Riding Into The Abyss

One of the most difficult things about learning something or challenging yourself to do new things with your horse is the lack of lived experience you have to draw from. What this means is that paving the way forward relies as much on your own belief, resourcefulness and imagination as it does on drawing on the experiences of others to inform and guide you.

With this in mind, you can really only be certain of the result you are producing, or the efficacy of the techniques you are using once you are in a reflective place; a place where you have actually already achieved the result, or upleveled in some way, and can look back and see how all the various pieces fitted together. Your vision is only clear in reverse. Up until that point, you rely as much on self-belief and faith as you do on the skills of others more practiced in the process than you.

Today was one such experience for me. Over the last couple of weeks, Dee and I have been working to establish the most basic of understandings under saddle. Legs on means go. Rein out to the side means bend this way. This means stop. A deliberate consolidation of the ABC’s. Having not been this process of doing all the work to bring a horse under saddle before, and having no one on the ground to assist me, I’ve found myself in a state of perpetual reflection and contemplation, reaching out on a near daily basis to those that I respect with questions that have come up during the session.

I have a clear vision of what I want; a relaxed and happy partnership. And I’m willing to wait for it.

In the first instance, Dee was what you might describe as backward thinking. He lacked a bit of forward under saddle, and I worked carefully and methodically to establish a clear cue. Then, one day a couple of weeks ago, he really clocked on. He was light, forward and responsive- so much so that we swung to the other side of the pendulum and had much more go than whoa.

As a consequence, I’ve spent the better part of two weeks- maybe longer- walking and bending and encouraging relaxation. The slightest hint of leg would send him forward into trot, and while I didn’t want to block the forward, the reactivity was also not desirable. Going strictly on feel, this definitely felt like the right thing to do.

It’s once I got off that the problems really began. Along with my contemplation of how to take things forward, I began to question what I was doing.

Was this coming up due to my lack of skill? How long was I just going to be walking for? Maybe someone who trains horses for a living would be in a better place to do this.

Was this the right thing to do? Were my expectations too high, to expect a young, big horse like Dee to be capable of the level of relaxation I wanted so early under saddle?

The Itty Bitty Shitty Committee was having a field day with me.

On a logical level, I knew the value of what I was doing. I believed in it. I had seen it in others. But I had yet to really live it. And so I had to trust that what I was doing was right, and simply, keep on going.

I made a commitment to myself that rain, hail or shine I would show up. I would only go as far as the next good step. I would go by feel and stay responsive to the moment, letting go of expectations of where I should be by now in training, or comparing myself to anyone else.

I would simply show up and do the best I could with what was presented to me with the skills and resources that I had.

Today, for the first time when I got on, I could rest my leg against his side without any reactivity of his part. I could open the rein and have a soft, downward stretching bend in response. I could ask for trot with it being rushed or braced or unbalanced.

It felt wonderful.

And in that moment, I could look back over the past few weeks and see how it all added up to that very moment.

It made sense. And it was worth it.

Going outside your comfort zone and extending yourself means you will be walking a road you haven’t travelled before. It means at times you will question yourself and your abilities. It means that you will wonder if you are doing it right.

And in those moments, check in. Ask for help if you need it. And keep on moving forward in a way that aligns with your values and the intention that you have for both you and your horse.

Today was a moment in time, but it’s one that will inform many moving forward.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane 

When Uncertainty & The What If’s Come Up In Training

Over the last while, I’ve been sharing snippets of my progress of working with my horse, Dee. Dee is the first horse that I have started under saddle myself (or am in the process of!), and there have been some really interesting questions come up about how it is I am managing my mindset and dealing with any uncertainty or what if scenarios that might arise. Two such questions popped up this week in response to a Facebook video I posted; knowing that they are relevant to so many of us (all?!), I’ve decided to answer them specifically in this blog.

Let’s get into it…

Do you consciously think about any uncertainties as you progress through with him? What goes through your mind?

Whenever we begin something that we haven’t done before, it’s natural that there are going to be uncertainties. Uncertainty in and of itself is not the problem; all that really presents to you are the options that are available and the possible scenarios that might arise as a consequence of actioning those options. The “problems” come about as a consequence of lack of action and indecisiveness.  

If we were to divide it up, there are two types of uncertainty that would typically arise in relation to training or working with our horses:

  1. General uncertainty: A lack of clarity about the overall plan moving forward and where to take things
  2. In the moment uncertainty: When a situation presents itself in the moment and you are unsure how to move forward, such as a response from your horse that is new and outside the zone of what you have dealt with before, or something similar.

Uncertainty is welcome because it invites an intentional pause. It allows us to step back, assess what the situation is and realign with our intention. It’s also an opportunity for growth and exploration around a skillset or experience that hasn’t formed a part of our understanding in the past.

We can avoid general uncertainty by having a clear idea of our path forward, and what is required of us to get there. General uncertainty is something that we can eliminate well away from our horses; it comes with an understanding of where it is you are now, coupled with a knowing of what needs to happen in order to move to the next stage.

It also requires that we adopt a mindset of collaboration and a dedication to ongoing improvement. I have purposely assembled a team around me whose knowledge and support I can draw on during the moments where I am unsure or need the next step along outlined for me. I listen to them, I implement their suggestions and constantly express how appreciative I am of their help.

Ambiguity inevitably leads to frustration and confusion, both in horse and rider. In order to cultivate an atmosphere of confidence and trust, you don’t have to have all the answers, but you do need to have a clear understanding of what your intention is and have taught your horse the answer to the question before it is required. The establishment of a common language and a dedication to mutual understanding ensures you stay empathetic and compassionate to any misunderstandings that arise- to yourself, as much as to your horse.

Uncertainty in the moment gives me the chance to step back and reflect on what it is that is going on.

Am I asking him to do “x” thing in a way that is clear and fair?

Does he know the answer to my question?

How can I break this down to even smaller steps?

For the most part, answering those questions softens the edges of the situation and creates momentum in a forward direction.

If it doesn’t, I don’t ruminate or brood for too long. Instead, I reach out and ask question of those more knowledgeable in this situation than me, and then focus my attention on what needs to happen next time around.

As a disclaimer: there will always (and forever!) be those moments where the plan that you have for the session is not appropriate for what your horse is presenting you with that day. And that’s ok. You can still hold your intention in alignment with your higher vision of where things are going, whilst maintaining your attention on what needs to be worked through in the present moment. That’s a natural and welcome part of the dance of training.

Do you have ‘what if’ scenarios in your head and a get out plan? Is it not so much that you are afraid, but more mindful preparation?

For me, that What If’s are an expression of our self-protective functions and can be useful if we use them constructively. Where we go off track with the What If’s is if we fail to understand them the motivation behind them and instead allow them to flood our brainspace with future projections that immobilize and impair us.

The facts of my situation are that I am working with a big, young, powerful horse who hasn’t been ridden before. There are a number of very real What If’s that I need to pay attention to in order to make sure that it is a happy and safe experience for both of us. I understand that even with the most meticulous preparation, things happen and there are no guarantees, but that’s something that I know to be true about life as a whole also.

The What Ifs are nothing more than a call to get prepared. The way that I approach this is to only go as far as the next good step. What that means is that with everything that I am doing, I ensure that I have understanding and relaxation at that stage before I move onto the next thing. If I don’t, I don’t move on.

This means that my training trajectory is more like a ChaCha than a swift movement from A to B. For instance, before I get on, I make sure that I have a calm and relaxed horse at the mounting block. If I don’t, I don’t get on; I only go as far as the next good step. On Tuesday of last week, for instance, we were working on the trot, and on Wednesday, I planned to build on the work from the day before. What happened, however, was that Dee was anticipating moving off as soon as I put my foot in the stirrup, so we stayed put. Our work that day was mostly at a standstill.

This approach keeps my attention firmly in the moment and has prevented me getting to any situations where I have required a “get out” plan, simply because I haven’t moved to a place where I’ve allowed either one of us to get over-faced or overwhelmed. What I do have though is patience. I am willing to take as long as it takes for things to be good and for relaxation to appear. One of the biggest disservices I think we do ourselves is not to allow ourselves that time and instead to have fixed expectations about where we should be at certain points. We have to let all of that go.

That said, I know that if something were to happen out of the blue (like he got a fright from something totally random), I have the capacity to bring him to a stop. This is an important function of the What If’s. I’ve paid attention to what they have showed me, learned what needs to happen in the event of, but redirected my focus to what I need to do and who I need to be in order to create beneficial experiences for both me and my horse.

Intention in alignment with the higher vision, attention to the moment, and only going as far as the next good step.

Onwards!

❤️ Jane

 

How NOT to OverAnalyse Your Ride

// W H A T S T H E O N E T H I N G ? // # 10

The Question:

When I have finished riding (I’m just learning to ride as an adult) and things haven’t gone well I over analyse and worry about what could have happened, even though I was ok and nothing majorly bad happened. I also worry about what others think and constantly apologise to the instructors for asking for help. I know this is ridiculous but I can’t get out of the thoughts for ages afterwards.

Answer in the video!

Want to submit your own question? You can do so via the form link here! and I will make a video telling you the “one thing” that I consider the most important or relevant thing to pay attention to.

There are no catches, you can be anonymous if you want (just skip past the name bit), just some straight-up advice speed coaching style!

Happy riding!

