The Best Way To Avoid Things You Don’t Want To Happen Is To Do Your Best Not To Let Them Happen In The First Place

So much of the success we experience in training is about creating environments that support the outcomes we are trying to teach. This is different to control; it’s intentional curation that changes from context to context that increases the clarity of what we’re asking, our accuracy in asking it, and consequently, the capacity of our horse to understand.

This is Ada. She’s an Irish Draught who turned one just before Christmas. Her natural propensity is to move the world round with her shoulders, an unsurprising biproduct of the natural strengths of her breed. I watch her in the paddock, and I giggle; the way she maneuvers the other horses, her first thought being not to go around but through.

In our handling though, this means I have to be particular. I am cautious not to yield my ground, not to allow for passages of movement where my space is not considered. This is true of every horse I interact with, but in these early stages, where learning is amplified, and the energetics of engagement are being newly established the air around these asks moves faster, the consequences clearer and more acute.

Any sessions we do together are short and sweet. I want her basic handling established, for her to lead happily, move her hindquarters and her shoulders, load up into the trailer to create both a harmonious living situation together, to set the stage for the future, but beyond that for emergency. It seems that the latter does not discern whether your handling is ready for them or not.

Ada has been quick to learn and delights in our interactions, as do I. Consistent with what I’ve described above, she finds the backup challenging. She’s a little sticky, not as light as with my other requests. If she gets flustered, things can unravel quickly, so I’m careful to only ask in situations that can support her; along fence lines, in the yard, when she’s emotionally focused and in her body.

If we walk around the farm, I do my best to give other alternatives to backing up to make sure I don’t create a situation where she thinks the best option is to go through me. Is this ideal? No. But we are in the very early stages of learning and we’re working where we’re at. You could argue it’s not time to wander out at all, but I find the real world the best for practicing things that are important and having it make sense to your lovely horse.

The best way to avoid things you don’t want to happen is to do your best not to let them happen in the first place. This means being smart, thinking ahead. It means creating situations where the horse can answer yes, where you set them up to win. And then expanding the context of how and when you ask gradually from there.


❤️ Jane

A Normalized Bar On A Dysfunctional State Of Being Does Not Equal Wellness

A couple of decades back when I was studying health science, my class group was told a story about peanuts. Peanuts are prone to a black growth called aflatoxin, which you can also see on occasion on the inside of a capsicum or bell pepper.

The government had a percentage that the peanuts had to pass- an aflatoxin test if you will- to deem the peanuts fit for human consumption. That year, most of the peanuts failed the test. Faced with the option (not to mention the opposition) of disposing of a huge number of peanuts (and the economic flow on effects), they instead lowered the percentage requirement and kept those peanuts sailing through.

You might be thinking, well, what has this story got to do with anything you might teach or share here? But I feel like it’s a metaphor for so many things, especially when it comes to our wellness and our health.

So many humans and horses are dealing with dysfunction that the dysfunction itself has become normalized. Like the effected peanuts passing the test, the bar has dropped on what we consider to be ok and then we come to consider that state of being as the norm.

But a normalized bar on a dysfunctional state of being does not equal wellness.

I could go on all day to the factors that contribute to this being the case, much of which you already know, and many of which are not necessarily our fault. But even if it’s not our individual fault that we landed here, it’s our individual responsibility to somehow find our way out. To look beyond the plight of ‘most’ and ‘many’, to refuse to accept it as the end goal.

And beyond that, we need to recognize that if we or our horse have spent any number of years in a state we recognize as un-ideal, then it’s going to take some time to ease our way out of them.

Most practices dedicated to well-being are not quick fixes, and don’t pretend to be such. At their essence, they are a way of life that do not prioritize temporary comfort over the reality of the work and time it takes to truly help a horse or human find vitality.

A moment of ‘feeling better’ is easy to create, and these moments have their place. But changing the way that a body is functioning at a deeper more foundational level is much longer and more intensive work. Work that is not necessarily instantly gratifying or fast rewarding, simply because we don’t get to consciously decide how long it takes. The body does, a process that is unconsciously and intuitively driven.

As a coach and someone dedicated to the latter, that’s a hard package to sell. It’s a process that only proves itself over time, which means time must be actively given.


❤️ Jane