Recently I was talking to a friend who is a very accomplished horsewoman about the challenge of keeping horsemanship fresh and progressive both for ourselves and for the horses in our life. This got me thinking about the invaluable role of coaching. Often we assume that the answer to keeping progressive is to have more lessons, to gain more technical knowledge about riding or groundwork or whatever it is we are focusing on. This is without doubt a crucial part of the equation but increasingly I see that an overlooked aid to progress is having someone to warmly and sensitively coach you through the blocks and sticky points. Perhaps the most powerful impact of coaching is having someone who encourages you to keep going and believes in your ability to succeed, even when you doubt it yourself.
When I look back on my own horsemanship journey so far, I can remember the lessons that contained those light bulb moments that take you on to the next level. More important then these though, are the moments when someone believed in my ability and potential to succeed and conveyed this to me right when I most needed to hear it. These were the people who could see my potential, understood my struggle and knew exactly how to motivate me to unlock that potential. I can remember all of these occasions and special people and they still fill me with a sense of renewed power and conviction. I also feel a huge sense of gratitude towards the people who took the time out to see that I needed encouragement through emotional coaching, not the addition of more knowledge or skills.
When I first began teaching, I was suprised by how much energy clients put into beating themselves up for not being able to immediately achieve a new skill. Indeed I can remember doing it myself and still have to watch myself for any sneaky return of this pattern when I'm learning new skills or grappling with new ways of being. Early on in teaching therefore I made a conscious decision to actively intervene in this aspect of the learning process. I put much energy and great store by breaking this pattern of thinking and feeling as part of the lesson. Often it's been clients who have been coached through banishing persistant patterns of negative self talk and limiting beliefs that the biggest changes have been evident. Many people have become so used to engaging in these destructive internal conversations with themselves that the look of happiness on their face when they realise they dont have to suffer this for one moment longer is so wonderful to see. It is absolutely no coincidence that these moments of realisation are closely followed by huge improvements in their relationship with their horse. It is impossible to feel peaceful, centred and loving towards your horse if you cannot feel it towards yourself.