Your comfort zone is where you feel good. You can feel like an expert in your comfort zone. That’s a wonderful feeling.
The downside is that you can’t grow inside the boundaries of your own comfort zone. Try something new, something scary. Achieve your equestrian goals, develop yourself as rider or horse trainer.
Accountability partner (AP)
Have you ever heard of an accountability partner (AP)? No? What can he/she do for you, you might ponder?
An AP is someone with who you can share your equestrian dreams, who helps you define your goals and who inspires you and helps you to accomplish them. I think we all need one.
Anyone can be your accountability partner: your instructor, a barn mate or a friend. The difference between a mentor and an AP is that you are mentoring each other. You are equals.
Choose someone who is just as passionate about horses as you are, someone who inspires you, someone who has knowledge and is honest. Honesty is very important because your partner has to tell you what you can do to improve and you have to listen and respect them enough to consider their advice.
There has to be mutual respect. You don’t have to follow his or her ideas all the time, but you do have to listen with an open mind and think his or her advice over. I always encourage people to ask skeptical questions (‘why’ questions), it tickles the mind.
Choose a nice person, someone who can put things into perspective for you. Choose someone with who you can have a good laugh!
Keep your mind open
Ideas about horse behaviour or training with which you grew up with, might not be accurate anymore. Don’t take any information at face value, because ‘your instructor told you’ or someone ‘who has been in the horse business all their lives’.
Knowledge regarding horse behaviour, horse welfare and training has evolved in the last decades. Don’t be afraid to learn and take on new ideas! This can be a bit confronting sometimes, but the up-side is: the advice of your AP is meant to help you and to accomplish your goals.
Stepping outside your comfort zone (or being pushed outside it), can feel awkward in the beginning. But I promise you: it is worth it!
I can’t find someone!
If it is hard to find someone at your barn because there is nobody who shares your training method or way of thinking, find a person or a group on the internet. Use Facebook or Meetup.com to find like minded people who can challenge you, and with whom you can share your success stories too.
I created a platform for equine positive reinforcement trainers in the Lower Mainland, BC, Canada. It’s called The Happy Herd, a place where clicker trainers can share their goals, tips, feel-good stories and ask for advice.
I organize monthly meetings so we all know each other personally. This group works great as great accountability partner. Create your own Happy Herd if you don’t know anybody (yet) who can be your AP.
Work towards a goal
With an accountability partner your progress can double or even triple. Agree to visit each others horse once a month so you can show what you’ve been working on, ask questions and enjoy your time with someone who is really interested in your success.
With an accountability partner you have to work on your goals with your horse. You don’t want to disappoint him or her or tell them that you didn’t work on any of your goals, right?
I had an AP in The Netherlands and we visited each others barns once a month. Sometimes I only practised a few days before my accountability partner was visiting me and Kyra.
It always surprised me how much progress I could accomplish in just a few clicker training sessions if I set my mind to it. Without her I wouldn’t have trained so much little things and wouldn’t have achieved so many small goals.
These small steps are now merged into big achievements, like a happy horse that trailers well, a horse that is started under saddle with clicker training, a horse that can perform almost all lateral gaits in walk and trot and so on.