❤️ Jane

Get Going With These Time Hacks!

Find yourself running short on time when it comes to getting out there and riding your horse? Not to mention everything else that we have aspirations to learn or watch or enjoy!
 
I hear you! Here are 3 great time hacks for you to create more time in your day so you have more of it available to do what you love.
 
I hope you enjoy i!
 
xx Jane

Why I don’t believe in fake it ’til you make it (anymore)

If we were to choose a handful of common mottos or statements that are thrown around when it comes to increasing confidence and moving through fear, fake it ’til you make it would be high up there on the list. I admit, for a long time, it was a way of seeing things that I bought into as well; after all, there’s some solid evidence that shows changes such as adjusting posture to what is typically be described as a “power pose” (think shoulders back, head up, hands behind the head) for more than two minutes tangibly affects hormone levels associated with feelings of confidence and esteem. In both men and women, holding these positions for at least two minutes resulted in increased levels of testosterone, and decreased levels of cortisol. That can only be a good thing, right, if you are aiming to prime yourself for what’s ahead?

I used to think so too.

Over the years of studying, applying and working with others on all things confidence, I’ve started to notice some common problems when it came to actioning the fake it ’til you make it mindset, specifically when it comes to horses. Let’s have a look at the issues I have with adopting it as a modus operandi… and what I believe to be a better way of going about things.

1. It’s short lived

Faking it ’til you make it might work for momentary bursts of bravado, but it’s not a way of approaching your riding (or life) that’s sustainable. Our emotions and feelings are not an inconvenience; they express the truth of how we feel in the moment and as a consequence, provide us with valuable messages and information about how it is we might choose to proceed moving forward. While you might be able to overlook or ignore how it is you really feel in the short term, adopting that strategy as a long term plan creates a layer of feeling that festers and simmers beneath the surface. Genuine confidence doesn’t come from pretending to be something you’re not; it comes with honouring and acknowledging what is, learning to understand and navigate emotion and feeling in a way that keeps you in flow, while developing the internal skills to be aware of the resources available to you, even in the midst of challenge.

2. It narrows our focus

The thing with anything that we feel- confidence, anxiety, calm, focus, fear- it’s not an all or nothing situation. As humans, we habitually narrow our point of focus (typically towards what’s uncomfortable and challenging) at the expense of what’s working, what’s pleasurable or pleasant, or even what’s neutral. This is true for feeling and sensation as much as it is for experience. Instead of faking it til we make it, what I encourage is acknowledging the feelings of unease, fear or discomfort but searching, in the midst of that, for feeling in the body or the mind that feels pleasant, easeful or neutral. In our constant efforts to “be” something or to feel a certain way, we see only one part of what’s available to us.

This is not about cultivating feelings that aren’t there, or attempting to be something that you aren’t, but about widening your field of vision to recognize that in the moments when things are hard or tough, there is more that is available to us than might currently occupy our attentional window. Developing your skills around this has transformative effects when it comes to navigate your way through uncomfortable or difficult feeling; it’s resourcing yourself and adjusting your orientation to include what IS working as much as what isn’t.

3. It takes you out of alignment

For our horses, this is a big one. Our horses sense when we are out of alignment; when it is that our thoughts, feelings and what it is we are projecting are all out of whack. Their level of sensory acuity is such that they can read the energetic and projected mismatch that results from holding a feeling that is different to a thought process that you yourself don’t believe to be true.

Think of it this way: have you ever had your spider senses triggered by someone, where you felt uncomfortable despite them appearing to be friendly? Or known that you couldn’t trust someone even though what they were saying was “all the right things?”. Our horses feel this conflict and lack of congruence also, no more so than when we are trying to be something that we aren’t or that lies in opposition to how it is we really feel.

It’s not about faking it, or trying to be something that you aren’t. Instead, the art lies in developing the skills to navigate thought, feeling and sensation, take the messages behind what your emotions are offering you and gradually inch your way towards better feeling thoughts.

❤️ Jane

3 Steps to Move You Closer to Bravery

We’ve talked a lot about how to make the most of your time this week, and I want to share another powerful mindset hack with you now: focusing on who you want to be is perhaps a more important first step in any action plan than focusing on what you need to do. The very first pathway in JoyRide, my online program, is dedicated to exactly that; it’s not about end goals or results (although that does appear as a glorious biproduct); it’s you dedicating yourself to practicing the smallest version of your dream right now, in the exact position that you find yourself in.

When it comes to emotions and feeling states, more often than not we think of them as something that will organically arise as a consequence of getting to a certain place.

… when I canter my horse, then I will feel confident

… when I get that score or placing at competition, then I will feel worthy

… when I achieve this thing, then I will know I can believe in myself

We chase certain feeling states and muse on the various destination points in our mind that we believe will leave us in the emotional position that we want.

The thing is, the cultivation of self-belief, courage and resilience is a muscle that we exercise rather than a destination we arrive at. There aren’t any quick fixes; rather it’s a drip-fed process that sees us incrementally develop our awareness of feeling and sensation, expand our emotional vocabulary so we can better identify the position we are in and action the appropriate response from that point.

It’s an active process of being who we want to be in addition to doing what we want to do.

Grab a pen and paper and let’s do an exercise together now.

Choose a feeling state that is something you aspire to be but feels removed from your current reality. It might be that you yearn to be braver, more confident, or feeling like you can back yourself. Make sure that it’s something that you are moving towards, rather than you are moving away from; for example, we can’t move towards being less anxious, but we can move towards being confident. If you find yourself automatically focusing on what you don’t want, flip it around to be the opposite. With that in mind, answer the following questions.

I’ll use confidence as an example, but you can substitute in whatever you want.

Step One:

Why do I feel that confidence is not available to me as a feeling right now? Or Why is feeling confident impossible for me currently?

Step Two:

What do I need to do to move towards feeling more confident? What active steps can I take now that would allow me to feel more confident?

Step Three:

What do I need to think and be in order to practice confidence today? What opportunities are available to me now (both in and out of the saddle) that will allow me to practice confidence?

If you’re in a place currently where you are feeling anything but confident, expecting to transform from a place of anxiety or rampant self-doubt to one of self-belief and conviction in one swift step is not going to happen; it’s far too great a chasm to leap emotionally and energetically, and also dishonors your current feeling, which is worthy of respect.

This process is not about denial or attempting false bravado. Instead, it’s about recognizing that as humans, we have a tendency to focus in on a very narrow window of what’s available to us at the expense of the opportunities that also exist. For example, it’s possible to be accepting and understanding of the fact you currently feel anxious, while staying open to the opportunities available to feel more confident. It’s zooming out and allowing our perspective to expand, rather than choosing to be defined within a narrow window of our experience.

Over the course of today, allow your emotional window to expand to incorporate opportunities to practice more of what it is you want to feel. Let you mind include not only what it is you need to do, but who it is you need to be in order to cultivate the feelings you want in your riding and your life.

xx Jane

Fringe Time: the tiny spaces of time that are defining your day

Fringe time: the tiny pockets of time that transition us from one moment to another

When it comes to making the most of the time that we have, most of us plot things out from a fairly broad perspective. In our mind’s eye, the week is broken down into a series of time chunks that are dedicated to one thing or another. There’s the time that we dedicate to riding or working with our horses there; work time here; hours with family over there; appointments that we need to show up to dotted about the place.

One of the things that we often pay less attention to is fringe time; the tiny pockets of time that transition us from one moment to another. Over the past while, I’ve been working to become more mindful of how it is I spend my time in those fringe moments. The common trap to fall into is to wait for larger or more dedicated moments of time to open up to us before we “do the thing” that we want to do; we might yearn for more creativity, more spaciousness, more time to study and learn, more time to be with our horses. And while we wait for bigger pockets to appear, we let the smaller moments that are available right now slither away.

Our micro habits are often easier to ignore or justify because those minutes of time seem inconsequential, but they have a bigger impact not only on our productivity and outcomes, but also on our state of mind than we might think. This is not about micromanaging every moment, or utilising every moment of every day but about realising that if there are things you want to do- or be- these fringe time moments may just be your opportunity to do so.

Let’s have a look at some things that you could do in your fringe moments that add up to be kind of a big deal over time:

  • Reading 5 pages of a book. Over the course of a month, that’s 150 pages of extra reading
  • 10 mins meditation. Over the week, that’s 70 minutes more mindfulness you’ve introduced to your week
  • 15 minutes watching online tutorials or training videos. Over a month, that’s 7.5 hours of learning time you’ve packed in
  • 20 minutes of hang time or ground work with your horse. That’s 10 hours over a 30 day period
  • 2 minutes of visualisation practice. Over the course of the year, that’s 12 hours you’ve given to creating your intention and focusing your energy on what you want
  • Writing 200 words or journaling. That’s 6, 000 words over the course of the month.

You can see where I’m going with this…

Fringe time matters. It counts. And it adds up.

How do we get into the headspace of making the most of our time?

Well, first things first- we need to get rid of the idea that we need a big block of time free in order to really accomplish anything. It doesn’t have to be big, long or intensive to be worth it. One of the biggest procrastination producers is the thought, oh I only have a few minutes, it’s not worth starting now.

Wrong! It IS worth starting. All those fringe moments add up.

Secondly, little moments of action create momentum. Once you start to see the welcome outcomes of your well-utilised fringe moments, the easier it is to make the most of the time you have available to you.

