Add Power To Tension & You Just Get More Tension

This is Nadia. If I were to describe Nadia as a person, this is what I would say:

Nadia has a heart that swallows you in its arms as soon as you are in her company. Her eyes are a pool of kindness and she has a pulse that makes you feel like she’s a very old soul.

And yet all at once, Nadia does not recognize her own power. The strength that she could so easily own has been dampened by the assertions of many she has held company with.

Her opinions have not been allowed to express themselves.

Her natural athleticism has been shaped and held in very physical ways so her outside form fits the shape of an ideal body but in ways that are forced, not created.

She’s been kept within a confined definition of beauty where the standard is more about form than it is about function. More Pleasantville and less The White Mouse.

And none of this has been done with malicious intent. It’s simply the way it’s always been done.

For some at least.

When Nadia and I first came together, her strength only held when the scaffolding was there to support it. Without her equine friends around, it crumbled into dust. Even presenting her with the bridle and the bit ignited a pattern in her body of concern and negative anticipation.

In order to soften the edges of the concern and create a new perspective, we can’t approach the training the same way it’s always been done. Going as far as to share the same start point would even be a mistake; from there, all we would ignite is a chain reaction of conditioned responses that take us to the same conclusion before we have even introduced the possibility that things could be different.

Nadia has fallen into the same training system think tank that many of us unknowingly subscribe to ourselves when it comes to navigating fear, tension and concern; the go harder, go stronger or go home philosophy.

The cowboy up method.

The push ‘em through it way.

The Just Do It approach.

Us humans, we think that the system we fall under is different from our horses- but it’s really not.

If we ignore the signs of tension, unease or concern in our horses in favor of “manning up and pushing through”, bets on we do the same thing to ourselves when we feel a similar way.

We translate those feelings as weakness, disrespect or shameful. Instead of allowing space for them, breathing into them, we contract around them and hope that if we hold them tighter, nobody will notice they are there.

In order for us to truly understand relaxation, we have to truly understand fear and tension. They are in a co-dependent relationship.

The basic rules are this:

Add power to tension and you just get more tension.

And:

The amount of tension you begin with is directly proportional to the level of reactivity your requests are met with.

For instance: If my horse begins with a baseline of tension that is high, asking for more will only increase the level of tightness I’m rewarded with on a physical, mental and emotional level.

If I myself get on with a high level of anxiety and concern, pushing for more without first seeking to soften my concerns will only see those concerns tighten.

In both scenarios, asking for more is not the answer.

Asking why, however, is.

Why is this concern there? How can I better understand it? And how can I allow those tensions to release so we create a new start point, a brand-new conversation from which to begin from?

This is Nadia.

I have not worked specifically on making her comfortable with the bit, and yet when I put the bridle on the day before yesterday, for the first time in two years, she accepted it and held it without question.

I haven’t worked specifically on making her brave, and yet she is becoming more and more so.

I have not asked her to push through or ignored what she was feeling, and the softness has made her stronger.

I haven’t done anything special than give her the same graces that I hope to extend to myself.

That if she shows concern, I seek to understand it.

That if she carries tension, I seek to relieve it.

That if she has an opinion, I do my best to listen.

And that when I see her, I tell her how magnificent she is and how grateful I am to be in her company.

The qualities we should all be granted in a partner.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

The Deep Pool Of Knowing: Tapping Into Your Trust

Never at any point prior had I ever imagined myself sitting barefoot on an unstable plastic chair dressed in a nightgown that buttoned all the way up to just under my chin, long voluminous swathes of material that extended well over my wrists and well past my ankles in the middle of the Sri Lankan jungle.

And yet here I was, getting eaten alive by many forms of biting bugs, a position I had chosen over the stifling room I’d been given in to sleep in prior.

I laughed at first. Initially to myself. Then out loud. And then the crying merged to sobbing and I found I didn’t know what to do with myself as the ugly cries and tears and snot streamed and I didn’t want to use the sleeve of the gifted nightdress to deal with any of it.

I felt my chest. My passport was still there, gaffer taped to my person. A small group of others slept in the tiny hut just behind me.

