Lying in a ditch bottom learning about kids!

Lessons finally learned!

Horses. They teach you a lot about educating kids.

I’m not suggesting kids are animals or anything. It’s just through my own horse I learned a lot. In particular; how my behaviour matters.

At the time of being a naive young teacher I was also coping with a manic horse. A massive, heavyweight, madcap full of the energy and power of a coiled spring. He was mental enough to shy at daisies and was addicted to speed. I was as effective as a gnat on his back. Controlling him was akin to containing a bottle of shaken cola without a lid.

After many crashing falls and uncontrollable bolting more terrifying than a roller coaster going off the rails I knew I had to do something different.

And that was the lesson; I had to change my behaviour because I was not going to control this maniac by strength or by force. I had to find other ways. And I realised then; it’s the same with kids.

Many an adult, parent or teacher resorts to force to manage children. Sometimes it’s blatant. More often it’s subversive and subtle, like snide put downs or inappropriate use of position. Throwing of weight about. It goes on a lot in schools and basically it’s bullying, even if we think we do it out of care. Because actually, we would choose a different way to behave if the child was bigger than us!

My horse was bigger than me. But I had to win him over if we were both going to live long enough to enjoy one another. I had to understand him better. Understand why he did what he did. See if changing my approach would make him trust me more.

That’s the key; trust. And that’s all part of respect.

If kids respect and trust you then they generally want to cooperate. To get that trust you really have to ask; is my behaviour worthy?

Early lessons in horsemanship and, bizarrely, in teaching too advocated being the Boss. Most people interpreted that to mean you need a bullying or authoritarian manner. Many parents adopt that approach as well.

The daft thing is; you get to be the Boss with kids by not being bossy. Instead, by being understanding and trustworthy in your behaviour.

I learned that the painful way thanks to my magnificent horse. I managed to gain his trust enough, with calm consistent behaviour, to get him past daisies without jumping in ditches or bolting off. I also learned that I did not have to resort to bullying kids in classrooms, or when home educating, to get them to cooperate. Respect worked better. And we enjoyed each other more.

Much later I discovered the work of Monty RobertsThe Man Who Listens To Horses. He also learned about parenting and working with young people through horses and went on to write Horse Sense For People in which he talks about some of those lessons. It’s an inspiring read – he’s an inspiring man. He too advocates a non-bullying, non-violent approach to relationships.

So I’m passing this onto you in case you don’t have a horse around to toss you in a ditch bottom so you can learn it too!


10 thoughts on “Lying in a ditch bottom learning about kids!

  1. Pingback: The joy and the terror! | Ross Mountney's Notebook

  2. Fantastic post, Ross! And thanks for pointing out the Monty Roberts book, thought he only wrote about horses. Strange that people still think the best way to treat children and/or animals is by using force instead of adopting the principle of treating them as you would wish to be treated.
    Love hearing about your horse.

    • Thank you Joy. My horse was a hugely influential part of my life through which I learnt and grew so much – well, you’d have guessed by now that everything I do seems to relate to learning! BWs

  3. I love this post too, I really identify with it. I have often thought about the link between my way of thinking about riding and natural horsemanship and the fact that we decided to home educate our little boy! I’m sure there is a link.

  4. I absolutely love this piece! I know exactly what you mean about horses. When my son was two, he liked to go on a hack at the stables down the road. Of course, being so little he had to be led by one of the stable girls and I would walk at the side. There was a chestnut mare who was notorious for biting. She was beautiful but not many wanted to ride her. I always requested her. The reason was, I would walk by her head and talk in a loving voice to her all the way along the road. She was in horse heaven, you could see it in the way she walked. She never once attempted to bite us. It is the same with children, in fact, I would say it is the same with everybody. I have a simple rule – I treat everybody the way I would like to be treated. Granted, it doesn’t work with everybody but most people respond accordingly. I love your words of wisdom so keep writing them for us.

  5. Love it! What a nice share. I’ll be passing on the wisdom of your words and experiences. ps. Ever heard of bitless bridles? Check out – I think they are called Nurturals.

    • Thanks for your nice words Marilyn. x Yea – I loved the idea of bitless bridles. Sadly this is all in the past; after having the old boy for over twenty five years I lost him quite a few years ago now. But never forgotten our time together which taught me so much and made me the person I am today. x

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