My black quarter horse mare, April is challenging my leadership skills today. I’m asking for what should be a very simple action; go around on the lunge line in a walk, trot and lope. When going around I want her to tip her head slightly to the inside of the circle facing me. Instead she wants to travel with her head turned to the outside of the circle away from me.
No matter how many times I pull her head into the circle she pulls it back to the outside, resisting my leadership. She has a long slim neck and can easily turn her head to the inside if she chooses. But instead she faces me only if I use force her and then immediately turns away as soon as I release the pressure.
We play her game of resist, pull and give in to the pressure for the next 15 minutes and I find that my patience is waning and my temper getting the best of my leadership abilities.
Slowing myself down and regaining my patience I use my problem solving skills and check to see if April has any physical problems that would keep her from doing her job. Once I’ve checked her back, legs, neck and body for any sensitivity, I decide there’s no physical reason for her to turn her head out when it should be turned in.
So why is she resisting this simple task? If there’s no physical reason, it’s entirely in her mind.
We continue our pull and resist and I decide it’s time to get more creative. Attaching a lead rope to the side ring on her halter I pull it just tight enough to force her to turn her head to the inside.
She immediately braces her neck setting up resistance in her face and body. Rather than settling down and giving to the pressure of the rope she pulls hard and fast jerking it out of my hand. Jumping after her I grab the end of the lunge line before she runs away with it. In a panic April resists fast and furious and stops just short of going over backwards.
Because I don’t want to turn this into a clash of wills and set us both up for failure I determine to quit for today. My leadership strategy is push and then back off to give her some space, keeping in mind my end goal rather than the skirmish of the day. Pushing her too far past her comfort zone only makes for more delay in achieving that goal.
It’s time to give her some release so I untie the rope and walking slightly to her side and rear I keep her moving by applying body pressure. Asking her to trot and then lope, her body shows me she is still resisting but at least she’s moving.
A few minutes and she’s beginning to relax but I can see it’s going to take several days of this before she’s ready to turn her face to the inside of the circle without coaxing and working her into it.
Having met our goal for the day I inwardly review the steps that I’ve taken with April to get her past her mind resistance.
1.As her leader I determine if the resistance is in her mind or body
2.Since it’s her mind that’s in resistance mode I physically put her into a position where she’s safe but that forces her to move in the right frame
3.I insist that she move around by applying pressure to her hind quarters but I don’t push her beyond what she can mentally handle. Instead I push her just enough – then back off giving her space
4.Next I repeat the process calmly and consistently until we have reached our goal for the day. The way to get her through her resistance is to lead her through it safely but insistently and consistently.
Just as with April, our leadership of individuals may require the same process. The person may have all the skills and abilities they need to perform a role but feelings of fear and uncertainty can cause them to resist and freeze up.
They are physically and mentally capable but their mind is in resistance mode. The feelings of resistance are neither good nor bad but just feelings. It’s important to use appropriate leadership strategies to help them push through their resistance rather than allow it to control them. Determine a leadership strategy that gives them a step by step process to overcome their resistance and reach a successful conclusion.
Copyright (c) 2008 Jean Starling