Training on your own is like working in a laboratory, where you have the freedom to experiment within the boundaries of proven training principles.
I’ve been working in my liberty laboratory - my ‘lib lab’ - a lot lately to investigate training at liberty with multiple horses. Because I believe that the more I can understand a horse’s brain, the better I can train.
Now in my lab I’ve been experimenting and therefore I also made ‘mistakes’. So sometimes my approach was working, sometimes it didn’t, sometimes I had all horses nicely lined up, sometimes I ‘lost’ a horse. Or one of them didn’t understand what I meant. Or one horse put much more effort into the task than the other two. So I had to figure out how to get all minds aligned to the task.
Trail and error
Now when training on your own, ‘trial and error’ is a fundamental approach of solving ‘problems’ that will arise along the way. Because there’s nobody there to give you any advice when ‘issues’ arise in your lab. Only the horses are there to give you feedback. But you’ll learn a lot from the ‘mistakes’ you make along the way when you listen to the feedback of your horses. So don’t blame the horses when something goes ‘wrong’, but be thankful for their feedback so you can season your communication skills 😉
With the ‘trial & error’ approach you start working with proven concepts, but along the way you have to fill in the details, so you have to be very aware what’s working and what’s not working. And then you just keep and repeat what’s working and you skip what’s not working.
Inside out solutions
Of course you can ask your instructor for advice when an issue pops up, you can ask him/her for a turnkey ‘outside in’ solution. However, the importance of the ‘errors’ in combination with being left on your own is that it will guide you to find a solution from the ‘inside out’. When deeply experienced from the ‘inside out’, you’ll never forget the lesson.
Remember Antoine de Pluvinel (1552 – 1620), the Grandmaster who educated the French kings. He said that a good instructor doesn’t talk much and a good instructor waits to see if the student can solve the problem on his own without any additional advice. So already he knew that a good instructor mainly gives the concepts, and that the student has to figure out the details. He believed that practical experience from the ‘inside out’ shaped a student better than spoon fed ‘outside in’ advice. And it’s true, too much advice and support weaken a student. It puts him on ‘remote control’, like a puppet on a string, he stops thinking.
Therefore, ‘trial and error’ is an invaluable part in our learning process, because it makes us find hidden lessons and it leads us to ‘inside out’ solutions and that makes us a better horse trainer.
4 Steps to figure out a solution
The four steps to figure out a solution when you are on your own in your lab are:
(y) 1. Decide what you want
(y) 2. Take action
(y) 3. Notice what's working or not
(y) 4. Change your approach until you achieve what you want, using whatever the horse gives you along the way.
Now if your new plan of action failed, if your new approach is not working, change it again until you find the solution.
Because remember Einstein’s definition of insanity 😉 : doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
He also says “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.
And Henry Ford said: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."
So you have to change your approach!
When something happens you don’t want, you have to study your horse, yourself, your body language, your intention, and the interaction and energy between you and your horse, so you can define cause and effect and change your approach.
To come up with a better approach, you could ask yourself:
- What did I do right before the issue occurred?
- How was my intention?
- My energy?
- My body language?
- What did I failed to do right before the issue occurred?
- How can I use this information?
- What can I learn from this situation so it will never happen again?
- What do I need to change?
- How can I turn things around?
So you have to be an investigator in your lab. You have to be very much in a ‘figuring out’ state, as we call it in ST. And no matter what issue you have, everything is figuroutable 😉 Always stay curious when something goes ‘wrong’, learn from your ‘mistakes’, just figure out cause and effect and by changing your approach you’ll find the solution.