The other side benefit? It’s not so much about the things that you are doing, but the things that you aren’t. The minutes (hours!) that you may spend scrolling mindlessly on your phone or fiddling around clutter your headspace. There’s a glorious clarity that comes with defined time; it allows us to gain control over where it is we are investing our energy and what we might be doing that is unknowingly draining our resources.

Over the course of today, be aware of your fringe time moments. How is it that you could best spend what’s available to you? What could those tiny pockets of time add up to mean for you over the days, weeks and months?

xx Jane

What to do when anxiety takes over when you’re riding

The Question: When anxiety starts to take over when riding, what do you feel is the quickest and most effective way to distract from those feelings?

Answer in the video below! ????‍♀️

Want to submit your own question? You can do so via the form link here and I will make a video telling you the “one thing” that I consider the most important or relevant thing to pay attention to. There are no catches, you can be anonymous if you want (just skip past the name bit), just some straight up advice speed coaching style!

Let’s get started…

❤️ Jane

A Conversation About Anger…

I had a fabulous question about anger emailed to me recently that I wanted to share with you all. Interestingly, along with fear, anxiety, and frustration, anger was one of the most commonly experienced emotions that showed up in my “what emotions are you challenged by” poll, and it’s also one that there is a lot of shame around. For the most part, we recognise that it’s “wrong” to feel angry with our horses; wrong not for the emotion in and of itself, but because it’s misplaced.

Our horse’s behavior at any one time is simply an expression of feeling; they are communicating to us how they feel in response to the situation that they find themselves in and how reassured they are by our presence at that moment. In a sense, it is personal. Whether or not we take it personally is another thing altogether. The information that is offered to you is that at that moment in time, your presence and the communication between you both was not enough to provide them with the comfort and safety that they needed, and their response is an expression that they believe to be in the best interest of their survival at that point.

The context of the situation in question was that horse and rider were out walking together and the horse got concerned to where his behavior also caused concern for his owner. She described the emotion progression within herself as initially one of anxiety, and then of anger; anger at his behavior and the position that she was in. In this instance, she felt like the anger helped her. It helped her to take action.

What I want to talk about now is not the situation from a training perspective, but specifically the role of anger and its positive qualities which are not often paid attention to. Anger typically falls into our “negative” camp of emotions, mainly for the reason that we have come to associate it with the harmful forms of anger such as rage or abusive anger, that results from suppressing or ignoring the initial messages that it offers to us to the point where we fester or explode.

Instead of thinking of emotions existing in black and white form, think of them existing on a continuum. At the one end, we have the healthy flow of emotion which calls us to take action, depending on the context and the emotion that shows up for us. Emotions at their essence are information and energy that call us to respond in some way; when we do so appropriately, we are moving with the beneficial flow of emotion and are doing exactly that; staying in flow. When emotions are out of flow, we know about it; we know about it through the repetition of habitual response or feeling connected to specific situations or events that create a situation where we no longer feel in control or observant of the emotion as an experience, but instead, that the emotion IS us and CONTROLS the experience.

Anger in its positive form is a very proud and upstanding emotion. It’s a call to activate our boundaries and to evaluate our circumstances from an emotional, physical and spiritual standpoint. When we feel that our safety has been breached, or we are called to assert our personal space or position, that is anger’s first whisper. In a training situation, if we have porous boundaries, are inconsistent in our awareness in establishing our own space and that of our horses, we may get to a situation where the sense of protection rises to the point where we need to be more physical and flamboyant in our demonstration of what’s ok and what’s not; the art is always to connect to the subtle messages and indications that work needs to be done so that we never need to reach this point.

When we are able to channel and utilise our emotions properly, we know because the outcome is that we are left in a better feeling place. We hear the message and we take action. When we rage, are abusive, violent or unfair with our anger, then we have an overt indication that work needs to be done, to restore both an inner sense of integrity and establish a way of going about things that honors you, your horse and those around you.

Leave behind the black and white association with feeling and instead ask yourself, what is this calling me to do and what can I do with that information?

Onwards.

xx Jane

How to get up and go when you feel “blah” & keep self-sabotaging!

Hey team! It’s another episode of “What’s the One thing?!”. The question of the week is:

How to get up and go when you feel “blah” and keep self-sabotaging? 

Answer in the video 

Want to submit your own question? You can do so via the form link here and I will make a video of 1-2 minutes or less telling you the “one thing” that I consider the most important or relevant thing to pay attention to.

There are no catches, you can be anonymous if you want (just skip past the name bit), just some straight up advice speed coaching style!

Onwards…

 Jane

From the subtle to the physical: The Intentional Riding Project

I’ve long been fascinated by the possibility of the connection and communication that’s possible at the subtlest level with our horses. I aspire to be and am inspired by those who practice horsemanship as an equestrian art, who have moved beyond the confines of horse and rider being involved in a transactional relationship and have entered a partnership that includes both artistic and spiritual dynamics.

I can frame it any way I like but at the end of the day, that is what my horses are for me; they are my life and spiritual practice. The arena is my practice mat where I go to meet myself and have all my strengths, weaknesses, heart and emotion reflected back to me. For certain, I have had no better teacher than my horses.

There’s a part of me that has shied away from the discussion of anything spiritual in my work for fear of being discredited, overly woowoo or appearing as though what I teach is not also grounded in logic and the physical. On the one hand, the motivation for this is well intended; I recognize and appreciate that everyone is on a different stage of their journey and is drawn to the things that are relevant to them and where it is they are at. I believed that in my efforts to be inclusive, to not alienate or leave anyone out, it was best to keep conversation to what was expected and accepted and to skip around those which might truly challenge our view of the world or the way that we show up for our horses. In fairness, it’s not that I have avoided it altogether, I just know that I am not sharing at exploring at the depth that I know is possible for me.

I made a decision at the beginning of the year to completely remodel my membership program and within this, I began to use a model of the four intelligences as my muse. Within this, we have instinctual or intuitive intelligence; emotional intelligence; physical intelligence and logical intelligence. As a result of the environment that we find ourselves in- our education system, the organization of the majority of our work lives- most of us have an overdeveloped logical intelligence, and underutilized physical, emotional and intuitive intelligence. We value facts, things adding up and “making sense”, things that are grounded in what we consider to be “real”.

Our feeling selves have come to be known as unreliable and untrustworthy. We have learned to override our intuition, sometimes to the point where it seems barely perceptible. We have become so detached from the wisdom of our emotions that we have compartmentalized them into positive and negative, clinging to the positive and being fearful of the negative. We fail to see the continuum of emotion that provides us with lessons and messages every step of the way if only we were brave enough to consider how we feel.

What’s more, showing up with logic at the fore does little to serve you if you are in communion with a creature whose instinctual and emotional intelligence govern their decisions and responses. It’s a part of it absolutely, but it is not all of it. Detachment and lack of awareness does not mean that those qualities do not exist in us; it just means we are not mindful of how they are presenting to others or the energetic projections we emit. The incongruence between what we think we are presenting and what we are actually presenting is apparent to our horses from the get go, and within this, we are called to drop our facades and show up wholeheartedly if we wish to progress beyond a certain point.

At the core of it, riding and horsemanship can be transactional or it can be transformational. Transactional means that we ride in order to experience a specific result; transformational means we recognize the possibilities of practice that exists when we engage with our horses and the possibility for that to elevate us to states of awareness and consciousness that weren’t available to us previously.

I’ve decided to step into the practice myself and engage in a self-study adventure with my horses to explore intention, breath, the more abstract and the more literal in a project that I am calling Intentional Riding. I’m interested in presenting the work that I teach in tangible form by sharing my own work with my horses, but also in exploring the finer aspects of intention, breath and body to a level that I haven’t allowed myself, or had time to indulge, previously.

I got to thinking how it is that I could make this work transferable- meaning that if I want to be able to share the results of my findings with you in a way that applies to you and your horses also- and so thought about ways that do make the more abstract, quantifiable. The most obvious was to measure heart rate, so I have kitted both myself and my horses out with heart rate monitors so we can collect the data and see how we progress with the various techniques.

Over the next few weeks, I will share with you my thoughts, musings and explorations both in and out of the arena as I move towards developing a new body of work to complement what I’m already doing.

As it stands currently, I have no idea what it will amount to or if the destination I have in mind will be the one that I arrive at, but I am willing to dive down the rabbit hole to find out. So I’m leaping in,  and seeing what’s possible if I open up my listening and curious mind and look to myself first.

xx Jane

Bullet Blog // Managing Fear When Training Something New

Q: I would like to know how to approach teaching my horse flying changes without the fear of being a flying angel and my horse taking gigantic leaps in the air at the same time as he learns.

Let’s start this discussion with one of the key questions to consider when it comes to any fear-based concern we have about our horses or training; is this fear valid?

The thing is, if the very real potential exists for something to happen that is outside of your ability to competently or safely deal with, your fear is providing you with a legitimate warning signal that you need to find some way to mediate or navigate your way through.

Does that mean that it’s the end of the road for the goal or dream that you have in mind?

Absolutely not.

What it does mean, however, is there is some leg work that needs to happen in order for you and your horse to be able to emotionally and physically manage the next step you have in mind.

