Control or Freak?

It’s nearly five years since I first met Tag, when he spent his days in a field being bullied by a wicked black pony and I decided to take on the task of seeing if he would/could adapt to a new life. To save making too many changes all at once, I kept him at the yard where he was and rode him from the field, feeding him and brushing him daily, all as part of his new routine. It wasn’t long before I realised that he was happy for me to take over and structure his days in a new way, and quickly I became ‘his human’. This was re-enforced to me early on in the relationship, as one day driving past his field I put the window down and my husband shouted on him as he contentedly grazed, to which he didn’t even flicker. I then shouted his name and his head went up, like a keen pupil’s arm would do in school to answer a question. Now this wasn’t great for his popularity as our new family member, but I was delighted. He wasn’t and still isn’t a horsey horse and prefers my company, over that of his fellow equines – my ‘special’ friend. šŸ™‚

And from then on, Tag’s life was shaped in a totally different way with me at the helm of – what must have appeared to an outsider – as a seemingly rudderless ship, that very often resembled a scene from the film ‘The Perfect Storm”, as we entered uncharted territory. As time has progressed I have been able to loosen that control and let him show me that he knows the routine and respects it, but very often that can send us off-course and I am back to being the captain again. This has been mirrored in our relationship with me as his jockey and at the start I had to dictate and unequivocally tell him where he was going and when, otherwise he just simply wouldn’t have done it. Partly because he didn’t know and partly because he had zero confidence and wasn’t nearly brave enough to go somewhere on his own ambition.

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It’s amusing how many similarities can be drawn from this ‘push-pull’ scenario with my role as a mum and my relationship with my children. I have always believed children thrive better with a bit of structure, which allows a free-rein when it suits, allowing them to just be children, confident in the knowledge that someone is in charge. And that certainly doesn’t mean that I am a control freak, because it is generally only at work that there seems to be any semblance of control.

At work, I often feel that I can achieve quite a lot, successfully pulling off meetings and events, articles and adverts (well most of the time!). Having conversations that don’t involve a door slamming or someone bursting into song and discovering that lunch can actually be eaten while sitting down. This alternate universe, who knew??

But when it comes to home life….. any planned itineraries are liable to be bounced about like a ball, refusing to be caught or curtailed. Deadlines are never, ever met, with contingency plans struggling to hold for another load of washing to be dealt with, never mind a forgotten homework only remembered at bed time. And the work-force can prove to be quite petulant, aggressive at a push, receiving verbal warnings on a daily basis, while pushing the boundaries of gross misconduct every week. And P45’s are just an empty threat, dished out by the management in a vain attempt to restore order in the house. But the trump card is always the fact that you love them, even more than Coronation Street, and that keeps a good perspective on everything. šŸ˜‰

I have tried to give Tag more rein at times to allow him to experience things by himself, but in my recent lessons I have discovered that he really doesn’t like that, and probably never will. We discovered this was very much the case with his flatwork and I have been riding with a much stronger contact, that is in a more effective position, allowing him to know I am there, but he is supporting himself. When I started jumping him a few years ago, he was like a baby horse, dodging left and right as we approached any coloured poles, often leaping over them like they might bite him. And although this has settled down, he is still not confident and instead of going back to being the boss, I was still hoping that something would click with him and he would embrace any new jumping courses with grit and determination.

But he continues to look for my guidance and therefore I find I am riding him very much the same over fences, as I do on the flat, but with much lower hands. And as an instructor I would always have told pupils not to change anything when they jump, “It’s just flatwork with poles,” but it turns out that I should be taking my own advice – maybe in more than just horse-riding!

#controlfreak #practicewhatyoupreach #holdontight #goonbebrave

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