“My trainer was harping on me … “
“My trainer was barking at me …”
“My trainer was yelling at me …”
Really? Who were you training with this weekend at the show, George Morris?
Sorry about using George Morris’ mythical reputation for being tough, but hopefully by the end of this note, the lesson at the end will justify the means.
So, back to my client, and many of them, who complain about their trainers. Wow, if I didn’t know any better, I would wonder why anyone would want to learn how to ride. I mean, clients (or their parents) come to me upset … totally convinced that they or their child are being treated unkindly or even emotionally abused. But is that really true?
Of course, the easy answer is, move to a new barn and get a new trainer. Just like when you’re having what appears to be unsolvable problems riding your horse, right? (The unsolvable part usually being a lack of patience and/or skills.) The easy answer is to get a push button horse. NOW!
Well, that’s actually NOT what I prescribe to people. Why? Because I firmly believe two things; taking the easy way out only keeps us imprisoned in our weakness, and God puts the right people (and horses) in our lives at the right time!
My belief is, and we can all choose to believe this, that this “situation” is here to challenge me to grow.
This situation is an opportunity to teach me new skills. This situation is not happening to me, but rather FOR me.
And, finally, how can I make this situation work to improve my skills? In other words, if I learn to focus on what I need to change about my “style,” instead of focusing on what the trainer is “doing wrong” and the adaptable teaching skills that I have perceived that they don’t have, would I grow from learning how to change my focus, my perceptions and even my negative emotions?
Listen (especially parents), taking the easy way out is never the answer! You may feel like you are walking away from a bad trainer or a horse that is “not a good fit,” but in fact, you may be running away from yourself. You may be running away from a valuable learning opportunity.
We should NOT want to teach our children to run away from adversity. We should NOT even want them to run away from feeling uncomfortable, but that is what our culture teaches us, and sometimes, unconsciously, that is a solution that we choose or default to.
God forbid we (or our children) feel any uncertainty or pain, emotionally or physically. Run to the doctor for the prescriptions, right? Run for the aspirin. It’s all about comfort being king and fast solutions so that we don’t have to deal with the pain. (Another phrase for not learning how to deal with our emotions.)
Should we teach our children and train ourselves to run away from abusive people? Yes, but only if that really IS the truth, rather than how we are believing it to be because that is how their words and actions end up feeling to us.
And even if we are completely convinced that the person has crossed the line into abusive, remember that “the truth” is subjective anyway, because nowadays, people even feel abused if you have a different opinion about things, like who to vote for as President, right? I mean, your beliefs violate my beliefs, right? So now people are feeling offended (which then transitions into feeling violated) about everything! As we become less tolerant and softer, all words hurt!
(I’m very anti-abuse, so hang in there with me, because OF COURSE if it’s THAT bad, we need boundaries and common sense!)
But, getting back to my client who kept repeating a long list of sentences about how her trainer acted last weekend, when I read back to her the long list of “strong” words that she used, she said, “Well, don’t tell my trainer that I said those words, because I’m sure he wouldn’t see it that way.”
Oh, great! NOW we’re getting somewhere. So that means there is a different way to see it? There is a different “reality” or truth? I asked her how her trainer might see his actions this past weekend, and she started telling me about how she thinks that all his efforts must mean he believes in her. Then she started thinking of some other “alternative, positive meanings” for his actions.
“Hmmm, so let’s start with this,” I said to her. “Read back those harsh sentences to me and tell me how that feels to you.”
“Pretty crappy,” she said with a lowered, sad tone of voice.
“OK,” I continued, “now, how would you rephrase those sentences in a way that maybe your trainer might have meant it or you would have liked to receive it? What would be the words you could use to change the meaning, and therefore the emotion, of what he was attempting to accomplish with his directions to you?”
So then she came up with this.
“He was firm with me.”
“He was assertive with me.”
“He was encouraging me.”
“He obviously believes in me.”
“Wow, how does all that feel?”
“Much better!” she admitted with a light chuckle.
Things were looking up, and someone just turned on the light! And this is actually a great point that I tried to make in the beginning of this post, which is this; who knows what the real truth is, but in the end, it MAY be that it doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is the meaning that we give to words and actions.
Change the word and you change the meaning! It’s the meaning that creates the emotions inside of you. So, if you want to feel better, if you want to feel empowered rather than disempowered, if not downright shut down and disabled, you need to change the words first.
So, the “harsh tone” and the “yelling” (maybe he had to raise his voice because you were outside in a large ring?) was actually a gift? Why? Because in order to “stay with” the trainer and the barn (and your friends there and maybe even their horse that you are leasing), you had to step up and raise your skill level, emotionally. You had to learn some new strategies for coping. You had to learn how to transition through from an initial negative state of mind to another, more positive one.
Would you consider this lesson a gift if you finally had to learn how to EFFECTIVELY deal with difficult people? (I don’t know, maybe her trainer wasn’t “difficult” after all.) But even if he was, and even if George Morris was, can we soften the outside forces that are coming at us and internalize them in a way that works for us?
Calling people “abusive” or “harsh” or all these other negative words is a great way to justify taking the easy way out. Yes, of course, we can walk away and choose “easier” and “softer” people to deal with, but is this always the case in life? And would that newer, softer trainer actually BE a better trainer?
How does running away from things or people we don’t like affect our future lives? After all, our children are going to have teachers, employers, co-workers, neighbors, and club or barn members that they may also not like and want to walk away from, but realistically, will they always have that option? Can they keep moving from one school to another and one job to another? In some situations, maybe, but is that teaching them the right skills for coping with life? Is running away from the emotional pain “caused by” what we internalize as difficult people always the best technique?