It was 2005, shortly after the first Tsunami had demolished the Sri Lankan shoreline and I was here to help.

The fear was palpable. The second Tsunami was coming. It was a fixture in the minds of all who had seen the first. A TukTuk had sped out of the trees and picked up a reluctant me from my dilapidated lodging near the shoreline.

If the second wave comes, I was advised, you must get off the ground. Even if the water is only 2cm deep, it will come at you the speed of a jumbo jet. You will be knocked off your feet and swept out. In many cases, it wasn’t the depth of the water that killed, but this. Get off the ground.

I was tired. I felt alone. I was in this strange place and I was hot and sticky and for that moment, over it.

The first thing to happen was a detachment. As I sat and sobbed with my weary, tired tears I dropped deeper. A quietness. Still bearing witness to my own crying but as though I was hearing myself in another room.

It stopped, little by little. I was like a child, distracted from their feeling by a toy held out for them. The quiet deepness, a door very slightly ajar, tempting me to peek around the corner.

I sat. For how long, I’m not sure. Just me and the bugs and the heat and the 1800’s nightdress.

I asked the quietness what to do. It felt like it was open to questions.

Listen, I asked it. How do I let go?

I sat for longer.

How do I let go?

I felt my hands relax on my legs.

By releasing what you are holding onto.

Faith is a curious thing. It’s an act of surrender in moments where you feel like holding tighter is the only logical answer. It’s a return to some understanding, however superficial, that you are part of a bigger navigational system that will guide you and tell you what to do from one moment to the next.

We can plan. We can arrange as much as we are able. We can learn and save and account for. But the thing we have the least practice in is something that we need the most of: Faith and trust.

Not in anything or anyone around us.

In ourselves.

In all the moments since, I have practiced with varying success those two things. When I feel anxious, afraid or unsure, I drop deeper.

I detach from the noise. I drop as deep as I can go.

There are always two things waiting for me there.

Trust that no matter what happens, I can, and will, deal with what comes up.

And:

Surrender to the moment. Only looking as far as the next right step.

Trust and surrender are the worker bees of your intuition. Aligning yourself with them takes you out of future-focused fear and connects you to a guidance system as expansive as the stars in the sky.

In many instances, the only reason we seek this out and find peace within it is when we’ve spent too much time in the opposite. Too much time holding on. Too much time thinking. Too much time attempting to control everything we deem within our scope of power.

It’s ironic to think that the answer could possibly come from no longer holding on.

That the power lies in an intangible practice of trust rather than a logical grappling with details and fine print.

My horses are a constant reminder, my teachers, of this deep pool of knowing. They live within this space. When they think about how to behave, act or respond, it comes from their knowing. Left to their own devices, their knowing never lets them down.

It tells them, graze now.

Rest now.

Run now.

They don’t pre-empt their knowing. Or wonder if it no longer there. They simply trust that in the moment, it will speak to them and they will deal with it as it comes up.

They trust in their knowing and trust in themselves.

Big situations require big trust.

And the knowing is always there.

So if you find yourself rising up. Into the space of anxiety, fear or concern. Drop deeper.

Tap into your trust.

And remind yourself that whatever comes up, you will handle it as and when it is needed.

Onwards.

❤️Jane

The Full Embrace: Dancing With Grief

A little while back, I had two experiences, very close together which changed the fabric of my world as I saw it. I came home from an overseas work trip only to wake up the next morning and find our beautiful older horse injured in the paddock. Although I hoped to be wrong, I knew immediately that it was not an experience that he would recover from. Despite being able to rationalize that he’d lived a full and happy life and was loved throughout- despite knowing what was coming-  at the moment that death came, I could not escape the feeling of the air being sucked out of my body as I struggled to compose myself through the noise of my own sobbing.

Not much later, my younger horse became very ill and whilst he went on to make a full recovery, his life hung in the balance for many weeks in between. Here the grief was different- I felt swallowed not only by the potential loss of my friend, but the loss of the dreams that I held for the both of us. The fear of his death was always front of mind and despite many efforts to distract myself or focus on what I could control, I learned very quickly that grief and sadness is not a process that can be avoided, denied or suppressed. It pulses through you with an energy that will only reappear in different or undesirable ways if you attempt to control or contort it. Instead, I had to surrender to the grief and allow for it; to allow the natural process to take its course.

