Monday, January 11, 2016

Growth Mindset Versus Fixed Mindset



I've started a 100 Day Horse Challenge with a local horse group.  The goal is to improve your horse skills through riding and/or training horses, at least 100 days out of the year.  A day in the saddle always counts towards the challenge, but anything else has to demonstrate that you're working toward an objective, rather than just hanging out.  One hundred days doesn't sound like much, but with the slow start I got this month being sick since New Years, I've only been able to log 2 days.

The timing couldn't have been more perfect to start this because I have been reading the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success , and so much of it can relate to teaching our horses.

The book looks at two different ways we think about learning, with a "growth mindset" or a "fixed mindset."  The fixed mindset says, I was born this way.  There is only so much a person can accomplish.  Some people are more gifted than others.

Whereas, the growth mindset says, I can be anything I want to be.  Talented, successful people are only different in that they continue to push themselves, learn, and grow.  And, there is nothing I can't accomplish, I just have to put the work into it.

I've had the growth mindset for a long time, but most of us don't fall completely into one or the other.  My own saying has long been, "The gift is the desire."  In other words, if you have the love of doing something, the desire, it is the gift--the rest is practice and hard work.  That belief inspired me to start piano lessons again at age 34 and take up the guitar this year.  I don't think there's an expiration date on learning something new.  I bristle when I hear someone say, "Oh, they're just gifted at this or that."  It's not true.  There's always a lot of hard work and dedication behind any talent.

The last couple of days, as I've been working with Beautiful Girl, it occurred to me, I have to approach training/teaching my horses with the same growth mindset.  I can't hold the past against them, and I can't assign concrete attributes to them.  For example, instead of saying, "Beautiful doesn't like to be tied."  I need to say "Beautiful needs more practice at standing tied."  Whether it takes a week or a year, it doesn't matter--the fact remains, she can learn to stand tied, but it will take practice.

I'll be writing more about this in the next few posts, especially as it relates to looking at myself and what I need to change when I'm not seeing the growth and progress in my horses' training.

I'll give another quick example, since I almost got kicked in the head yesterday, and it's fresh in my mind.

Beautiful Girl has been on stall rest for about two months and is ready to be reintroduced to the herd.  Unfortunately, however, it's almost like I've brought in a new horse, and when I switched her to a stall near them yesterday, they were all snorting, running, kicking, striking and trying to bite her through the bars.  During that amped-up time frame, I needed to move her to her permanent stall on the same side.

I grabbed the rope and halter and went in to get her, but she didn't stand for me.  Instead, she ran into the stall.  I went into the stall to get her, but she ran back out into the run.  Then, I cornered her, and even though her ears were back and her eyes were glossed over (she was deep into her reactive mind), I approached to throw the rope over her neck.  She left and, while leaving, threw me a kick that was about 5 inches from my face.  My husband even got to witness it.  He asked if I'd like to exit the stall pronto.  But I thought about it and all the many things I had done wrong in a small space of time, and I knew I had to do it right and finish the job.

If A is getting the rope and halter and Z is getting her safely to the other stall, I had tried to go from A to Z leaving out all the other steps. So, I approached her again--she sent the same signals again.  "Like, how dense are you?  Didn't you get my message last time?  Am I going to have to really kick you now?"  

Aside: I truly believe that when a horse wants to kick you, it will.  There are times they will kick out at a fly, or another horse, and get someone by accident, but when it's just you and them and they send out a kick, if they want to land it, they will.  She didn't land it, therefore, I chalked it up to her being deeply afraid in the situation and unwilling to give up her control to me.

I proceeded with approach and withdraw to get her to pay attention to me and lock on and, that time, I respected her body language (not wanting to get kicked in the head), until I got a soft eye and some connection, then I haltered her and took her out for some work on the basics.

Today, I went out to work on tying and picking up her feet and, for a moment, I thought--what if she kicks me in the face?  I was seriously in the fixed mindset for those moments.

But then I thought, No, she is not the same horse right now.  She's not scared.  In fact, it was never her that did anything wrong yesterday--it was ME.  I had done everything wrong, while she was just being a normal horse.  All horses run, buck, kick, bite, strike, and eat hay.  It's up to us to know how to be around them and safely interact.

I picked up her feet and then spent a long time brushing and braiding her hair.  It was a lovely morning.  (And, I didn't get kicked in the face.)


Beautiful's mane is much lighter than when she was a young filly.  It used to be jet black, but now it's this light gray.

 Very girly.




I went out to see Leah and Cowboy this morning while they were eating, and both of them left the hay bale to come see me.  That was normal for Cowboy, but big progress for Leah.  She has tuned into me!  What a difference.  I feel like we have a relationship now.




