Julie is very often wise about horses, but every now and then she outdoes herself. In Tuesday’s Liberty Workshop she said:
We call it emotional fitness because it’s like physical fitness: you have to work at it.
Both horses and humans are creatures of habit. Habits are not just brushing your teeth in the morning or locking the door when you leave the house, but habits and patterns of thought. Whether your first thought upon waking up is negative or positive, for example. The inner monologue that runs in your head shows your patterns of thoughts. It is easy to think that we have no control over our thoughts (“it just pops into my head!”) but we can if we first start to observe our thoughts, then work to replace unproductive patterns of thought (“ugh, I’m such a slob!”) with useful and positive thoughts (“every time I walk through the living room, I will pick up and put away three things. Starting now!”)
We can help our horse practice positive thought patterns, too. Habits take time and work to change, so once you decide to help your horse learn replace an unhelpful way of thinking it is important to be consistent and diligent in practicing this new habit until it is firmly established. It may take a couple of sessions to a couple of years depending on how deeply rooted the emotions are.
Some examples of changes that can be made:
“I’m bored, bored, BORED standing tied! Let’s GO!” … can become … “Oh good. An opportunity to rest & snooze before I’m called to action!”
“I need to be on high alert on the trails because something might get me!” … can become … “Trail riding is pleasant and relaxing because I know my rider can keep us safe from any danger that comes our way.”
“I need to kick any horse that comes too close to let them know not to mess with me!” … can become… “My handler will protect my space. I can let her handle it.”
What an exciting concept, that we can change change our horses behaviors through changing his thoughts! And our own, too!
Watch your thoughts because they become your actions. Watch your actions, because they become your habits. Watch your habits because they become your character. So… watch your thoughts.
And your horse’s thoughts, too!