Change also brings its own form of grief. The loss of what was or would or could be. Grief at the loss of routine, of connection; of letting go of the attachment to things that we love and hold dear.

The experience of grief is made more bearable if we can understand that it is natural, expected and painful. From my work and own studies, I have come to understand the function of grief as something that we feel in our psyche when we are confronted with a big change. When we accept it in this way, we can then come to recognize grief in its many forms. The most obvious form is death, but we also grieve as a result of injury and trauma; in fact, any loss that represents a new reality that differs from what you have been used to can show up as an experience of grief.

The most common response to grief is one of huge loss, but at its essence, grief is a re-creation. We don’t forget what or who it is that we are grieving; instead we take them with us. The experience of grief destroys what we have come to know previously and reshapes us- if we let it- into something new and more expansive. We take forward everything that we have learned, be that from horses or humans, and apply the lessons to those who come into our path as part of the newly created present and future.

While I am respectful of the experience of grief being a very personal one, there are some common points that feel worthy of discussion that come to mind from conversations with riders who have struggled with or feel debilitated by the loss of their horse, or by grief in its many shapes and forms.

Your grief is valid

There are many stages of grief, but it’s not so much a step by step process as much as it is like being thrown in a concrete mixer- everything is happening all at once and altogether. The denial, the anger, the sadness, the acceptance, the resignation, the understanding; all conflicting and confusing and seemingly happening all within the same breath. Regardless of how things are showing up for you, your feelings are valid. They are not a sign of weakness, or failure; they are a natural response to massive change that is requiring you to reconfigure life and riding as you know it.

You have to surrender to the process

As a culture, we are “bad” at grief, change and dying. Not only are we unsure how to deal with it personally, but we are even more unsure how to deal with someone else in the midst of it. The ability to hold space for someone to go through a hard and painful emotional experience is a skill- and it’s a skill that not everyone has. As a consequence, big emotions are often shut down or glossed over because we don’t know how to “fix” it and consequently, we would rather pretend that it isn’t happening.

For those of you in a support role for someone grieving, you are not expected to fix it. You are off the hook on that one. Instead, allowing someone to experience their pain and be with them without diminishing it or disallowing it is one of the most healing and loving things you can offer someone.

What’s more, if you are in the midst of grief, you don’t expect to be fixed- and even more than that, you know that it isn’t possible. The process, however, of being allowed to grieve is an important one, and if that space is not created for you, you need to ensure that you create the space for yourself.

Lean into your grief

Suppression, denial or pretending everything is ok is intimately related to this. When others are unable to hold space for us, and we are unable to hold space for ourselves, we do not allow ourselves to cycle through the natural grief process. What you are feeling cannot be ignored, and when it is, it appears in ways that are unhealthy and unproductive. Leaning into the pain is the only way to allow yourself to be transformed by it. Pretending it isn’t there does not give you a free pass to escape the process; it will just prolong it and create a whole lot of messiness in between.

The other reason for suppression or denial is that we believe that allowing ourselves to feel our grief means something about us that we don’t want it to mean or we feel like we are falling into a hole that we may never come out of. Allowing yourself to feel the emotion does not mean that you are weak, that you lack courage or that you are a failure. It just means that you loved deeply and that you are going through a big change that demands respect and reverence.

Although it can be scary, going into the grief does not mean that you will stay in it, or that the feelings will be the same forever. It will be hard and it will be painful- that’s intrinsic to the process and something that none of us escape from- but you can and will come to the other side of it if you can give in to the reemergence of a different version of yourself. The transformation of grief happens by itself, whether or not we are willing participants.

Grief is hard work

Grieving, especially in the early stages, is a full-time job. Nothing is more time consuming than the energy that grief requires. If you are in the midst of grieving, extend to yourself the same kindnesses that you would extend to a friend or a loved one. Make time for the grieving process and give yourself the space to process and recover. You will get to the other side of it, but only as a consequence of allowing yourself to feel it.

