Problems Are Not The Problem, Coping Is The Problem. Virginia Satir

Today's training session was disastrous. You have no idea how bad it was. Last week Wednesday was the last day I actually trained for the first show including flying changes. After that, he did a bit of freejumping on Thursday and lost one of his shoes on Friday a week ago. Without it, I kept the training for the last week a little light, just  enough to keep him trained.

Yes, we can see the problem. And yes, we can cope with it.

It seems that within that 10 days, I completely forgot the aids for changes. At least, Hafl did not show any motivation whatsoever to show a flying change. He was simply doing nothing. And I did something, I really don't know what I actually did. Still, I am super proud of myself today. Why? Because I coped with the problem in a completely different manner than I am used to.

What I would have done normally: start to think about ourselves of never ever being able to really ride the changes. That we are simply not good enough. No, we should not even be here. I was never that kind of person to blame others let alone the horse for problems. Okay, we rode them for the first time this year in the outdoor arena but come on, he is not the type for being afraid or distracted by noises, people, leaves or anything else. So why should there be a difference to the indoors? Blaming the horse can never be an option. I am pretty sure he simply did not get the idea today. He had a feeling because sometimes he did, at least, SOMETHING but it was not like him going: no way I am not doing anything today. Actually, the trot work was great. I mean really good. He even showed four piaffe steps. Real ones. No kidding. He felt soft and connected, easy. He did all the lateral work, he showed great walk pirouettes. He was not at all unwilling.

So when you face a problem, you have the choice how to cope with the problem. And it is perfectly true: the problem itself is not the problem, it is the way how you cope with it. What are the possible ways then?

I found a very good explanation in Inga Wolframm's Perfect Mind: Perfect Ride. Researchers found out that people choose how to cope with problems not only depending on the situation but also on how they dealt with the problem in the past. One can divide coping in two styles and two strategies. Either you want to avoid or approach the problem (style) and you are either emotion- or problem focused (strategy). 



Nice to have a chart to choose from, isn't it? But not all strategies do always make sense. Short term, it might not matter. Long term, running from problems is definitely not appropriate anymore. I used to get angry or even cry. Only a few years ago, I was devastated once I did not get things right. Wanting to quit everything, not seeing the smallest chance of things getting better. Jap, been there seen that. And even though I did get better, in the back of my head I always thought: not going to make it, let's cry. And then run.

What changed? I do not know why and how and when it changed but after the ride today, I asked myself the question what I did wrong. I gave myself the answer that I was not secure enough in my aids and told myself to go home and practice changes in my apartment (admit it, you have done them too along the aisle). And then I was fine. No anger, no "I want to quit everything" and "We will never make it", a simple: okay, that was a bad day, let's give it another try tomorrow (after I have done endless changes at home - sorry neighbors, I cannot help it). 

The problem-focused approach makes you think about the problem in an analytical way. Sure, you need to be honest, mostly honest to yourself (You suck girl, you forgot the aids for flying changes) which is not always easy. Once you can do that though, growth can happen. 

It took me (not really) forever to change this way of thinking, but I can tell you, it feels much better this way. After I had a small dinner, I trained my flying changes. And all of them were perfect. Okay, could have been a little bit more uphill but for God's sake, they were one-tempis...




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