Updated: Jun 10, 2018
Success should not be determined by the expectations of others but by the expectations we have set for ourselves.
What I have learned from horses
I was having a conversation this morning and trying to explain why in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), it is important not to stipulate right and wrong. I have been really struggling with how to articulate this concept to my volunteers and others that I have had this discussion with. This morning it occurred to me the explanation is quite simple: by stipulating right and wrong in an EAP session, you are essentially telling your client that your way is right and their way is wrong. This does not build confidence and can set them up for failure. Why? Because their expectation or goal may not be the same as yours. What you presume to be right may not be right for others, and what you presume to be wrong may not be wrong for your client.
Let me explain: a few months ago we worked with a group of kids at a clinic; the kids were instructed to walk their miniature horses through an obstacle course, and for most of the children in the clinic this was an easy task because the horses they had chosen had already been through the obstacle course before. However, there was one child who had chosen a horse who had not only never been through the obstacle course, but the horse had not been handled very much at all and had only been put into the arena with the other horses that morning, right before the clinic. The horse’s lack of familiarity with the tasks he was expected to complete was very apparent as the child approached each of the obstacles with the horse in tow. It was truly inspirational to watch the child persistently try to coerce the horse to complete each of the obstacles without success.
One of the tasks the boy asked the horse to complete consisted of walking the horse across a little wooden bridge, which the horse refused to do. The boy did not give up. Even when everyone one else set down to eat lunch he continued working with the little horse to get him across the bridge. To our disbelief, after what seemed like an hour for those of us watching, the horse finally took a small leap and landed with his two front hooves on the little wooden bridge. The boy’s face lit up like a light bulb and he grinned from ear to ear. You would have thought he just woke up Christmas morning to find a pony under his Christmas tree.
Although the horse never walked across the bridge, the boy was ecstatic over his accomplishment and rejoiced, and we all rejoiced with him. Because he was given the freedom to determine his own success, we set him up for success instead of failure by showing him that success should not be determined by the expectations of others, but by the expectations we set for ourselves.This approach builds confidence!