Automatic or manual?

You often hear people voicing their frustration that certain situations in life don’t come with a ‘manual’, particularly anything to do with children or animals. In other words there are no hard and fast rules about how to work them, but still the library is full of books aiming to impart their wisdom on how to handle everything life throws at us. And everyone is becoming more aware of these life-coach type forums and writers, which through the power of social media seem to be targeting our weaknesses and problems on a daily basis. But manuals do have their uses such as; which cycle on the washing machine won’t shrink your favourite jodhpurs, how on earth to watch ‘Coronation Street’ on a television that seems to do everything except show ‘normal’ tv and of course no IKEA furniture has ever been successfully built without a step-by-step guide.

But when it comes to people and animals, there are no instructions – not in any language. And that is the freedom of individuality, manuals don’t allow for a different reaction; when everyone is pushing the same buttons, of course the outcome will be the same. Rightly or wrongly, pressing different buttons is the only way to learn to what the potential outcome could be.

When I came home from hospital with a four day old baby, I would have welcomed a manual to help me figure out what I was doing. But since I barely had the concentration for counting out eight scoops of formula (anything over four was a real struggle), I would never have digested a book that seemed dedicated to making me feel like I was doing everything wrong. And that’s the problem with handbooks, they are a guide, but how you use the information is truly personal.

One of my first assignments on my equine course was to compile a manual, which would outline what needed to be read/learned, in order for someone to pass their BHSAI exams. I didn’t know where to begin, reading everything from ‘how to ride with my mind’, to the classical teaching of Alois Podhajsky (who’s section on getting a horse on the bit, distracted me from studying for several hours).

My assignment was rubbish. Partly because I was a first year, who had just left home, I was living in halls and this whole world of horses, new friends and drinking on a school night, had just opened up to me. But it was also because I saw too many variables, there were too many ‘what if’s’. Like how do you explain that if the horse you are using for your lungeing exam is a thoroughbred with trust issues and the only way you are going to get through it is to completely ignore her, turn away and become completely passive, or you will end up holding onto a horse that resembles a kite in a hurricane.

So, although a manual is a good guide, it is not to be used without common sense or instinct. Someone said to me recently that they would have to sell their quirky TB mare with a manual and as we laughed about the possible things we would include, we realised that the manual would have to be available on-line, because you could never carry a book that size – and Tag’s would be no different.

As we headed out to another dressage day at the weekend, I turned a new page in Tag’s book, entitled, ‘How to have fun with your horse’, and what a great read it is. He was still a plonker before we got him loaded, as the anticipation of the unknown becomes too much for his constitution to cope with. But as he walked onto the trailer confidently, unloaded slowly, stood still to be tacked up and warmed up without fuss – well apart from the sideways glances he gave the pony that seemed to be allowed to go at full speed down the longside – it was all pretty normal and therefore enjoyable. His test was a definite improvement on our last outing, but we’re still not impressing the judges, which is something I’m trying not to mull over and just concentrate on the fact that I’ve lots more to do.

Over thinking situations is not always beneficial and when you can’t refer to the handbook, there is not always a guiding hand, but it is amazing how much is managed better when it is done instinctively, making your horse, your children, your work colleagues more comfortable, reducing the potential confrontations as you go along. Tag’s manual is getting slimmer and is now less ‘Lord of the Rings Trilogy’ and more ‘War and Peace’, which is a sign of him maturing into his new role and growing in confidence as he does this. We’ll see how the ‘having fun with your horse’ chapter plays out, and enjoy the ride in the meantime.

#throwouttherulebook #booyouginaford #icancounttoten #babybrainishorrible #horsebrainisnotanybetter

2 thoughts on “Automatic or manual?

  1. Loved reading this on my way to work this morning. I could definitely do with a manual at the moment of how to juggle everything without going crazy. Glad you had a great day with your boy 😀👍🏻

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