I’d like to share a case study with you today. And, that case study is me.

Why?

I realise that we have many new readers of these posts and it occurred to me that you might not know why I’m so passionate about what I do. You might be wondering about my background and experience and how this might relate to you. I’ve known some of you for a lot of years, so you might recognise some of what I say. For others, we might have met more recently, so I hope the following will help explain.

Background

The background as to why I’m a people development coach in the first place is a subject for another day. What I’d like to share today is the reason why I care so much about the work I do with riders.

I’ve been a BHS Coach since 1999 (and teaching for much longer), along with UKCC Level 2. I’ve taught in riding schools, Pony Club, Riding Club and freelance during those years, always enjoying working with thinking riders who are looking for a better relationship with their horse.

Some of you have met my horse Snoopy. He’s central to this story. He hadn’t been with me very long when I took him out for our first ride on our own. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have gone – many reasons why and we’ve all had those rides, haven’t we!!?? Anyway, it ended with me doing a rather spectacular unscheduled dismount at high speed and Snoop heading for home on his own. When I’d pulled myself together and walked home, I found him standing by the gate at the yard looking very unsure of himself.

I managed to sort everything out and headed for home, very shaky and wondering what just happened!

So, why am I sharing?

My reason for telling you this is that it really rocked my confidence.

  • I berated myself for the decision to go out in the first place and questioned my ability to ever make a sensible decision again
  • I had a real fright as it had all happened so quickly – I felt like I’d had no control of the situation at all
  • I was making pictures of ‘what ifs’ in my head constantly – and they weren’t pleasant!
  • I was badly bruised and my shoulder and hip were damaged
  • I was upset because I knew he’d lost some confidence in me as I hadn’t taken care of him
  • I also felt like I didn’t know how to help him become confident again – I shouldn’t be allowed to have a horse as I was no good
  • I’d decided that next time we went out for a ride, he’d do exactly the same thing and it would always be awful.

That’s quite a lot of negativity. And a major stress response.

Understandable really! We’d both had a big fright. My fight/flight response (what we’d describe in the Happy Brain model as a reptilian brain response) was fully activated, suddenly and violently. All of those brain chemicals designed to keep me safe and take action in an emergency flooded my system. A natural reaction, but these chemicals take time to drain from our systems, so they stayed with me for some time.

We know that, neurologically, the sensations (bodily feelings) that are either repeated, or which happen with lots of energy always stay with us longest. Natural, really, as our brain is simply keeping us safe by helping us remember how horrid it was. Unless we do something different!

What could have happened next

It would have been very easy for me to keep replaying the event, padding out the details to make them even scarier than they were. Making the colours brighter, the sounds clearer, the sensations even more intense. Telling everyone how awful it was to recruit sympathy and for people to tell me it wasn’t my fault. But, I knew that if I kept practicing in that way, I’d simply be embedding that in my neurology and it would continue to have an impact until I did something different. It would keep repeating and would paralyse my ability to move forward and enjoy my horse again.

Because of my knowledge and experience of Neuro Linguistic Programming and hypnosis (along with many years of coaching and personal development) I knew that I had to take action quickly. I had to change that brain dynamic with its unhelpful, sticky thinking and feeling.

What DID happen next?

I know the horseriders amongst you will recognise that experience, even if your own is different. Your sticky feelings might not even be related to something as dramatic as I described.

And, even if you don’t have horses, and don’t ride, there will have been some times in your own life where you’ll recognise these responses.

What I’ll share with you next week is the action I took to turn things around and make sure that this experience didn’t have a negative impact on not just my riding, but my relationship with Snoop.

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one thing for wellbeing - for your horse