If you’re one of those lucky people who doesn’t ever tend to get stressed about anything – or know anyone that gets stressed about anything – well, this probably isn’t a blog that will be of much interest to you. For the rest of us ….. read on…..
One of the benefits of your other half being a counsellor is that you don’t necessarily just get to say “GRRRRRR, I’m really stressed”. That’s not enough. Yes, let the stress out rather than suppress it, but what I mean is, you then need to take a good look at why you’re stressed and do something about it. This is good advice for everyone, not just those that live with counsellors.
When you boil it right down, and are very honest about it, it seems to me that what makes us stressed is that gap between what we are doing and what we think we “should” be doing. For example, if I “should” be somewhere for dinner at 7.30pm but actually I didn’t even leave the house until 7pm and it’s a good hour’s drive to get there, I’m probably going to feel stressed about the gap between where I am (in the car!) and where I should be (at the dinner).
OK, those of you that know me will probably realise that I’m so used to being late for dinner engagements that maybe if truth be told I won’t actually be that bothered, but you get the idea. However, it’s not just being late that can cause a significant gap between what we are doing and what we think we “should” be doing:
“I’m 30 and I should be married by now….”
“I’m 35 and I should have kids by now….”
“I’m 40 and I should by now have found a job that I like….”
“I’m 45 and I should have started saving for my pension far too long ago….”
“I “should” fit into those jeans….”
“I should see more of my parents…..”
“I have a nice house/ car/ partner/ job, etc…… I “should” be happy” [so why aren’t I?]
Now don’t get me wrong, that gap between what we are doing and what we think we should be doing isn’t always such a bad thing. Indeed, for some of us that gap is what inspires us to get up in the morning and get things done. An Olympic athlete will feel that he “should” make it to the Olympics so she or he will make damn sure she/ he gets up in the morning and does the necessary training to get there.
There are also some “should’s” that are necessary for society to operate in a civilised manner. One “should” not do harm to another person, for example.
Most of us, though, aren’t sociopaths that are overly troubled by obedience to civil law, and also most of us aren’t Olympic athletes. Most of us muddle along as best we can trying to get things right and being plagued by that gap between where we are and where we think we should be. And by the way, where do all of those “should’s” that trouble us so much come from anyway? So what if I’m over 35 and don’t have kids? Maybe I just don’t want to have them? Who is to say I should have them anyway?
As with so many things in life, this life issue plays out on a regular basis not just in our relationship with ourselves, but in our relationship with our horses. Have you ever considered how often you “should” all over your horse?
I’ve been “should-ing” a bit over Buffy of late, I’ll admit. After a rocky start to the eventing season last year, in the end we managed a very respectable end to the season and we’ve then been working hard over the weekend to prepare for the season ahead. However, we got to our first big venue a couple of weeks ago and it all fell apart. She “should” have been OK. Yep, well, she wasn’t, I get to go back a level (again) until she is and then rebuild from there and that’s just horses for you. No real point me thinking about what she “should” be doing by now – it’s irrelevant – what she is doing now is really the point, and then working on a training plan to develop from there.
For some reason a lot of people who compete have a big thing about feeling their horses “should” be given a chance to compete and do well in competitions and that somehow they let their horses down if they fail on either of those two “should’s”. If truth be told, I don’t think horses have any particular Olympic goals. In fact, I’m not particularly convinced that horses have any goals beyond munching food, running and rolling with their friends and, well, not a whole lot more. It’s us human’s that get caught up in the “should’s” with regard to their horse.
“He’s a 4yo, he should be in ridden work already….”
“He’s a 5yo, he should be ready for age classes…..”
“He’s been out before, he “should” be used to different environments….”
The thing is with horses, though, that they really don’t at all have the same expectations as to what “should” be happening as we do. They haven’t read our own personal “should’s”. And why should they? Horse’s just “are”.
This is why it really is crucial to listen to our horse’s responses for what they are, and not through our own personal filter of “should’s”.
I recently had a really very good saddle fitter over to help me fit a saddle for one of my youngsters. For all the different saddles he had, there were two in particular that looked like good fits. They “should” have worked. But when I sat on my youngster and asked her to trot she point blank refused. She hadn’t realised that they “should” fit. She didn’t like them. End of story. Time to find a different style of saddle to suit her instead (…. Turns out she prefers a particular style of jump saddle that her shoulder blades can glide under, not dressage saddles that sit behind the shoulder blades…).
Going back a few years, I had another particularly athletic youngster that seemed to find broncing a good idea. She looked sound. She was young. She “should” have been physically fine so surely the broncing “should” have been a young horse behavioural issue. No, on investigation she was bilaterally lame behind. No wonder she never really looked unsound. No wonder she bronced. More fool me for carrying on and thinking she “should” be OK when she was telling me loud and clear that she wasn’t.
So next time you’re feeling stressed about the gap between where you are and where you think you “should” be, or where you are with your horse and where you think you “should” be with your horse, maybe first stop and just have a good think about that. It’s not very useful to “should” all over yourself. It’s even less useful to should all over your horse.
“You have two choices, to control your mind or to let your mind control you.”
― Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides to Die