Friday, August 8, 2008

Use Your Mirrors - Part I

I miss riding.

I mean really, I can handle it. I'll probably start riding bareback in three weeks, after I get my checkup x-rays to make sure everything's still healing right. Mom has gotten me several horse books to read in the meantime, and I'm getting some good ideas. I just...miss riding, in the way that you miss things when you can't have them. I'll go out to the barn soon to give my mom some lessons, though. I've been practicing my loud-whistle and I'm making some progress, so maybe soon I can work on teaching McKinna to come at the whistle! Or I could just go buy a dog-training whistle.

Okay, the much-anticipated (or so I'm told) explanation of My Talk at Leadership Camp.

First, a little bit about camp: it's a leadership camp for marching band. There's four different tracks. One for the drum majors, who conduct the band musically and usually serve as student leaders, aka the step between students and staff; one for the section leaders, who are the leadership corps under the drum majors as they lead their section (trumpets, flutes, drumline, etc) in marching and music; one for the color guard, whether they are captain or not; and one for collegiates, who have graduated from high school and then go through more advanced subjects and are pushed harder.

That being said, the message that the camp says really isn't about band, it's about life. Yes, I admit to being very sappy about the subject. It's really hard to describe -- but basically the camp, which usually has around 70 campers, really instills a sense of responsibility in kids, and gives the people that attend some amazing leadership tools. I've used many of them with horses.

The collegiate campers this year (of which I was one, since I graduated this year) were asked to give a seminar to the campers. Every night, the camp director and his right-hand-man give leadership seminars -- stories from their lives that illustrate a leadership concept of the camp. So we were asked to give something similar during the day.

Here's mine: the camp concept was, 'The Band is Your Mirror.' I tied this into horses.

This is paraphrased, obviously. I've also given a little more weight to the horse examples -- my talk before was more geared towards bands, since I was at a band camp, and thus the horse examples are very simplified; it's more to help support the points I am making to them with my own personal experience, with memorable analogies and key phrases for them to focus on.

Your band is your mirror. They will reflect two things: your emotions and your actions. If you show them consistent leadership through your emotions and actions, they will reflect that back at you; consistent emotions and consistent actions make consistent leadership. The place I learned this, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with band. I learned this from horses, because horses, too, are mirrors.

The first part of your mirror is your emotions. Horses are usually very sensitive to the emotions of their rider; what you project at them, they will reflect in their responses. For example, with my first horse, Bailey, I used to get very angry when things didn't go the way I wanted. He was an ex-racehorse, fresh off the track from a not-so-kind trainer, and almost completely green (untrained). He had a lot of issues, and he was always tense when I rode him. I just could not get him to relax, and I used to get so angry when things weren't going well. Unfortunately, Bailey was very sensitive to my emotions -- and when I got angry, one of two things happened. He might, in the face of my anger, shut down in self-defense. Imagine you're at the first day of band camp, and little Suzie the Freshman Flute Player just doesn't understand the concept of reading drill. She's in the wrong place every time, and it's driving you crazy. But what happens if you blow your temper and yell at her, giving her only anger? Sweet little girl that she is, she'd probably be very quiet, cower, nod, and go home and cry later. She would probably not trust you for quite awhile, even if after that you made every effort to be understanding and kind.

The second thing would happen with Bailey is that he would reflect my anger right back at me by getting frustrated and angry himself. Now, picking a fight with a horse isn't exactly a good idea. I was a 14-year old girl and weighed 110 pounds soaking wet; he was almost ten times my weight. Obviously just as unproductive, if not more, than when he shut down. What if, in your band season, Tommy the Trumpet Player just doesn't have it together and misses his solo six times in a row? Now he's a senior, and your trumpet section leader, and he's been a rock star for you all four years, your best section leader, always solid in the music -- but you get really angry, and you yell at him in front of the whole band to just get his act together and stop messing up, because he's bringing the band down. Do you think that Tommy the Trumpet Player might get angry with you? He would probably not be very interested in helping you out; for the rest of that rehearsal, he would probably be very bitter, and he might even stay that way for awhile. You gave him your anger, and he reflected it right back.

But imagine your season if your emotions were consistently those associated with a leader: relaxed, calm, assertive, confident, supportive, friendly, uplifting. These, too, your band will reflect back at you; if they know they can count on you to be calm in tough situations and uplifting when they're struggling, they will trust you, and that will show. (True of horses also, incidentally; if they know you always keep your head, and if you're always relaxed, supportive, and calmly in control, they will pick that up.) So the first thing you must do for a successful season is have consistent emotions. This means that you need to leave your baggage at the door, which we'll talk about in a bit.

Next up: consistent actions. To be continued . . .


Carolyn said...

Isn't it amazing how much horses teach us about life in general and vice versa? Great post! Looking forward to the rest of it!

MyLittlePony said...

I'm very proud of you! (manymisadventures mother here, hoping to not embarass her too much). Please remember to use those mirrors next week when giving lessons to your 40+ year old mother who lacks your coordination, balance and guts :)

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