Not learning how to “deal with” the things we don’t like or accept in other people … because no one is perfect … is this why we have such a high divorce rate? We just throw people away because OUR skills aren’t up to being able to take responsibility and the best actions for making our relationships work? Well, you know what they say … if you don’t learn the growth lesson from one relationship, you will just jump into another relationship with the same issues and problems!
And yes, this also happens when you run away from yourself … right into another barn, another trainer, another horse … same issues. Bottom line; you can’t run away from yourself. Life just won’t let that happen!
Some people, like myself, were just born more sensitive than others. I was ALWAYS more sensitive emotionally and physically than just about everyone else I met in life, and I will tell you, it is not an easy, comfortable way to have to go through life. In fact, it sucked!
And just to make sure that I was FORCED to learn how to deal with being so sensitive, “the universe” gave me a father that was a tough, no-nonsense Marine who fought the Japanese on the islands during WWII as his first job in life! I mean, we’re talking TOUGH. Compassion and sensitivity, in his words, were just not his thing! And nothing could convince him otherwise.
Which brings me full circle, back to George Morris. I think I am the only one of my equestrian peers that had plenty of opportunities to train with George, and I chose not to. Why? I was afraid. Yup, let’s call it what it was! I was also smart because I KNEW I was too sensitive. I already KNEW that tough, strict, no-nonsense, blunt, say-it-like-it-is (because I don’t care about your feelings) people absolutely shut me down. I would become paralyzed. I just couldn’t function well, so what was the point of trying to ride a horse and learn new techniques with that “negative force” teaching me?
Was George really that bad? Who knows? We’ve all heard the stories. But was it the truth, or his myth? In the end, it didn’t really matter IF you REALLY wanted to be the best rider that you could be. When all was said and done, the riders who did walk through their fears, and did learn to deal with whatever “style” he had, dramatically improved their riding skills. And wasn’t that the point? I know it was my father’s point. Tough teachers and coaches (think about the people who train the Marines and the Navy Seals) produce peak performance results. What if you embraced that concept as a good thing?
OK, so we’re just riding horses, this isn’t the military. Right. But we’re riding horses, so it COULD be life or death if you don’t do it correctly, right?
Don’t like someone’s delivery? There are two courses of action. The first is what I suggested above. But there is a second thing to try before you start running away from your current barn and trainer. You could speak with your trainer. (“Oh, I tried that,” several parents have said to me. “I tried to tell them how best to speak with and to teach my child; that my child just doesn’t respond well to his/her style, but it didn’t work.”)
OK, well at least you tried. I have to give you credit for that because many people avoid “confrontation” at all costs. But how old is your child? If she is a pre-teen or a teenager, and maybe even younger, I say the lesson may have presented itself to your “family” because someone is supposed to be learning and growing from this opportunity. Maybe it’s you, but maybe it is your child that is supposed to be learning how to be assertive, how to own her voice, and how to tactfully influence her trainer.
If you feel the trainer is crossing boundaries, being too harsh or is absolutely NOT able to teach your child with their current approach, how wonderful to have this opportunity for your child to learn and practice courage; to walk through the fear of speaking up for herself and to try to “help” her trainer to know who she is and what she needs. Maybe if your trainer learns to be more adaptable to different children, the trainer will also increase their own skills and keep more clients in their training program? It could be a win-win for everyone, including all the trainer’s future clients!
Sidebar: This post is meant for trainers as well! Before we ask clients with “bad attitudes” to leave our barns, have we REALLY done EVERHYTING to influence a change in that client? Do we need to up our skill levels in the art of influencing others? Do we need to become more flexible and adaptable in our teaching or leadership skills?
OK, so you’re convinced this trainer is about as adaptable and open to changing as you MIGHT believe George Morris would NOT be but don’t use that an excuse to run away and to not try. Even if it doesn’t work out the way you had hoped, even if you couldn’t positively influence your trainer to try a different approach and to adopt a different style for you or your child, at least you and/or your child walked through your fears and tried! That’s always a win!
What’s the moral of this story? Try to change yourself, or help your child to learn to adapt, FIRST, before walking away. Challenges are ALWAYS an opportunity for each one of us to grow in our emotional strength, maturity, and mindset skills.
The art of influencing others and learning to walk through our fears, in order to build our courage muscles, in the end … you may look back and thank your toughest trainers and most difficult horses. Wouldn’t you rather improve your own skill sets? Wouldn’t you rather become the best you can be? That NEVER happens by taking the easy way out!
Embrace the challenges! Don’t allow yourself to walk away until AFTER you have learned the lesson and have changed yourself. Because again, whatever lessons we don’t learn the first time, will keep repeating themselves in our lives … over and over … until we DO finally change or we give up altogether.
Never quit! The only way out is through. And every stride counts!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nancy Dye is an equestrian breakthrough mindset coach and resilience trainer helping people to transform the quality of their lifestyles.
Nancy is certified as a strategic interventionist from the official coach training program of Tony Robbins and has over 30 years as a change agent; shifting people into peak performance.
Nancy specializes in solving the puzzle of why people are not performing at their best and customizing the right strategy for “jumping over” adversity. She handles all areas of a rider’s life to include peak performance in their riding, relationships, career, overcoming addictions, weight loss, health and transitioning through life stages.
With a past career in corporate sales and as a luxury lifestyle Realtor, Nancy has been coached by some the top sales trainers in the corporate world, as well as by some of the most elite coaches in the world of sports. Nancy redesigns the inner lives of athletes, executives, entrepreneurs, and elite military and veterans.
Nancy is married to Jack Miles, a former Olympian gymnast who is inducted into four athletic Hall of Fames. For one-on-one coaching or information on her workshops or riding clinics, Nancy can be reached at NancyDyeResults@gmail.com.