Horsey Therapist

Friday, October 24, 2008

Teaching and differences

It is interesting how much overlap there is between teaching people with disabilities, teaching horses, and teaching 'normal' people who are handling and riding horses. I guess it's all on some strange continuum perhaps related to brain size, potential for complex thinking, and access to frontal lobe/thinking brain.

The ones with less ability to access their thinking brain in 'normal' ways -- and those would be the humans with 'disabilities' (the humans with VERY different ways of thinking and communicating) and the horses -- draw out more patience, curiosity, determination, and creativity in order for me to feel some satisfaction in my chosen role as instructor, trainer, consultant, etc. I am not one to feel OK about saying the same thing over and over again in hopes something will sink in (although key principles certainly don't change).

I have learned to do a sort of triage when teaching (although I have not before put this into words). I may not ever be able to help a rider's ankle mobility for example, if that rider has cerebral palsy, but within the limits of safety, I can help that rider feel more balanced, more in tune with and in charge of their horse despite limitations of body position and flexibility.

So that experience might in turn influence my focus with a 'normal' rider. (And please know, I'm not convinced there is a 'normal'!) If my effort to influence position of body parts for example is not resulting in a change, I will focus on something else so the rider CAN succeed and will at least feel good about the learning process, and hopefully I can also help the rider make some changes and be better able to influence their horse to do what the rider wants to be doing.

And that will also influence my approach with a horse. Perhaps I need to adjust my focus today to fit what the horse is ready to do today, rather than force my agenda and perhaps get X or Y accomplished but without that 'I'm OK with what we're doing' feeling that is an ingredient I highly value.

I find I have to be in an open-minded creative mindset or else I miss a learning opportunity -- mine OR my student's. For example with a rider with autism -- and no two are alike at all except for the umbrella generalization that they will perceive the world and communicate about their perceptions in ways that surprise, puzzle, and amaze me -- like with a horse, I consider it my job to find how to communicate successfully. The horse left on its own is not likely to come asking me how to be more balanced when doing a turn on the hindquarters, nor is a person with autism likely to come ask me for anything, much less instruction in something foreign and perhaps even a bit frightening.

And with these two 'sorts' -- horses and riders with autism -- I must keep refining what I notice so I can more accurately perceive their communications that come either spontaneously or in response to something I have expressed. No big surprise to many, this ability for anyone or any horse to be communicating very clearly -- according to their perceptions -- while OUR reception of their communication is usually impaired.

I would say the same thing for 'normal' students. When communications are not happening as we would expect (I say ABC, rider understands ABC and proceeds to attempt ABC versus I say ABC, rider understands ACF and proceeds to attempt AFG), then something, somewhere in the communication system is not working. I tend to start with me and what I might change -- words I chose, checking what the student understood of my instruction, etc. Then I wonder about the rider's current state and if anything (like emotions, internal monologues, etc.) is preventing access to listening, absorbing, acting on new input.

When that is the case -- for example with a 'normal' rider who has residual fear from a past relationship (could be a fall of this horse, could be a disruption from a human relationship that messes up the ability to be assertive and clear without emotion, etc.) -- and thanks to my professional clinical experience, I will open the door for us to air out some of the subterranean stuff that is interfering. Of course not all riders are open to this, but the ones who continue to ask for lessons with me have learned that this is part of what they get. I am not interested in helping a rider who refuses to acknowledge that the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual aspects we bring to our equine relationships are very important. Admittedly, this may not be a conversation we have in the first few lessons, however when I hear riders express frustration or anger at themselves or their horses, I respond to that, not just their balance, their posture, their timing, etc.


At 25 October, 2008 08:01, Anonymous Dr. Sanford Aranoff said...

Communication is the key. One must understand horses. And one must understand how students think. See "Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better" on amazon.

At 25 October, 2008 08:54, Blogger LJB said...

I usually do not allow comments like Dr. Aranoff's as I suspect there is software available for promoters who want to 'search' blogs and leave messages that benefit their sales.

Because Dr. Aranoff's comment appeared in line with my blog entry, I allowed it... before I went to to see more about his book on teaching.

Live and learn. Research first, decide about comment later. That is my lesson for today. From the visible excerpts of his book, it appears to be geared toward high school math teachers.

So how does the person who found my blog entry (based on the word "teaching" I assume) know to say something about horses? Perhaps a live person is involved, not just a computer generated comment. Or maybe the computer generating software is more sophisticated than I had imagined!

Dr. Aranoff -- are you there to explain yourself? Come out, come out, wherever you are!


Post a Comment

<< Home