While in college, Social Services Technology Major, we learned a lot about the human condition, and the human psyche. It was fascinating to me; The idea that there are better ways to communicate, and more effective ways to ensure compliance and success through better communication and positive interactions. I admit to testing a few things out and finding a lot of them really worked when working with the dreaded "public."
This week Horse Junkies United posted a video of an Interview they were lucky enough to be able to do with Eric Lamaze. In The Interview Eric Lamaze speaks of what he is doing with the six horses he has in training right now. (After Hicksteads passing last year he is trying to find a suitable replacement, and has several horses in training.) He was asked how he is bonding with these new horses, and this is what he said:
"I wouldn't say that I have bonded with them yet, like I can, I am still getting to know them, they are getting to know me. It's a big learning year you know, coming here (Spruce Meadows) is a big part of getting to know them. Every show that I go to I end up changing something on the horses, changing bit, or the way I do the morning training, things like that, you know, so we are still learning what they like. Dealing with horses it is all about doing what they like. And trying to make their lives easier, and not to make their life difficult, you know, and once you accomplish that you find that they work for you a lot better, so we are not being too forceful with them, we are just learning what they like, and we are trying to adapt ourselves to that. And then there is time when we tell a little of what we like, and see how much they can take of it. You know we are still at that stage, you know, even our feeding program, how much to feed them, playing with their energy level, we have a lot to learn."
This portion of the interview brought back a lot of memories from college.
Our Professor of Sociology would drill into our heads this statement : People have the right to be wrong!!
By this she meant that one part of our inalienable rights, is the right to be dead wrong! Clients will/can/do make bad choices, they have the right to do so, and part of my job is to make the right choice the most appealing one. Sure, the easiest way to ensure good choices is swift punishment for the wrong choice. Non-compliance with program rules = loss of assistance/perks/housing etc. This, however is less of an incentive for compliance than you may think. It works great as a reminder to the rest of the clients of what will happen if/when they make similar choices, but rarely does it serve as a lesson to the offender. I just lost a client, who now is giving me the "one finger salute" on their way out the door. I lose money every time I lose a client, so the best bet is to make sure that they are happily compliant.
"Trying to make their lives easier, and not to make their life difficult, you know, and once you accomplish that you find that they work for you a lot better."
I couldn't agree more. Making sure that clients (horses) in a housing complex (stable) know that we are providing a service, and that their best interest is something we have in common, is key. Clients (Horses)need to know that I am on their side, helping and assisting, and also that I will/can/do lay the hammer down if/when I have to. Each client (horse) is different, and I have to find out what their triggers are, what makes them function best. Some need a firm set of rules, and will push around anyone who shows even a bit of kindness, and they will rise to any challenge to show you that they can do it. Some need a lot of encouragement, and praise, and look to others for self esteem before attempting even the slightest change. Sound familiar?
In other words, I am constantly "changing bits and playing with the feed and energy level" to find a good fit. For a while I became too angry, and too bossy, and I am now attempting to find the softer side without losing the edge that makes me effective when dealing with bullies. Having happy clients (horses) makes for better interactions, better results and a more positive environment. Pushing a client (horse) into compliance may work for a while, but resentment will build up, and the smallest spark will ignite a massive explosion. And before you know it the entire complex (herd?) will be in disarray.
Like with our horse, Pippi, who can not give me the "one finger salute," but she can dump my ass and become a dangerous animal. A horse needs to know that you are the leader, but you also need to find a way to make the horse happy in the job they are to do. When we first met Pippi, she was untrained, and we had no idea what her future would hold. She proved to be a Hunter/Jumper, and her big white APHA rear was not going to be hindrance as far as she is concerned. No matter that her entire line consisted of Western Pleasure/Halter horses, she loved jumping. Most horses can do most things, but seem to excel at the things they actually are suited for and enjoy. Pippi showed us what she wanted to do, and she is quite good at it. We would have been fine had she chosen Barrel Racing as her chosen path, but she showed early on that jumping was her thing. (She will jump on her own, spin around and jump the other direction with little to no encouragement.)
I loved the fact that a Rider of Eric Lamaze' caliber spoke of the importance of bonding, and making your horse happy. A happy horse, who feels validated and has a job they are suited for, will perform better and go further. It's not just training, training, training; it's bonding, enjoyment and happiness that makes a winning team. Whether with clients or with horses.