Managing Expectations... How horses can encourage us to be better humans.
While it’s important for everyone to have basic requirements in their relationships, some of your expectations can be extremely unrealistic and lower your chance of enjoying happy relationships. This is true for everything in your life; be it related to work, family, significant others, friends, and horses.
"In the case of uncertainty, expectation is an event that considered the most likely to happen. An expectation, which is a belief that is centered on the future, may or may not be realistic. A less advantageous result gives rise to the emotion of disappointment. If something happens that is not at all expected, it is a surprise. An expectation about the behavior or performance of another person, expressed to that person, may have the nature of a strong request, or an order; this kind of expectation is called a social norm. The degree to which something is expected to be true can be expressed using fuzzy logic."
I'm going to back up a minute here and explain how horses fit into this essential life lesson a little more personally. I went through a pretty rough divorce last year, and after some time of being single, I signed up for the ever-hilarious dating app world. This was my chance to reinvent myself! To have the exact man that I wanted! A ground-shaking, amazing relationship that I could brag about to all my friends! To experience happiness like never before! I'm going to find someone that sends me flowers and love notes every day, takes me to fancy dinners, surprise me with expensive gifts and vacations.... on and on and on. There I go, already setting unrealistic expectations on these unassuming guys in my DM's.
I have already doomed every single relationship I could ever hope to be in by setting myself up for extreme disappointment, and in turn, resentment towards my significant other. But WHY didn't you send me flowers today? WHY do I not have a gift from you? WHY are we not experiencing amazing cuisine every single night? Date after date, guy after guy, I would decide to not text them back after the first date because it was not exactly like the vision I had in my head. I could have been taken out by a pretty amazing guy, but because of my unrealistic expectation list, I quickly turned my head in search of the next one.
Throughout my never-ending quest for the "perfect" man; in steps Ink. He ticks all of the boxes: stunningly beautiful, tall, dark, and handsome gelding that moves like Strapless and jumps with his knees to his eyeballs. It was love at first sight on the video. My brain starts churning out thoughts of how much money I'm going to make on this one, he will fly over, I take him to one show, and sell him for 6 times what I paid for him as an equitation superstar. This is the one I have been waiting for! The one that will pull me out of my financial hole!
As I'm sure you are shaking your head reading this, 'oh here goes Genevieve with her expectations again...'
Ink arrives. I ride him. He is argumentative, refuses to accept my aids, runs through contact, spooks at everything in my ring, I could go on and on and on. After the third ride, I was absolutely 100% ready to be done and write him off. WHY weren't you as easy as you looked on your video? WHY are you not being an equitation horse? WHY are you arguing with me? And, I was riding him like that. Disappointed, frustrated, disheartened, chagrined, I was throwing every single discouragement in the dictionary at him through those reins every ride. I was ready to look for the next one. And he knew it.
Somehow, someway through all of this, I met a guy and he, like the others, was not perfect. But, something about him made me look past all of my unrealistic assumptions. He tried really hard. Throwing off all of my dismissals, my "Jersey attitude", and my unmet expectations. That made me take a hard look at MYSELF. I can't really fully explain it, but one morning I had a life-changing realization that hit me like a ton of bricks. My expectations of men, friends, employees, family, horses, LIFE in general were so unrealistic that all I was leaving myself open to was extreme disappointment. That day, I delved into extensive research about relationships killers... the number one reason why relationships fail is not sex, its not money, its unmet expectations. And me being the horse trainer I am, related all of this into the horses I ride.
I brought my new found knowledge into my next ride on Ink... and let me tell you it was life-changing. I rode him with empathy, with understanding, with appreciation for what he was TRYING to do. It was absolutely the best ride I have ever had on him. By the end, I had a completely different horse. One that was softer, one that tried to understand what I was explaining to him, one that put in as much effort in to the session as I did...
How many of you ride your horses with a laundry list of expectations? How they are supposed to act, how well they are supposed to jump, how many times they are supposed to win? When the horse fails to meet your expectations, are you frustrated? Angry? Upset? Not performing successfully at the level you bought him for? How does this convey to the horse, the being that does not understand your laundry list of expectations? What if you tried to ride them every day with more empathy, with more understanding?
Try it out. Try it out with your horses, with your family, with your significant others. Take a long hard look at your expectation level. Is it really realistic? Be honest with yourself. Are you holding someone or something to a standard they couldn't ever realistically meet? And always let your horses teach you the most important life lessons. Listen to them. They will assist you in discovering things about yourself that you were never even aware of. They will help you become a better human.