That aside, let’s dive in on the assumption that there is no safety issue or concern that is getting in the way, but that the fear is instead tied to an anticipation anxiety about future imagined possibilities and a strong connection to what it is we don’t want to happen.

Consider some of the words that you have used to describe the situation- flying angel, gigantic leaps- and sit with them for a moment. When you say those words to yourself, what comes to mind? For me, I see a vision of my horse cavorting around the arena and me being catapulted through the air. No matter what the specifics of your projection, we create a mental movie of the experience which signals our body to respond in a specific way. While we are able to consciously discern between a projection that is real and imagined, our unconscious mind does not have the same ability. Your unconscious mind gathers all of its information via the sensory systems, and as a consequence, a vividly imagined scenario registers the same way unconsciously and physiologically as if it were happening in real time. That’s why you can start to feel worried, concerned, anxious or afraid just thinking about something, even if you are very far removed from the situation you are thinking about.

The other thing that happens is when you consistently bring to mind what you don’t want to happen, you strengthen the neural pathways associated with those thoughts and make it an easier thought stream to default too.

The beginning of anything new begins with your intention, which is the mental and emotional blueprint of what you would like to see happen in the physical. To elaborate on this a little further, jump over and watch this video on my YouTube channel– it will give you a snapshot of why it’s important to focus on what it is you want as opposed to what it is you are trying to avoid (enter the flying angels!).

What would you like to see happen when you start your flying change training? What will that look like? How will it feel?

Secondly, break the training trajectory down into a series of steps. The eventual movement will come together as a consequence of all the basic elements working seamlessly; how many steps exist between the point you are now and the point where you could feasibly ask for the change?

Set both of you up for success. Manage your mindset by training your thoughts to anticipate success and put together an achievable training plan that keeps you out of overwhelm.

xx Jane

Want to submit your own question? Bullet blogs are quick fire answers to questions you have submitted. This is your chance to share your thoughts with me and for me to give you some ideas about how to proceed. Click here to submit your question! 

Hitting The Glass Ceiling: Understanding Your Success Threshold

When we think about comfort zones, what often springs to mind are all the things that we do our best to avoid. Some examples of this are getting physically hurt, being upset, embarrassed, feeling like we are in over our heads or avoiding situations where we think we may be put under more pressure than we’re happy to handle in the moment. All of these things exist in bottom area or lower reaches of our comfort bubble, and in our preoccupation for doing our utmost to avoid them, we’ve forgotten that we also have an upper limit to our comfort zone that dictates how much success, happiness and positive results we are willing to allow.

In short, the more elevated reaches of our comfort zone dictate how much good stuff we can handle and when we hit this threshold, we can sabotage our constructive efforts and results to cycle us back down to the comfortable limits of what we already know.

I agree that on the face of it, this seems completely nonsensical. Give it to me, you shout to yourself. I can handle all of the success! But the truth of it is, well, you can’t. None of us can. “All the success” feels nice in theory, but when it comes to practice, we need to be aware that acclimatizing ourselves to things going well, to receiving positive results or even the accepting the most basic flow of good energy coming our way- our ability to receive a compliment- takes practice.

You see, discomfort is indiscriminate. It’s not concerned about growth or failure.  It’s not concerned about “good” discomfort (like success) or “bad” discomfort (like being physically hurt). The primary concern of your comfort zone is to keep you within the confines of what is familiar and keep you away from the danger of uncertainty and the unknown. Lack of certainty and the unknown feels risky and dangerous; consequently, we make decisions, engage in behaviours and take action based on what feels known to us, even if what is known does not equate to what we want.

Here are some examples of success thresholds that I’ve discussed working with riders in my membership program, JoyRide:

Example 1:

A rider in competition finally starts to experience the results that she’d always dreamed of. Shortly after, she finds herself getting really busy at home. The busy-ness she creates stops her riding as much as she needs to and she finds herself pulling out of competitions as a consequence of feeling unprepared.

After digging beneath the surface, we discovered that her success was challenging to her social circle. Winning was making her “different” to her friends (who were still struggling to achieve the same results). She felt like maybe they would think she was “full of herself” or “better than them”, and so sabotaged her results through lack of preparedness and half hearted effort.

Example 2:

A JoyRider I worked with found herself not riding consistently- despite wanting to and having every opportunity to do so. Once we broke it down, she was concerned that if she rode consistently, people would expect her to do “more” with her horse, and she wasn’t sure if she was ready for that. As a consequence, she had stopped herself from riding in the first place.

Example 3:

People pleasing or criticism can be a big one. Not allowing yourself to be yourself, to do what you love or put yourself out there can be symptomatic of going out of your way to avoid criticism. It’s a convenient excuse to keep ourselves small as we attempt to shield ourselves from negative feedback or criticism.

All of these are examples of upper limits or hitting our success threshold. We reach the ceiling of how much we are familiar with or feel worthy and deserving of and the only option from there is to cycle back down.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. While the specifics are always individually dependent, it’s important to recognize when the feelings of discomfort creep in and to understand that they aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Constantly reframing and elasticizing the edges of our comfort zone involves being willing to get uncomfortable, especially when it comes to breaking through the limits of your own glass ceiling.

xx Jane

Keeping it Simple! The #horsetimechallenge

It’s not uncommon to find yourself in the place where everything feels like it’s getting on top of you. I’ve been talking about this a lot over the past week (you can check out my blog on Emotional Busy-ness here and a Facebook post I wrote yesterday on being “Procrasto-busy”), motivated by personal experience and also a series of conversations I’ve been having with people who feel exactly the same way. The thing is, periodically checking it to see where you are unnecessarily complicating life is a really important habit to get into. Often times, things work until they don’t, and if we don’t create space to look back and see what’s working and what’s not, it’s easy to continue on a path that no longer serves us for no other reason other than habit.

Although it may seem like a stretch, all of this impacts our riding. A full head or a full schedule either robs you of the ability to be present or prevents you from making time for your horsing pursuits in the first place; no necessarily a big deal short term, but the cumulative effects can be immobilizing and depressing!

This week in JoyRide, my membership program, I issued a “Simplification Challenge”! How can you make things easier on yourself, I asked them. What do you need to cut out, change up or introduce to experience more of what you want and less of what you don’t want?

A friend emailed me and said she was really keen to go through this process but felt stuck on where to start, and if you feel the same, here are some questions to trot through your brain space to get you started (JoyRiders, I’m going to make a template for you of these and post it on the member’s site later!).

What makes you happy?

Yup, seems obvious, but how often to you ask yourself this question? I noted down all the things that made me happy and then looked at how many of those things I was including in my day. Your list will naturally be really specific to you but mine included working with my horses, yoga, meditation and spending time with my family. When I intentionally weave these things into my week, I feel balanced and taken care of, but when I start to miss some or all of them out on a regular basis, things start to go a bit skew whiff.

How can you include more of what makes you happy in your day?

Taking time for the things that are important to us is something that needs to be intentionally cultivated. Time will not make itself available to you. If you are waiting for space to “open up” (when this thing is done, when the kids are at this point, the list goes on!), there will be always something ready to fill the gap. The rule of thumb: Get in there! You need to carve time out for yourself and honour that time with the same sense of commitment you would do to something else that feels non-negotiable.

What’s draining you right now?

If you feel a bit blah, or you feel like your energy is being drained but you’re not sure exactly why (or you know exactly why but aren’t doing anything to change it!) look at what could or might be causing that. Are you saying yes to things you want to say no too? Are your boundaries shaky or non-existent so that you find yourself being pulled in twenty different directions at once.

Step One: Get Clear

Step Two: Identify the energy leaks

Step Three: Take action to repair, change or adjust them

Looking at all of the above, what can you cut out, simplify or change in some way to streamline your days?

Get ruthless on protecting your own energy and resources. If it feels selfish, consider this. If you involve yourself in something, you want to be able to give yourself to that 100%. Saying yes but meaning no is unfair to you and unfair to the person or thing you are saying yes to. We want action on decisions that we not only pay lip service too, but that our hearts are behind.

The other thing… if you don’t look after yourself, you aren’t operating in a sustainable way. Sure, sometimes, we need to go above and beyond to get things done, but for the majority of what we do, we need to make sure that our modus operandi is a sustainable one.

How am I going to act on this?

No use writing it down if you don’t act on it! How are you going to take your discoveries and implement them? What can you do now to get started?

If you want to join the me this week, I’m going to be running a #horsetimechallenge over on Instagram. Post how you are going to simplify your life (and make more horse time), use the hash tag and we can follow along and share in the awesomeness!

Can’t wait to hear how you get on!

xx Jane

Focus! Emotional Busy-ness and Working Memory

A little while ago, I did a Facebook Live on emotional busy-ness, but the topic is such an important (and common!) one, however, that I wanted to tie all of the points together in a neat little package here also!

When we feel tired, unfocused or like we have a lot going on, we typically look to all at the things which occupy us in a physical sense for what might be draining us. For most of us, though, it’s unlikely we are really overdoing it physically (if anything, the majority of us probably wish we were more active). What is actually drying up our internal reserves is the workings of a busy mind.

Emotional busy-ness is something that we all dip and out of periodically, but if we aren’t mindful of how we are managing our focus and creating space in the day for downtime and reflection, it can become our day-to-day modus operandi. Not only does this cause us to carry a feeling of “rush” with us, but it also impacts our ability to stay present, to focus on the task at hand and to be able to manage our mindset under pressure.

