Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Monday, December 29, 2008

Leader vs. Boss

I lay awake a long time last night thinking about this, and came up with some interesting thoughts I'd like to share. But first let me explain kind of why I was thinking about this.

I had a WEIRD session with Crest yesterday. My usually confident-in-his-leader-and-self LBE had complete and total RBI meltdown, literally. I was out riding with my friend Renee, who was on Prin. We had cut across a corn field to avoid icy roads, and we're about to meet up with the road again, and there was a small patch of ice that we'd have to cross (it was either that, or an almost 4-foot-deep snow drift) to get to where we needed to go. We opted to take the ice. It wasn't a glare sheet, just a patchy spot (ice, dirt, ice, dirt melt pattern). Prin tiptoed across it without so much as a second glance, and Crest easily followed suit...until he realized what he was standing on. Crest's mind went into COMPLETE PANIC mode. But, being that he was on ice, he realized (Thank GOODNESS) that he couldn't scramble, or he'd hurt himself. At this point, I thought it best to get off, and I'm REALLY GLAD I did, because what happened next scared the ever-living out of me. Crest's entire body got tense, and then, he basically collapsed in on himself. I watched him as he did it, he was very careful, and folded his legs up and lay down in a way that wouldn't hurt himself, but then he just stayed there, on the ground, totally tense, and WOULD NOT move.

That's all I'm going to share for now (fear not, Crest is fine save a few surface abrasions from the gravel) because I want to get onto my point. This was such a bizarre experience, because number one, I've never seen a horse get so scared they'd lie down, and number two, I've NEVER seen Crest go catatonic before, so I emailed a couple instructors, wondering what I could have done, and bluntly put, one response really sent me for a loop. I'll let you make the judgment call on it (I'm not at all offended, but am fascinated by how to progress, now)

"You're going to hate (or love) my answer. As his leader you should never have put him in that position. You need to assess the situation and know if it's something you should ask him to do that won't compromise his self confidence or confidence in you.

You handled it well, but in the future savvy means never having to create the problem in the first place. Okay... that's Level 3+, so it's not a judgement but as you are studying that level it is important you know. If you could have done it better you would have... chalk it up to a learning experience and the key then is not to relive it... you'll know better next time. Otherwise it was not a learning experience :)"

Anyway, that sent me into a frenzy of thought (yes, sounds dangerous, I know!) especially since that little skeptic in me said "So wait, how is being a good leader any different than 'showing the horse who's boss'?" So that got me thinking about how I might explain that to a traditional rider who asked that question. Here's what I came up with. A "boss" pushes without an allow. The persona is "I'm in charge, and you'll do what I say, deal with it." Whereas a good leader guides without pressure unless it is appropriate, and causes other to WANT to follow.

It was kind of a strange train of thought, my brain tends to segue a lot, so if you didn't get that, I apologize.

Anyway, That's that for now.


wildmagic said...

wow. How very interesting! To think that he laid down just blows my mind away!
As for the response from the instructor, that makes a lot of sense. BUT hind sight is 20-20, there is no way you could have know he would act like that. I guess this is one of those live and learn type of things.
Funny cause now my mind of going a hundred miles a minute pondering the whole leadership thing as well lol
Im glad to hear Crest did not get too hurt.


Renee said...

Hmm, I took it more as a "know when not to go there". Crest had trouble with the ice in the paddock, so maybe we should have left him back and grabbed Nugget.

So, perhaps I just read it differently. But I took it as a lesson in setting things up for success.

Oh well. Crest is okay, and that's the main thing.

Fran said...

Interestingly enough, Crest wouldn't cross the ice back into his paddock, even after we put wood ash down and had fed the other horses. We actually had to take a shovel to it and chip it up before he'd cross it.

Farrah had some good ideas for getting him to gain confidence on the ice, though, because obviously not all of us are blessed with the luxury of moving south for 6 months of the year. I'll play with that some and report back how it goes, though we don't have as much ice now that it's covered with 8 inches of snow...