There is a beautiful quote by Anne Lamott that says:

 “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

 Here’s to learning how to dance with the limp.

❤️Jane

The Show Jumper & The Pandemic: An Unlikely Tale Of Change, Loss & Gain.

Change is a difficult thing for us to get our heads around.

A while back, I worked with a rider who was becoming very successful on the showjumping circuit. She was consistently winning, feeling great, and leading the series that had been on her dream list to win for as long as she could remember.

Then, one day, she stopped going to shows. She just… stayed home. Left the truck parked in the driveway, and sat on the couch, thinking about everyone else out there with their horses.

Naturally, this behavior seemed to make no sense. After all, this was what she wanted right? What was wrong with her?

But as we began work together, and started to pick through, the reasons became more and more clear.

Her friend group- people who were very important to her- had started to treat her differently. Winning had changed the dynamic they were used to and the previous close relationships they had shared became less so.

At least, that’s how it felt.

If winning, then, was the reason for her strained relationships, best she stop doing that quick smart. Or so her unconscious mind told her.

You know, I told her, the thing about comfort zones is that it’s not so much about what we want but what we are used to. Your comfort zone represents what’s most familiar, and change- even if it’s what we want- challenges that. So when we hit the outer edges of our comfort zone, we cycle back down to what’s familiar. That is our homeostasis point, and everything in nature is just trying to preserve homeostasis.

You are just cycling back to what you know.

Our tendency, I continued, is to view change and movement forward- especially if it’s really disruptive to our systems- from the position of loss. In your situation, for instance, you are not viewing winning the showjumping series from a position of gain and advancement; you see it from the position of loss and separation.

If there’s one thing I know about change, is that it’s a filter system. My mantra is this:

Change is a filter and everything that is good comes with me.

If my friendships are really there for the highest interest of everyone, I know they will come with me.

Whatever I know in my experience now, if it is meant to be mine as we continue on, I know it will be there for me on the other side.

It doesn’t mean that it is easy. It doesn’t mean that I won’t do my best to maintain relationships or work to preserve what I have.

This is not a passive process.

But I do know that if I prevent myself from advancing and expanding in favor of staying where I am, then I’ve fallen into the trap of believing it’s possible to be static. That what I have now is the best deal possible for me, and the truth is, we don’t really know that.

Our human tendency is to view change through the lens of loss, especially if that change is something we didn’t initiate or necessarily want. We sit where we are now, we look around and back and think, I don’t want to lose this.

We look forward, and instead of seeing possibility, we see blackness.

So we start grabbing. We hold and snatch and hunker down in the hope that the tighter we hold on, the less chance we have of change taking a hold of us.

But the only thing that does is create stress.

It’s possible, that what lies ahead is better than what we know.

But in order to walk through the invisible wall, we have to let what has come before fall away. And what remains will be what was meant to come with us.

Change- even change that we want- is a process of surrender. It’s a process of faith. It’s a process of trust.

But not of anything outside you. Of yourself.

You have to trust that you will deal with whatever comes up.

You have to keep your face turned towards positive possibility.

You have to be willing to let it burn so you can rise.

But not facing towards what you have lost.

Facing towards what you have and will gain.

And my showjumper? She won the series.

Change is a filter and everything that is good comes with you.

Onwards.

❤️Jane

Freedom Within Structure: Healthy Habits For Sanity & Wellness

I’m a freedom lover. For a very long time, I rebelled against the idea of any sort of routine because I believed that true freedom came with being able to create my own schedule and exist outside of any pre-set parameters. I quickly learned this was a fast track to nowhere.

Yes, I love freedom, but every form of energy needs direction to be truly felt and appreciated. Without a framework around me, it’s too easy to lose track of what was important or what was the highest and best use of my time. Now I realise that liberation exists as a consequence of good habits and structure, and this is possible to create for yourself even within circumstances that are unusual, unwanted or unfamiliar.