I remember feeding the horses one afternoon and noticing the feeling of hurry and busy-ness that was sitting in my stomach. Like so many of us, there’s a lot that I need to pack into a day. Family, work, horses, things that need to be taken care of as part of the daily schedule- it’s easy to get to the stage where you feel like you are pinging from one thing to the next with little to no time in between. On this particular occasion though, a little voice piped up inside my head:

“You know, feeding the horses is going to take you about 45 minutes. Whether you do that with a rushed feeling or do that with a relaxed feeling, the time you take is going to be the same.”

This was definitely a light bulb moment for me. There is so much that we do that is always going to take the time that it’s going to take. Being mindful of your internal climate and ensuring that you take the time to check in, take a breath and adjust ensures you aren’t cultivating an energy that is not only futile (after all, feeling busy and rushed does little to actually make you more efficient or shorten the time needed to do the task in any way) but is literally exhausting. Your nervous system is working in a state of chronic activation, which is similar to turning the tap on of your emotional reserves and forgetting to turn it off.

Emotional busy-ness also has immediate consequences when it comes to working with our horses. If there’s one things that’s essential, not only to your mindset, but to your ability to be responsive as opposed to reactive as a trainer and rider (and as soon as we get in the saddle or pick up on the lead rope we are both of these, whether we formally identify with them or not) it’s the ability to be present. Emotional busy-ness pulls us out of the present and positions us mentally in the past or in the future, depending on the thought process at the time. There are many ramifications of this training wise, but what I would like to speak specifically to now is how mind clutter affects your working memory and how THIS affects your ability to focus.

Working memory is your general capacity horse power. It’s what determines what you need to have front of mind to be able to perform a particular task, and it also determines what you need to block out. The thing with working memory is that it is influenced by both internal and external factors. For instance, if you are having a riding lesson or receiving instruction of some sort, the verbal information that you are receiving and integrating from the outside takes up some of your working memory bandwidth.

On an internal level, conversations that you are having with yourself- as well as doubts, worry and rumination- will also compete for the same working memory space.

For the sake of example, let’s say that you have ten points of working memory available to you at any one time. To focus with the degree of intention and concentration necessary to do what you want to do with your horse to a level that satisfies you, let’s pretend that you need 7 points of working memory. In the case of emotional busy-ness, the pre-exisiting brain clutter may be taking a standard 5 points of your working memory hard drive. A simplistic example but you can see how important it is to be able to quieten your mind and your brain chatter in order to not only focus, but to process and integrate new information (in the case of a lesson) or ride to the best of your ability when the pressure is on (in the case of a competition or riding outside your comfort zone). If we don’t have enough working memory available we will block out or delete the “excess” information, simply because we don’t have the ability to process it.

The specific tools for managing this is outside the scope of what this blog covers, but if we want more focus and more mental space, it’s important to look at how we are cultivating both of those qualities in the day to day, when we are away from our horses as much as when we are with them.

Over the next few days, be mindful of your internal climate. Do you carry with you the feeling of rush or busy? How present are you when you are working with your horse? What can you do to cultivate a more relaxed focus?

“At the very end of my exhalation, I found myself”.

xx Jane

Interview with Horsemanship Radio

I was fortunate enough to be interviewed a couple of weeks ago by Debbie Loucks for Horsemanship Radio. The episode is now live and I would love for you to check it out! We talked about WEG, horsemanship, confidence, mindset and everything in between.

Annnd……. who better to be paired with in the same episode than Warwick Schiller ????

You can listen to the radio interview via this link.

I hope you enjoy it!

xx Jane

Live with Katy Negranti

A recording of a Facebook Live Session with Katy Negranti. Katy has come to be one of my closest friends after we spent a month together as part of Team Australia for the World Equestrian Games. Aside from being a super awesome human, Katy is also one of the best horsewoman I know (she trains horses full time at her ranch in California and won the Extreme Mustang Makeover in 2009)- I’m constantly asking questions and having conversations about everything horse training related. We chatter about all things horses and more in this live session!

Beautiful person, you can do hard things.

“Every horse is a therapy horse, some of them are just freelancing”.

The last two weeks, the only contact that I have had with my horses has been to feed and muck out in the most efficient time possible. I have paused briefly to fling my arms around Dee’s big, brown neck and inhale deeply, to thank him and feel grateful for his steady presence but aside from that, my focus has been elsewhere.

Despite their brevity, those moments have been healing and yearned for. The outside world seems particularly sensual right now. Anyone who has spent a block of time inside a hospital ward feels this I’m sure. As you walk out, the first thing to hit you is the air. The need to inhale deeply becomes a compulsion. You wonder how you have missed this before, how you could be so flippant and dismissive of something so glorious, so enlivening as fresh air. It feels so encompassing you almost believe you could collapse into its support.

The colours of the trees, grass seems luminous. The way the world bustles on despite the fact that yours has stopped is simultaneously jarring yet comforting. How can they? You think, and “thanks goodness”, you sigh.

This has been my experience the last two weeks, and it’s one I have decided to share not for the experience in and of itself, which is neither appropriate nor called for, but to extend a loving hand to those in a similar position and say, it’s ok. You can do hard things. And this is how I have chosen to find my way back- to return from a trauma and throw the stones ahead of me on the path so that I may step on them.

Some days back, I had a phone call that makes your heart drop out of your chest. Since then, my world (and the world of many others) has revolved around hospitals and doctors and assuring the well-being of some very important little people was tended to. It’s been traumatic, consuming and confronting, and at times, beautiful, and in order to give it the attention it needed, everything else has stopped.

And now, I find myself needing to reenter the fold, to re-begin, and I’ve been grappling for a start point. I can see the other side- the place I need and want to be- but to leap to that place without an acknowledgement of what has come and been seems wrong and disrespectful. My rocket has been orbiting and I was unsure how to re-enter the atmosphere.

So how do you do that? How do you find a start point when the vortex of life spins you so fast you don’t know where to start?

Taking care of what needs to be taken care of

A lot of stress is created by the things that need to be taken care of not being taken care of. When you are pulled into an emergency or trauma, the cloud of worry about the basics of life- looking after your family, work, horses, tending to the basic needs of life- can be overwhelming and stressful. Once the space arises to start to get some order back (or to create some in the midst of total disorder) prioritizing the essentials is the place to begin. What has been neglected and requires your attention? Who can you delegate tasks to?

Sometimes, the feeling that you need to do everything will stop you doing anything. Pick one thing and start from there. I felt a desperate pull to fling myself back into work but I knew that my head nor my heart were ready to do so in a way that meant I could give it my full attention and operate with the kind of integrity that’s important to me.

So I stopped, hugged my kids, my husband and my horses and allowed myself a couple of days to process, ensuring that the absolute basics were covered; I was truthful about my circumstances to those I had commitments to, cut myself some slack, and reminded myself that I would make up for this time just as soon as I was able.

You can’t do everything but you can do something. What’s the one thing you can do right now that would be the most helpful for you?

What do you need to feel good?

A tendency I have (which I know is a tendency I share with many) is to overextend myself and attempt to pour from an empty cup. In an emergency, sometimes it’s what’s needed. We do have to extend ourselves beyond what we would recognize as our comfortable capacity and all of us are willing to do so. What’s important to recognize, however, is that this modus operandi is neither sustainable nor helpful in the medium to long term. Understanding what you need to feel good- and seeking it out- is the kindest thing you can do for yourself and for those around you. If you are going to be there for the long haul, you need to make sure that you advocate for yourself as much as you do for others.

With that in mind, what do you need to stay resourceful and to feel that you can sustain this situation? Do you need time out, even for a few minutes? Do you need to grab your boots and go for a ride (how to re-start your horsing life is going to be the topic of my next blog!)?

Give yourself permission to look after yourself. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. And the responsibility lies with you to make sure you are taken care of.

Trust in the flow

I’m not going to mince words; sometimes life is really tough. It can seem hard and unfair and not right and baffling and cruel and beautiful all at once. What you focus on and where you place your attention is a choice that sometimes you will be called to make not only every day, but every minute. Find your anchor point.

If there’s one thing I know about emotions it’s that they are cyclic. Nothing is fixed or constant. The feelings will shift and move and you will find yourself in a different place sooner or later, even if your heart is bruised and battered in the process.

Fighting against what you feel will only add another layer of suffering to a situation that is already largely out of your control. Sitting in the discomfort and allowing it to move through you is an act of bravery and allows the necessary emotional alchemy to occur.

You can do hard things. Stay with it. See it through to the other side. And don’t be afraid.

xx Jane 

Negotiating The Resistance Line

One of the things I’ve been mindful of over the first few rides with Dee is negotiating the resistance line; where pressure is applied, there’s an increase in energy in response, and you begin an energetic conversation between too little, too much, and the point of resistance where both openness and understanding come to a standstill. More often than not, this requires attention to detail. For example, in teaching the cue to “go”, I first start with my intention (holding the ideal version of what I want to create in my mind), gently apply pressure with my legs (usually in conjunction with a vocal cue) and then wait for the response.

The first few times, I applied too much, too soon. I felt a brace arise- the resistance point. It’s physical yes, but it’s mainly mental. Concern, apprehension on the part of the horse- what does that mean and what do I need to do to protect myself? And too much “ask” on the part of the rider (me). What’s important to remember is that pressure is something defined by your horse’s response, not by our own feelings about what is too much and too little. What could be considered a light cue to us, may be too much for our horse according to the mood, moment, environment or level of understanding. It’s a dance of application, reflection and adjustment.

