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Psychology Sunday - Positivity and Mental Health

mental health psychology Aug 06, 2023
image of a new and an old horse shoe nail showing the wear

This was a picture I posted a long time ago showing how much wear Jack’s shoes and nails took in one cycle.


But it’s also a very apt example to help me explain a mental tool you can incorporate in your riding as well as into your everyday life: the power of positivity and acknowledging what you can and can’t control.


The used nail in this picture has been worn away after weeks of external forces outside of it’s control: hard ground, rocks, sand, etc. have all abrasively thrown themselves at this nail. While one day of it may not have shown a visible impact, weeks worth of this has shown the true impact: wearing the nail down to a point where it is almost useless to function as a nail. The head is almost completely gone. A little more time and there would’ve been no head left, which means the shoe would not have held on, it would’ve just slipped over the nail.


I can’t say there was one specific time/book/person where I was taught this, it may have just developed more as a defense mechanism to avoid going crazy, especially with horses, but if you want to improve your mental health, you need to focus on the positives and you need to not let things outside of your control tear you down.


Don’t let yourself become this nail. While you can’t stop the external forces that may be attacking you, you CAN control your reaction to them. Whether it is horse related or not. 

You can’t do anything about the driver who cut you off, or the traffic that is making you late. You can’t do anything about your horse who comes up lame before a competition. But you can control how you react to these situations. 


Realize what you can control (internal factors) and what you can’t control (external factors). You can control your reaction to a situation. You can’t control the other driver. You can call the vet to figure out why your horse is lame. You can’t go back in time and stop your horse from stepping on that rock that caused an abscess. 

I’m not saying to never be annoyed by things, that is impossible advice. But recognize when your frustration with a situation is only harming you and not contributing to any sort of remedy to the situation. You can get annoyed at the driver who cuts you off, but unless you ram their vehicle off the road (which I don’t recommend), there isn’t really much of anything you can (or should) do. You just need to shake it off. Don’t let that driver make your day even worse by adding insult (giving you a poor mood) to injury (cutting you off). You’re only letting them win even more when you let them bring your mental state down. So be annoyed for 10 seconds and then let it go. It’s not worth it. 


I’ve also just recently heard it phrased another way: Stop emptying yourself watering weeds.


After a while of doing this, you’ll realize how many external factors that are completely out of your control that you were letting affect you. And all of those things add up. Multiply that one bad situation of being cut off across multiple different situations, across multiple days and weeks, and pretty soon you’ll be that nail that has been completely worn down. 


And it’s a lot more work to fix that than it is to prevent it in the first place.

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