Sunday, February 27, 2011

Faking it

We've had some nasty weather lately. Who hasn't, right? But here in the Northwest, we're never prepared for it. Yeah, it rains -- we get that. But snow … now that's something you'd think we'd never seen before. Generally, it doesn't stick around long. Including lately.

However, there was some left and it was still pretty chilly the other day when I was teaching. Our arena has a roof, but is open on the sides. I like it. Even when the weather is bad we stay fairly well protected. But, the horses can tend to get a little "looky" when things change outside of the arena. With the cold air and patches of white snow here and there my student's horse was -- well, let's call him a little "fresh." My student was feeling a little nervous about riding him, but she's a good rider with a good position and I knew if she got her mind in the right place she could handle her horse just fine.

Horses sense tension in those near them. When you sit on their backs and pick up the reins you can easily transmit tension through your seat, legs, and hands. When the rider is tense, the horse will reflect that and become tense as well.

The solution is not to slump in a casual position, or throw the reins away, but to give the horse a job to focus on, and to be very careful to make your body operate with the same fluid movement you have when you're relaxed.

In other words, fake your confidence.

It worked perfectly, I'm happy to say. My student was able to fool her horse into thinking there was nothing more interesting than the job they were doing together. It took a lot of concentration on her part to be aware of just how and when tension would sneak in to her position, but we worked it through. She got a better handle on faking it. And the really great thing was that she conquered her nerves and found a level of confidence that was not bravado. A level she could access when she needed it. All by pretending.

It's a lesson we can all carry in to those situations where we feel less than equal to the challenge. Don't bluster, or adopt an opposite attitude, but go forward as if you knew what you were doing, being aware of your equilibrium, the nuances of your expression and posture. Fake it until you make it.

It's true. It works.

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