By dropping back and looking for a more refined response, you can begin to negotiate this line to elasticize your comfort zones and increase understanding without entering into conflict. For instance, if I apply a leg aid and ask for forward, expecting a full step at walk- although a seemingly small ask- may be too much in the beginning. For a horse just learning, we might look for a shift in weight, a change in dynamic that suggests their thoughts were forward if nothing else. If we can build and release from that point, I believe we can maximise learning and minimize the need for conflict.

When it comes to our own learning as riders and horse people, it’s important that we become aware of our own line of resistance and dance with it accordingly. I work with the principle of intentional practice- of seeking out the elements of riding and horsemanship that challenge me and actively incorporating it into my training.

Massaging the resistance line- the point at which you feel a physical and mental brace to the task at hand- requires us to be connected and in tune; available to listen to our instinct and intuition and be mindful of when feelings of apprehension arise in relation to an activity, request or offer. It often manifests as the catch point; the point where your desire is squashed down by your concern. The point where you “catch” yourself; you want to say yes, but instead you say no. Where you wish you could, but you feel you can’t. Where you no longer feel resourceful, willing but instead defensive and protective. Resistance.

Negotiating the resistance line, elasticizing the limits of your comfort zone and maintaining open-ness to learning and growth is a dance of peaks and troughs; it’s applying pressure, noticing the rise in tension, sustaining the tension momentarily and then releasing. Your ability to sustain the tension- to relax into what concerns you- comes with the normalization of the experience, with you seeking to include that which you have resistance to as part of what you do until you feel the hard edges dissolve. What you have then is no longer resistance, but acceptance, a new kind of normal.

xx Jane

Want head and heart skills for a trusting, happy partnership?

You can have a riding life filled with clarity, purpose and confidence- and this program will help you have it. JoyRide is an online membership program for big-hearted riders looking to create a meaningful relationship with their horse. Get in charge of your thoughts, master your mindset and your emotions so you can get out there and do what you love together. Check it out here.

The Application of the Aids

The aids and the application of the aids is something that’s frequently discussed and written about. In physical terms, there is no such thing as a universally understood or applied aid; there is only the aid that you have taught your horse to understand. For instance, placing your outside leg behind the girth and inside leg on the girth- an aid commonly taught and applied in English riding to ask for canter- is not understood by your horse to mean canter unless it’s been established as such. The first step, then, in ensuring that you and your horse have a clear line of communication is to ensure that he knows the answer to your questions and you have established a common language between you both.

 

If I were to ask you what first comes to mind when you think of “applying the aids”, chances are you would jump immediately to the physical; to how it is you organize your body and what prompts you apply in tangible terms to influence the direction, position or energy of your horse. Thinking of aids only in these terms, however, limits us; it prevents us from transcending a line of communication that begins at the most subtle level, and for any physical manifestations to arise from that place.

The application of the aids does not begin with the physical; it begins with thought and intention. Developing an awareness of and stepping into the practice of fine tuning your intention opens a world of potential that maximizes you and your horse’s creative possibilities.

Step 1: Establish Intention

Intention is the mental and emotional blueprint we set up to establish the quality of connection and create a clear impression of what is it we would like to see manifest in the physical. It occurs on the macro and micro level.

As soon as we engage our horses, we’re influencing every moment. Establishing how it is we wish to be as riders and horsepeople prior to setting eyes on our horse and what qualities we wish to cultivate between us is part of our generalized setting of intention.

Who is it that I need to be today? What does that require of me?

Instead of waiting for outside or external experience to inform how we feel or operate, intention calls us to step into the cultivation of behaviors and ways of working with our horses as an active practice. We don’t wait to feel calm. We practice calm. We don’t wait to feel confident. We practice confidence. Intention as the expression of our creative force.

On a more micro level, intention allows us to create an experience of the ideal in our mind’s eye that creates fertile ground for its physical manifestation. For instance, if I am wanting to ask for a transition from walk to trot, I create a sensory blueprint for how I want that to look.

I see my horse effortlessly and softly move into the transition with engagement.

I feel the connection between us and the relaxed way of being we both share.

I hear his footfalls on the ground, even and regular.

I create the ideal vision of what it is that I want in my mind’s eye then wait for the physical to catch up.

When we move from this place, our body reponds in ways that are barely perceptible to us- but not to our horses. When we create a visual template in our minds, our body responds by firing off the neural pathways and muscle triggers that support the physical creation of what we’ve imagined. This is one of the key reasons visualization is so successful in improving physical performance even in situations where the only practice that’s been engaged is an imagined one.

Intention also translates to a purposeful plan, a course of action that clearly and deliberately outlines the way forward. It begins with cultivating a mental landscape that sees what you want come to life, but also outlines the progression of steps necessary to achieving that end.

The application of the aid and the quality of the connection you establish with you horse begins always with your intention.

Step 2: Adjust Energy

Once you have established your intention, the second stage is to purposely direct your energy to support it. Being able to manage your energy also comes with an understanding of your energetic boundaries and those of your horse, your ability to ground yourself and to effectively manage your breath.

There’s a lot of confusion around what it means to “make your energy bigger” or “make your energy smaller” and I believe this is partly because we are only used to recognizing ourselves in purely physical terms. Our boundary, however, extends beyond the actual dimensions of our body. The clearest way to understand this is to think of it as personal space. If someone unwanted or unfamiliar comes close, you are acutely aware of the point where they have breached your personal boundary. This boundary is different depending on who you are engaged with and the level of intimacy between you. The same is true for our horses.

In order to make it more tangible, think of your boundary as extending an arm’s length out from your body- to the side, above and below. Most of us aren’t practiced at taking up all the space owed to us. In addition we have a poorly developed awareness of how our boundary represents our first point of influence and how it’s possible to influence the boundary of our horses without being in physical contact with them.

When it comes to the application of the aids, our boundaries vary depending on whether we are working on the ground or in the saddle. On the ground, cultivating a clear intention and  developing an awareness of the energetic boundary of you and your horse allows you to fine tune what it is you’re asking and seek the earliest point of influence before you come into physical contact.

Adjusting your energy on the ground also corresponds to purposefully directing your gaze in alignment with your intention; utilizing the breath to support transitions, both emotional and physical; and subtle adjustments in posture as the pre-cursor to applying a more direct physical cue.

In the saddle, the level of intimacy is already established by the physical connection of spine meeting spine; as a consequence, your energetic influence can be much more refined.

Again, a coordination of gaze, posture and breath all blend together to create momentum behind the intention that you have established.

Step 3: Organise the physical

The next stage is the application of a physical aid. In any situation, before insisting on follow through, you have to ensure that what you are asking is understood and that you are clear and consistent. The effectiveness of the aid is directly proportional to the timing of the release. In order to communicate that the answer given by your horse is the one that you’re looking for, the release of the aid needs to correspond with the “correct” response.

If you experience confusion, the first thing to check is clarity of application and understanding. It’s also vital you give your horse time to answer the question to avoid unfair increase in pressure and situations where what you are asking him to do is outside what he can mentally or emotionally assimilate at the time.

Step 4: Thanksgiving

In each and every situation, you horse is fully deserving of your thanks. The fact that they permit us to ride and to work with them in the way we do is an everyday miracle that we often take for granted. Gratitude and thanks are the closing chapter of creating intention that focuses on partnership and connection, is part of the closing ritual of the time that you have spent together and the end point of any successful application of an aid.

xx Jane

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Want head and heart skills for a trusting, happy partnership?

You can have a riding life filled with clarity, purpose and confidence- and this program will help you have it. JoyRide is an online membership program for big-hearted riders looking to create a meaningful relationship with their horse. Get in charge of your thoughts, master your mindset and your emotions so you can get out there and do what you love together. Click here to find out more!

Mindset, Connection & Horse Welfare with Equine Connection

I had the total pleasure of talking with Karsyn and Carolyn from Equine Connection for their horse welfare series.

What does it mean to have a partnership with your horse?

What is mindset and emotional agility?

How does the welfare of the horse play into your training?

We answer all that and more in the video below!

xx Jane

Want head and heart skills for a trusting, happy partnership?

You can have a riding life filled with clarity, purpose and confidence- and this program will help you have it. JoyRide is an online membership program for big-hearted riders looking to create a meaningful relationship with their horse. Get in charge of your thoughts, master your mindset and your emotions so you can get out there and do what you love together. Click here to join JoyRide, the Confident Rider Membership Program!

Transformational Horsemanship Facebook Live Series

The concept of transformational vs transactional horsemanship has really spoken to me over the past 12 months, and I have realised the former is where my passion lies- personally, professionally and in practice.

Our work and partnership with our horses can be transformational, but it is not inherently so; without paying attention to the process, it’s easy for it to become transactional.

Transactional horsemanship is where we ride in order to achieve a specific goal that is centred around producing a result.

Transformational horsemanship is where we are dedicated to the process of becoming; it’s a practice of personal evolution in relationship with our horse. Transformational horsemanship values who we are, how we behave and how we treat others, our horses and ourselves above the achievement of a specific result or outcome.

