Cups of tea

For the second session of camp, my horsemanship student cohort increased from one to five.  I have three hours per day teaching horsemanship, and my initial student managed to continue to schedule herself for private lessons – a condition of the campers signing up for the class is that they attend daily, which doesn’t sound hard, but my camp’s schedule is designed to be partially mix and match – and the four newbies were scheduled for a different period during the day.  They weren’t all strictly new: one girl in the class of four had observed a couple of lessons during the first session of camp, and had picked a few things up quickly.

Going from a class of one to a class of four was daunting, and I knew immediately that each of the students having their own horse in the ring simultaneously was a recipe for chaos, if not disaster.  After a few false starts, my boss and I settled on a system: the four campers were paired up, we’d work with two horses per day and they’d switch part way through.  So the horse that each camper had chosen would get used every other day for an hour, and each camper would be learning to work with two horses, thus expanding their experience.

Ultimately, it’s turned out really well, but there was one more hiccough at the beginning.  The class is formed of two girls and two boys.  I knew three of the campers from my time at camp last year, and two of them are challenging kids.  They’re quite friendly in their own quirky way, because they’re peas in a pod.  The other two kids in the class are quite different, but far easier to handle socially: one is very outgoing, confident and charming, whereas the other is quiet but friendly, easy-going and attentive.

I took my boss’s advice regarding the pairings, which we decided upon based on expected skill-level and horse-related experience.  The pairings selected meant that the kids who are friends have been separated.  When the kids swapped over at the designated point during the first session run under this system, one of the quirky kids disappeared back to the barn, leaving me at the arena with the kids and horses still participating, even though I’d stated that the point was so that they could work in teams, observe each other and share ideas or give feedback.

Fortunately, when the class was over, I had time to seek the camper out and establish what the issue was.  I was unsurprised to learn that she found her partner irritating; my Dad and all other NLP practitioners will be unsurprised to hear that it’s a case of, “if you spot it, you’ve got it”, meaning that the issues she identified with her partner are flaws she herself demonstrates.  The interesting part is that, as they are different personalities, they interpret these character traits differently: one person finds it irritating in their partner and cannot see that they too exhibit this behaviour, whereas the other partner was willing to be flexible.

With a full season of camp behind me, I took a deep breath and brokered a negotiation worthy of United Nations membership, proving to myself how far I too have come in a year.  I was assisted by my belief in the subject matter and the format of the class, using powers of persuasion to ask the camper to give things another go.  I spoke carefully to the other camper and held my breath during the following session, crossing various appendages for the class to run smoothly.  Thankfully, no further negotiations or heart to hearts were necessary, and the remainder of the sessions progressed well.

The campers and their personalities managed to figure things out, and the horses in return have responded well.  For my next trick?  Managing the dynamic as it changes again when one person leaves camp for the summer and the others remain to work with their equine partners and continue their journey with me.  Watch this space…

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