Validation Part 2: Seeking External Validation
From the Right Places
In the last blog post, I mused about the need we as riders have for external validation of our riding skills from instructors and other riders. As discussed in the last blog post, we can seek external validation in many ways, one of the most common being attention seeking from others. An example of seeking this type of external validation is the posting of photos of you, your horse, and winning ribbons on social media. The sole point of posting such photos is to send a message “hey, look what I did” and then read the congratulatory messages from friends. If we were not seeking external validation, we might have the photo taken but we wouldn’t feel the need to show it to everyone.
But what if we sought our external validation from a more meaningful place?
Riding is an equal partnership between horse and rider. So, what would it mean if instead of seeking external validation from our friends, we instead sought it from our horse? What if at the end of a show when we make a social media post about how happy we are with our horse, we also focused on the question “how happy was my horse with me today?”
Receiving external validation from our horse requires us to become a good listener as we ride. When we apply an aid, we need to listen for the response, not just keep repeating the aid. If you put your legs on your horse to ask her to be more forward with every single stride in her trot, how will you ever know if she responded to your aid? In fact, soon she most definitely won’t respond! But if you give the aid, wait for validation from the horse that yes, she understood your clear aid, you will have a horse that is going more forward and has externally validated that you just did a good job.
If your horse is spooking during your class, he is telling you something. Have you been his calm base of support in what is likely a stressful environment for him? Have you ridden focused in each moment giving whatever aids are needed to keep his mind and body attuned to his job and you instead of spooking at the flowers? Is he telling you something else? If your horse jumps a clear round in good time without resistance, that is clear external validation that you did a great job.
When we switch the focus of our outward approval-seeking from other people to the horse we are riding, some wonderful results can occur. We learn more about what our horse needs from us and we deepen the relationship.