 

Transformational horsemanship does not exclude achievement; in fact, it holds us to a much higher standard of daily practice that ensures that what we are involving ourselves in is sustainable and enduring. It’s the process and practice of the artistry of riding and horsemanship as opposed to a series of sprints towards short term results.

The following is a series of Facebook Live Session recordings I held on Confident Rider dedicated to the discussion around transformational horsemanship and how the four quadrants- the intellectual, the physical, the emotional and the intuitive- all feed in to the mastery of whole hearted horsemanship.

There are ten sessions (some longer than others!) so you might want to grab the popcorn and get settled!

Enjoy!

xx Jane

Want head and heart skills for a trusting, happy partnership?

You can have a riding life filled with clarity, purpose and confidence- and this program will help you have it. JoyRide is an online membership program for big-hearted riders looking to create a meaningful relationship with their horse. Get in charge of your thoughts, master your mindset and your emotions so you can get out there and do what you love together. Click here to find out more!

Thought, Feeling and Intention ~ On Emotional Alignment & Congruence

The practice of emotional agility means that we need to become adept at emotional transitions, the crossover where one mood state is allowed to pass through and another allowed to rise up in its place. In order for us to effectively navigate these hinge points, we need skills of emotional recognition and understanding (the ability to recognize the messages behind emotions and deal with them accordingly) followed by the means to channel and process the energy created so that we can move forward in a way that is constructive and beneficial for both ourselves and our horses.

For most of us, this is a tall order. Generally speaking, we are taught to value intellectual and logical thought over everything else. As a consequence, many of us overlook or ignore gut feelings and deem our emotions untrustworthy, cultivating a façade that is opposes the emotional currents that run beneath the surface.

So how does this work against us when it comes to developing a relationship with your horse? Your horse’s ability to sense emotional congruence, to tell whether your feelings, action and intentions are in alignment is one of their greatest skills. It’s not a party trick but an essentials skill for survival; understanding subtle changes in body language, breath and heart rate and even hormone levels is part of their extra-sensory defence system that alerts them to possible danger and keeps them safe.

Transfer this to a domestic situation, and a lack of congruence between how you feel and what you emanate and project makes you untrustworthy. Misalignment does not foster feelings of safety and instead creates an atmosphere of defensiveness and concern.

Consequently, the onus of responsibility lies with us, firstly, in ensuring that we are not using our horses or training as an outlet to release built up emotional residue, and secondly, to do the internal work needed for thought, feeling, action and intention to line up.

Allowing for an emotional transition at the start of every session is a valuable practice to get into. Checking in, doing what is needed to ground and anchor yourself and establish your intention allows for a conscious start point.

Replacing judgement with curiosity. What is it that my horse is presenting me with today? How is it that I am feeling? What is the most constructive way forward?

Observing and seeking to understand our responses to what our horse presents is one of the greatest gifts of healing and self-development they provide us with. Our task is to listen and reflect perhaps in greater quantities than we ask and direct.

xx Jane

The new Aware Pathway in JoyRide is all about learning to recognise and process your emotions. The last thing we want is a situation where we’re suppressing how we feel or letting our feelings run riot.  That’s no good for anyone, least of all you and your horse. Acknowledging how you feel, grounding yourself, setting boundaries, processing emotions and managing your energy are what it means to be emotionally agile. You’ll learn how to do that as part of my JoyRide Membership Program. You can check it out here.

Taking Your Emotions With You; The Case for Wholehearted Judgement

“Leave your emotions at the gate”. It’s a principle that I subscribed to for a long time and only recently have I fully processed my thoughts and feelings about it. Consequently, I’ve completely flipped around.

What do I think now? I think that leaving our emotions at the gate is not the answer to being measured and effective horsepeople, but actually a huge part of the reason why we have problems intelligently managing our emotions in the first place- and will only continue to do so for as long as suppression and detachment about how we really feel about an event, situation or circumstance appears to be the answer.

When we consider who we are and how it is we operate in the world, we function as a consequence of multiple intelligences; the physical, the mental and intellectual, the emotional and the intuitive. For the most part, the most highly developed of these and consequently, the most overused is our logical or intellectual intelligence. This is not because it is any better or stronger than the others, it’s simply the one that we have paid the most attention to. Analyse any school system or educational institution and it becomes apparent that feelings and sensory intelligence are not promoted, if barely acknowledged.

As a consequence, we have ceased to understand the importance and value of experiencing the entire range of emotions on the spectrum- from those that we might categorise as “negative” right through to the “positive” emotions- simply because our underdeveloped use of emotional, intuitive and in some cases physical intelligence have lost the ability to communicate to each other and process information as the highly developed and exquisite sensory and mental superhighway they are.

The effects of this are far reaching. Our heavy reliance on thought and logic means that we are “stuck” in overthinking loops that appear to have no way out. Having ignored our physical intelligence, our body is unable to translate this mental energy into useful, tangible action.

Cut off from our emotions, we are unable to process how we feel in response to the thoughts we are having and allow our emotions to flow. Instead, we repress or express in ways that damage us, our horses and those around us.

A little attended to intuition is no longer free to provide insight or to allow the space and “allowing” needed to reach conclusions, understandings and learnings that are the gift of our intrinsic, wholehearted nature.

Instead, we cut ourselves off at the head- literally- and wonder why there is no way out.

Judgement- or our perception of judgement- is one such example of this. In the healthiest sense, judgement allows us to look at something and decide whether it works for us or not. When we are able to integrate all of the above, judgement is not name calling or put downs; it doesn’t categorise things into good or bad or us and them. Judgement is healthy and necessary.

I’ve chosen judgment as my topic of choice in the previous two blogs I have written about. Off the back of that, I’ve noticed the questions and dialogue I’ve received around it interprets judgement- all judgement- as unhealthy, which is so if you are not operating from a psyche that is measured, that pays attention to all of its intelligences and honours each of them.

Judgement based purely on intellect will most likely result in categorization and polarization.

Judgement based purely on emotion means we lose the ability to rationalize, to take what we need to from them and to channel them appropriately. Instead, we might overreact or fly off the handle.

The healthy form of judgement involves us making intelligent, considered decisions as a result of heart and mind working together. It’s vastly different from labelling, name calling and personal attacks, which is much more reflective individual disharmony and division,  such unprocessed feeling or trauma, rather than an inherent “flaw” of judgement.

Categorizing emotion- any emotion- as good or bad, or as something we should or shouldn’t do is unhelpful, and what’s more, damaging.

The practice instead needs to turn to the promotion of each of our intelligences so we can understand the messages and learnings provided to us and learn to channel and direct them in ways that see us operating from the whole of ourselves for the sake of everyone- us, our horses and those around us.

Leaving our emotions at the gate cuts us off from the ability to create meaningful, empathetic and fully engaged relationships with our horses, and I think we owe ourselves and them so much more than that.

xx Jane

Self-Responsibility; Taking Charge of What’s In Your Cup

We’d just finished eating dinner and were sitting around the table.

Sometimes they come over to me in the playground and they say that I’m stupid, he said to me quietly. He was fiddling with his hands and looking quite upset.

That’s hard, I tell him. When people behave like that it can be hard to deal with, you’re allowed to be upset. It doesn’t mean it’s true though. And it doesn’t mean that you have to be like them, I continue. You can just walk away.

Think of it this way. I pull three of the empty glasses towards me that are sitting on the table.

If this glass is full of milk, and you knock it so that some spills over the side, what comes out? I ask him.

Milk, he says.

Right.

And if this one is full of water and I knock it over, what comes out?

Water, he says. Right, I say.

And if this one if full of Orange Juice and I bump it, what comes out?

Orange juice.

Right. So what spills over is only ever what’s on the inside. You can’t knock the glass with water in it and have milk come out. Just like, you can’t accidentally spill the glass with orange juice and have milk come out.

People are the same. What they do and what they say is not so much about you as it is what they are feeling, or “full of” on the inside. If they say those things to you, you can remind yourself that what’s coming out is what is in their cup. You get to decide what your cup is going to be full of.

***

I’d had the idea to write a blog on self-responsibility for a few days now, but every time I sat down to write it, it wasn’t coming together. It was dull, uninteresting, righteous. It felt like a lecture in how to behave given from the podium, rather than an exploration of what truly self-responsibility is; a liberation.

When it comes to my coaching work, my own work with my horses and the way that try to navigate the world, I always try to assess what my part is in what I am experiencing. Self-responsibility is always the start point.

The sooner that you let go of the excuses; the sooner you stop blaming other people, horses or things for your experiences; the sooner you embrace the fact that your power to affect change and to create what you want as opposed to just experience what may appear to be a sequence of random events and circumstances we call life…

 …the sooner you step into the driving seat and begin to exert influence over the only thing in life that you can truly control; your attitude, your responses and the choices you make.

In other words, you get to choose what’s in your cup.

When I began to apply this thought process to my life and riding, things took on a whole new meaning.

Deciding what’s in your cup means that you anchor yourself in your intention. It means looking to yourself in each and every moment to decide how you want to proceed. It doesn’t mean that everything will always go to plan, but it does mean that you are involved in a dynamic process of introspection that allows you- or at least calls you- to stay in alignment with your values and your aspirations.

What could be more liberating than that.