23 comments:

  1. I love this! I've been kind of in a rut with my horsemanship for a while, and I'm just working on waking up. It doesn't help that my closest horse buddy is a paranoid naysayer. I CAN and I WILL. :) I'm going to start getting together with some other horse people as soon as I can ge my trailer out of my driveway. In the mean time, there's plenty to do at home!

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    1. Andrea, you should do the 100 day challenge with us. The group is on Facebook--really, you can live anywhere. It's a closed group, but you just have to request membership. "On Horseback". Maybe you're already a member?

      Yes, you CAN, and yes, YOU WILL! Come up and ride with me, girl.

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    2. I'll go chemck it out, thanks! I'd love to come ride with you, if I can afford the diesel... We're looking at some tight times ahead. But I love riding at Riverside.

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    3. I'll go chemck it out, thanks! I'd love to come ride with you, if I can afford the diesel... We're looking at some tight times ahead. But I love riding at Riverside.

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    4. It's called "By Horseback" I had that wrong.

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  2. I love this! I've been kind of in a rut with my horsemanship for a while, and I'm just working on waking up. It doesn't help that my closest horse buddy is a paranoid naysayer. I CAN and I WILL. :) I'm going to start getting together with some other horse people as soon as I can ge my trailer out of my driveway. In the mean time, there's plenty to do at home!

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  3. I almost didn't recognize Beautiful in the pics! She's gotten lighter! She's like 9 now isn't she?

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    1. She has lightened up tremendously. I think you're right, she is getting ready to turn 9. She has come a long way and has already carried a saddle and had me on her, but I didn't finish from there. This is my year.

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  4. Thanks for my horse fix for the day. I had horses. Now I don't and miss them every day.

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    1. Gail, that would be tough. I feel for you. Stop by anytime and talk horses.

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  5. What a great post and I love how you handled the situation. And I think that her braids are very pretty. I love all the colours of her mane. One day Carmen's will be the same I think.

    I also like that idea of the 100 day challenge.

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    1. Teresa, if you're on Facebook, you can join the group, too. Or, just do it from your blog. Join in.

      Your braiding is outstanding, Btw. Is it common for mares to lose the black in their manes?

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    2. It's on Facebook at "By Horseback"

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  6. I think about this a lot. Horses have good days and bad days. If everyone gave up on her horse after a bad day, horses would end up extinct because nobody would want them. And, of course, their behaviors get better with handling, worse without handling. We have a huge influence on our horses. The last several times I've tried to work with Bombay, he's been over the top excited. Too hot to handle at the age of 18 despite all of his past training and handling. If anything out of his normal routine happens, he flips out. I guess horses can have a fixed or a growth mindset too.

    I try to stay away from goals and challenges regarding the horses simply because I'm already frustrated enough about all the obstacles that get in the way of me being able to work with the horses regularly. I don't want to add to the stress. I'm going in the opposite direction of telling myself that it is okay if I can't, because I've already accomplished so much with them. I'm not giving up. I'm just helping myself relax. And each time I work with Bombay, I tell myself that he is perfectly capable of relaxing as well.

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    1. It sounds like your challenge is avoiding challenges. Lol. It seems like you're always working with your horses. Just enjoying them and relaxing is perfect. I go through periods like that, too. I feel my biological clock ticking as I approach 50. It's making me feel like I have to take advantage of every minute. Probably a stage.

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  7. That feeling when they leave their meal to come for a scratch behind the ears... warm & fuzzy.

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  8. Great post Linda! It's true that if you have a fixed mindset there's not a whole lot you feel you can accomplish if you're down on yourself for one reason or another. I like the growth mindset much better. If you can push the envelope a little further each time you definitely can accomplish more and feel better about everything you do.

    The 100 day challenge sounds like a great idea. I'm not on Facebook so I couldn't join. I actually don't know if I'd have the time to do 100 days a year but I'd love to. Every now and then I could use some motivation or a good kick in the pants to get on and ride. It's been hard since Dusty is gone. She was my go to horse for everything. I still miss her. Love the braid, it's gorgeous.

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    1. You can do the 100 day Challenge with me, if you'd like. You don't need that FB group. I'm not really doing anything with them. Join me!

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    2. Thanks for the invitation Linda. I could maybe start this weekend. In the meantime I'm painting the kitchen and haven't any time until Saturday to work with Blue. I'll let you know when I start the challenge. Thanks again for the motivation.

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  9. Yeah, this experience and the following day, especially were great reminders. And we all need them! Beautiful is just beautiful!! :) I love her mane colors, and those braids are just lovely. Bet she just got all relaxed and doe-eyed while you were fussing with her hair. I know I would. Great post!

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    1. Yeah, we all need reminders now and then. I took her for granted and was working with the horse I thought she should be, rather than who she really was at that moment. Poor Beautiful.

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Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.