Motivation is really just energy in the form of desire. If we can build energy and convert it to desire or even inspiration, We can create Motivation. Whether it be we are motivating ourselves, someone else or our horses. Many of us have no problem building energy. That's the easy part. Making sure it doesn't turn into anxiety or inhibition is where the difficulty is. Energy that is misunderstood causes worry or concern. This causes anxiety and inhibition. Even massive amounts of energy, as long as it is clear and understood, will guide and encourage and lead to desire. Inspiring desire with guidance is very strong motivation.
I chose this topic for my own personal reasons. I write this Blog to help others but for me its a way to dig into a subject to find facts and better understanding on things that have come up with me or someone I am working with at the time. Sometimes, I use it as a way to keep things fresh in my mind during times that are slow and I don't have as many customers coming for lessons and classes to keep things fresh. This time of year things slow way down, so I have to work hard at Motivating myself. Motivation is something we all need to help keep us going. It is an important factor in life. Without it we feel as though we really have no purpose. We become lazy. Its important for us to find motivation daily.
Everyone is slightly different when it comes to what motivates them. For me, my biggest motivator is knowing I am doing something worth while. If I get to feeling like its a useless cause, or nobody really cares, then I lose motivation. I am sure I'm not alone. Just by writing this I feel like I am doing something worthy for myself and anyone who may read it. therefore its motivating to me. I hope it is for you as well.
Other motivations can be from expectations of others, we may be financially motivated, we can be motivated by fear of something happening, we can be motivated through inspiration, wanting to finish something, or being a part or something may motivate us. I'm sure there are many more.
In Horsemanship, we not only need to be motivated, we need to find ways to motivate. For me to motivate is to inspire and encourage. To inspire creates desire and drive. To encourage builds confidence. If we are confident, we are more motivated to try. If we have desire, drive and confidence, there is nothing that can stop us from doing whatever we are trying to accomplish. I said above, doing something worth while is encouraging for me so this is how I like to motivate. By offering a task that has purpose to the horse, it will motivate them and encourage them. I feel it builds desire. This example may have a half a dozen or more stages to it before it gets to the end result. Mainly because they may not understand it all, they may not have confidence, or have a low self esteem in the beginning. But having a purpose and a reason for being is very motivating. So be sure to give purpose to your tasks, it will surely help with motivation.
There are many ways people try to motivate a horse. They fall into 2 simple groups. Positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Basically positive reinforcement lets them know when they did something right and negative reinforcement lets them know they did something wrong. There are many techniques out there. Some of them use both positive and negative at the same time. Some times, if your not aware of all the variables, Positive reinforcement can have a negative effect and negative reinforcement can have a positive effect. Having a better understanding of things will help you through this.
Positive reinforcement is the preferred method and by far the best use of motivation in Horsemanship. Done properly it is a great way to work. Its encouraging, its builds trust, confidence, and understanding for what we want. But I have to say, I see a lot of positive reinforcement that really makes a mess of things. What many people don't understand is, that we can positively reinforce the try right out of a horse. Or in some cases, positively reinforce bad behavior. I see it all the time. We need to be careful of this. If we reward a try, that's positive reinforcement. If we never advance, holding them to a higher standard as we progress, then they learn to just do the bare minimum. Any time your horse gets nervous and you try to reassure them, you are reassuring their nervousness. Every time you use food as a positive reinforcement to trick your horse to be caught, you are reassuring that they really can't trust you. Treats as reward if done properly are fine, but as trickery you lose points. Even though it works.
Asking a horse to do a job is a form of Positive reinforcement and a great way to motivate. It gives them purpose and reason to respond once they know what its all about. Knowing they are doing something worth while puts their mind towards a worthy cause and away from fear and inhibitions. As I said above, they may not have the confidence at first. But with encouragement and guidance their confidence will come.
Negative reinforcement is commonly used as well. Even though it has some benefits, I think it should be a last resort use. Example. Some people will instantly whack a horse for trying to bite them. Understandably I guess. But there are ways to do this positively without whacking. Like, ask them to do something that gets them to move their mouth away from you, like side pass or turn on the haunches, then reward them for doing it. If you are clear about how close their mouth can come to you, they won't try to bite. You maintain leadership and gain respect. A real persistent horse may not get it and then, "Last resort" you whack them. But give them plenty of time to learn what you do want first. Negative reinforcement works but just like tricking with food, you lose trust. If you have to do it more than one time, you need to reevaluate your process.
Anytime I feel that I need to make a correction, I like to do what I call "Redirect and Reward" This is a form of using Positive and Negative reinforcement at the same time. By saying, "No, don't do that, do this instead" I find this to be a great way to motivate and redirect unwanted energy and behavior. If we have a bunch of things that our horse can do and do well, even when they are misbehaving. Then we always have something we can do to redirect their energy and focus. To me its the best way to turn a negative into a positive. It gives more to encouragement and less to discouragement. It definitely keeps you respected and trusted. Every now and then you will have to make a correction, that is fact. But if we just correct, they may learn, but its negative and discouraging. If we redirect, we create an opportunity to reward, which is positive and encouraging. We create more desire to comply and less desire to misbehave.
Its nice when we get to the point that we can motivate with a simple request. When we are with our horse, riding or what have you. If we have a desire in us and the horse to help each other, then we are both easily motivated. If this is the case then each step and every move is in perfect time with needs and wants from both of us. We are connected through thoughts, needs and desires. Everything feels seamless. Motivations just happens. No need to ever think about it.
Thanks again for reading along. I hope you enjoyed it and find it Motavating.