“My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing your best in this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment” ~ Oprah Winfrey

xx Jane

Your Emotional Bank Account

Imagine that every morning when you wake up, ten credits are deposited in your emotional bank account. A withdrawal is made every time you do something which costs you energy; anytime that you are required to draw on your inner resources or need to step up in some shape or form.

It’s possible to gain credits also. Credits come from anything that “fills you up”, supports you, from positive experience, and from joy.

Deductions and deposits are made physically also. If you don’t get enough sleep; if you don’t eat well, or at all; if you don’t drink enough. All of these things cause you to withdraw on the balance that you have. All of these things “tax” you in some way, and vice versa.

Imagine now the following. Last night’s sleep was rough. Getting up is an effort. You manage to haul yourself out of bed and get yourself to work. Minus 3 points.

Work is busy. Minus 1. You barely have time for lunch so you just grab something quick on the run. Minus 1. Your boss is in a bad mood; there are deadlines to meet and there’s still so much work today. Everyone in the office is feeling it. Minus 2.

5 o clock finally comes and you can’t wait to go and see your horse. Things have been going really well lately and you feel like you both are starting to get it together. You get ready and lead him out to the arena for a ride.

You can feel he’s a little tense when you get on but he settles and you start to walk around. For some reason today, the “easy” stuff is feeling really hard. It’s not that your horse is doing anything “wrong” but you’re all over the place; you’re not enjoying it at all.

At the end of the ride, you will completely deflated. Maybe you were kidding yourself with this whole riding thing. It felt like it had been going so well but right now, you feel like the best option might be to throw the towel in and face up to the reality that you just don’t have what it takes.

Of the 10 points you had to draw on at the start of the day, 7 have been used up before you even got to the barn. If you are in a situation where you need a certain amount of emotional stealth to produce a successful result, you may find yourself in a position where you simply don’t have enough to draw on. You were feeling compromised before you even made it out of the start gates.

While the exact details of the story above may not hit home for you, we’ve all had experiences where our emotional bank accounts are running dry. Understanding that certain events in our day or even life circumstances at the time have an effect on our resilience, our coping skills and how positive we feel in any given moment is an important consider when it comes to our riding, and what’s more we can use the information to set ourselves up for success.

Using the metaphor of the emotional bank account gives you a tangible means to assess what might currently be taxing you and how you can make some deposits. There are many things in life that happen outside of our control, but there is also much that we can do to set ourselves up for success.

Here’s some things to consider when it comes to making some deposits:

  • Sleep! If you’ve ever not had enough of it you will know how not getting enough sleep affects your mood and outlook. If you are lacking confidence or about to do something that you know is going to “require” more of you, do your best not to be burning the midnight oil and getting the most rest that you can
  • Set yourself up for success. It seems like an obvious one but asking yourself, what can I do to set myself up for success in this situation? Goes a long way in illuminating some basic measures you can take that will allow you to feel more supported and resourceful. What can you do to better set yourself up for success?
  • Cut yourself some slack. If you are going through something that is taking multiple deposits from your emotional bank account, cut yourself some slack. Now may not be the time to really push the bar when it comes to your comfort zone, or put you and your horse in a position where you need to be at the top of your game. Recognise what you need and honour it. At the end of the day, it’s better for you AND better for your horse.
  • Nourish yourself. If you aren’t eating or drinking enough or filling yourself up with things that don’t support you physically, it will be having an effect on your emotional resilience and health also. Check in and make sure you are getting what you physically need to feel emotionally resourceful also.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Look after yourself first.

xx Jane

Practicing The Art Of Acceptance

“I did a really intensive practice of non-judgement for a whole month,” she said. “It was really hard, but at the end of the month, I felt amazing. It was like all of the energy that I spent sending out judging things was coming back to me in a positive way instead”.

Being judgmental- or perhaps more to the point not being judgmental- is a really interesting topic. I’ve been throwing it around in my brainspace after having this conversation with my lovely friend Donna recently, and got to thinking, what’s the opposing positive manifestation of that? What’s the flip side of judgement? Because just “non-judgement”  as a definition wasn’t really cutting it for me.

The conclusion that I came to was acceptance. The opposite of non-judgment was glorious, effortless acceptance of what is.

Acceptance worked for me on a number of levels. For instance, one of the arguments that came up in my head was, well, isn’t some form of judgement necessary? I mean we need to judge in order that we can evaluate things and make a decision about how to move forward, right?

Sound the buzzer!

Well, no. Because judgement isn’t synonymous with a productive outcome. It’s not linked together with objective evaluation. It’s a critique, and often on areas of life, riding and horses that may not concern us at all.

Judgement, it seems, is the mother ship of non- acceptance. Judgment causes us to observe something about ourselves, our horses, other people and situations and add layer of emotion on top which causes us to plant our flag in one of two camps:

Camp Right or Camp Wrong

Camp Good or Camp Bad

And if we wanted to get more specific:

Camp I’m a worthy person or Camp I’m not a worthy person

Camp My Horse Is Good or Camp My Horse Is Bad

You can see where I’m going with this.

Acceptance, on the other hand… just the idea of it feels liberating.

Acceptance is the objective observation of what is, before we add the layer of emotion. Before we get all judge-ey judge-ey.

Accepting something doesn’t mean you necessarily condone it.

It doesn’t mean that you won’t do anything to change it.

But it does mean that you observe a situation and you… accept it. It’s not good or bad. It’s not right or wrong. It just… is.

I shared a post recently from my time with a group of ten year old children involved in an Equine Assisted Learning program. One of the beautiful things about horses, we told them, is that they are give you instant feedback that’s non-judgmental. In other words, if you horse expresses to you concern or anxiety, they do so with clear, non-emotional intent.

Often, in our human to human interactions, our instructions or feedback to each other is not so unemotional. In fact, at the bare minimum, there’s often an undercurrent of feeling that colours every interaction we have, for better or for worse.

At the end of our session together, we asked the kids to pick a word that summed up their experience. One of the little boys in my group choose honesty. He said that he liked that the horses were honest.

When I asked how that made him feel, I was really taken aback by his answer. He said that it made him feel safe.

Judgment, it seems, is the elixir that causes us give away our energy in subjective, emotionally-fueled evaluation that somehow allows us to feel “more right”. More right in our opinion of others; more right in our assessment of our horses; more right in criticizing ourselves about how we should be if we weren’t this, that or the other.

Acceptance liberates the energy that we would spend in asserting our self-asserted right-ness and allows us to channel it productively.

If there’s a situation we can’t change, judging it is a waste of energy.

Accepting allows us to keep moving.

If our horse shows concern or upset, judging makes us feel worse about the situation without moving us closer to the solution.

Acceptance gifts us with emotional distance, that allows us to invest in the solution, rather than the problem.

If there is something about ourselves that we wish were different, judging only causes us to fester and ruminate. In unchangeable situations, it will make us feel worse with no benefit. In changeable situations, it will prevent us from making it different.

Once I decided to invest some energy in actively cultivating acceptance, I felt my body and mind take a long exhale.

“Peace is the result of training your mind to process life as it is rather than as you think it should be” ~ Wayne Dyer

Exhale.

xx Jane

What’s The One Thing?

Reflections from WEG

I’m in the hotel room, kicking back. It’s the night before the “big day”. The competition is due to start in the morning and we’ve opted out of attending the open ceremony festivities in favour of some down time and internal silence (it’s amazing how the white noise at big events surrounds you at all times!).

Since WEG has been over, I’ve seen many questions asked, a large proportion of which included the statement, what’s the one thing?

What’s the one thing that made the difference?

What’s the one thing that turned it around?

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The truth is, there’s never really one thing.

In the case of success of any sort, it’s always multiple things that contribute to producing a successful result. One of my favorite (and potentially most frustrating!) lines is, “it’s all about the process”.

It’s a favourite because it’s true- it really is all about the process.

It’s frustrating because it’s generally not what you want to hear when you are looking for, well… the one thing.

Process indicates time.

Process indicates practice.

Process indicates consistent application.

Process, process, process.

And despite knowing that, despite knowing it was all about the process and the years and months of work that had gone in, I was still searching for something.

I don’t believe in the “one thing” but I do know there are times when I’ve heard the right thing at the time when it mattered most, and it was that thing that I was searching for.

And so there I was, lying on my bed, searching my brain space for the right thing to say.

I was asking myself, what is the one thing that I would want to hear if it were me in the saddle tomorrow? What would I want to tell myself? What would I want to hear?

What IS the one thing?

And you know what it is?

It’s gratitude.

That’s what I’d want to be reminded of.

I sent this message to Robyn:

If you can ride into the warm up and enter the arena with a sense of gratitude- gratitude for what you have already achieved, for your amazing horses, for the experience and the chance to be country representatives, I truly think you connect to the higher part of yourself that transcends any other lower energies that make you feel separate or concerned. If you can ride for and with that part of you, then you will dance your way through it.

You don’t have to be riding at the World Equestrian Games or aspire to in order to experience the positive effects of gratitude. Cultivating an attitude and energy of gratitude is a panacea for any number of ills; among its most potent superpower being its ability to ground you in the present, redirect your focus to what is working and what is going well right now and as a consequence leave you in a space where you are much more resourceful and able to embrace opportunities and negotiate challenges.

Stepping into a grateful mindset is always a choice. And one that without fail yields positive results.

So if there was a one thing that I could narrow down, that would be it.

Process, process, process.

And:

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

xx Jane

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