different coach to help clarify. Not all coaches/teachers will be best suited to all learning styles! You may have to try a few different coaches and sources of information before you find one that “clicks”.
This new thing is physically challenging and may not be safe or you may not be successful at it because of limitations. Depending on WHAT it is you’re wanting to learn about and try… maybe you just need to give yourself more time and break down the “approximations” further to be successful. Or maybe you need a “pre” step before you can dive into the thing you’re learning. There’s no shame in that. And… sometimes modifications are needed to suit your needs! A good coach will help guide you in that process so you are safe, successful, and also encouraged!
Fear of failure causing you to resist trying? I know this feeling well! I’ll tell you what helps me. Working with someone who can expertly guide you through the learning process, feeds you information as you need it, and avoids looking at mistakes as “failure” but rather opportunities for improvement and learning! Even after years and years and years doing my profession I make mistakes and I’m learning constantly. I do not look at them as failure, but rather an amazing learning opportunity and something novel! Like a little power-up opportunity in a video game! A side challenge if you will, to give your video game character an advantage or a boost. “Complete this challenge and gain 50+ strength points” or something like that! Mistakes are those challenges! “Beat them” and get your power up!
It's important that we evaluate these things in ourselves so we can continue to grow and learn as humans. There is always so much to learn, so many ways we can continue our self-development and so many things to explore and experience in life. It's even more important for us to self-reflect on these things when we are responsible for the lives of others. Such as with our horses.
You are your horse's advocate and they rely on your to self reflect, continue to grow and learn, and to try your hardest to care for them as they need. We will never know everything, have all the right answers, or be perfect caregivers/advocates. But we can certainly keep trying and be open to learning new things!