When you have a lot of time on your hands and not a lot of variety in terms of how you can spend it, it’s easy to get into a routine that follows the path of least resistance and leaves you feeling under-nourished mentally, emotionally and physically (hello endless watching of TV and scrolling the internet!). As humans, two of our base needs is to have a sense of purpose and to experience a sense of progress. Both of these are possible to cultivate, we just need to be intentional in how we are using our time.

Let’s start at the start and take it from there.

Establishing some sort of routine when you wake up

With everything on the outside seeming kind of out of control right now, creating a morning routine is an important part of taking control for yourself and gifting yourself with a sense of certainty when you wake up.

This can be as simple or as detailed as you like, but I see this very first part of the day as an opportunity to decide how it is I want to show up in the world and the kind of person I want to be. I know- that all sounds very idealistic- but the truth of it is that recognizing that these elements are within my control is something I find very comforting.

Instead of seeing joy or bravery as destinations I arrive at, I see them as opportunities for practice. How can I practice joy today? How can I practice bravery? And if I am operating from that place, how does that inform my decisions and actions?

The other thing that I consider uber important? Taking care of your nervous system. Right now, I believe self-care is part of our community and global responsibility. This is a time where our considered responses, our creativity and our ability to care for each other is needed more than ever. We aren’t able to do any of those things in any constructive way if we are anxious, overwhelmed and strung out.

For me, setting my intentions and practicing a combination of Qi Gong and Yoga help me ground my nervous system and nourish myself so that I can be a part of the solution- part of the flow of the good stuff- and remove myself from feelings of panic or distress that are so easy to slip into right now.

Create a morning routine that’s specific to you. And within that, be flexible.

If you’re inclined to stay in your Pajamas all day, your morning routine might be as simple as getting dressed and taking a moment to breathe before going to whatever comes next.

It won’t always go the way you planned. My moments of tranquility are often interrupted by two little people vying for space on my mat, but it’s all part of it.

Sleep- Make sure you getting it.

This is really a big one and something that I’m practicing devoting myself too. I asked myself what is the one thing that I can do that will have the biggest effect on everything else in my life and making sure I am getting enough sleep takes the top spot on my list.

If you’re still on the fence about whether sleep is important, check out this Ted Talk. And if you aren’t so much interested in watching that, here’s a quick summary of factoids I took away from it

  1. Reducing sleep by 1 to 2 hours a night reduces immunity by 70%. Those Killer T cells that we need to rally around reduce by SEVENTY PERCENT! Can you believe that? The simple equation means that sleep deprivation = immune-compromised. I get that some of us (shift work, small people waking us up in the night) aren’t fully in control of our sleep, but for those of us that are, we really need to make sure we are getting our full 8 hours in. It really matters.
  2. With the same reduction, our cognitive abilities decrease by up to 40%. That means our memory and our ability to retain information is drastically affected.
  3. Not so much mentioned, but talking experientially, if you are sleep deprived, your emotional balance and resilience are going to go out the window. Nervous system restoration and balance happen during deep rest. And there is no backup plan if you aren’t getting it.

Make sleep a priority. It really is a matter of make or break.

Fill Yourself With The Good Stuff (I’m talking eating well, drinking water and exercising however you can)

 I know, nothing groundbreaking here, but it is ah-ma-zing how quickly this stuff gets pushed out when the days are stretching before us and we don’t have the defined breaks that we might be used to. I’ve found one of the most challenging parts of being an adult is deciding what to eat every day, and over the last little while (no need to congratulate me, this is a really new thing for me!) I’ve been going through the recipe books and pre-planning (I know!) what I’m going to eat.

Given how going to the supermarket is not an opportunity for doodling around at the moment, I’m planning on having a pretty firm idea of how to go about things so hitting the old recipe books and getting myself a tight little list will help make sure I actually come home with things I can use (and hopefully avoid the “why did I buy that?) feeling.

Drinking water and exercise. You know how this goes. Do both of them. They aren’t luxuries. You need both of them to be a human being that feels like they have it going on.

Learning. Soak it up.

For me this is as important of any and all of the above. If I feel like I’m not learning, I feel like my soul has turned into a raison, and that makes me a grumpy person on the outside. Space for learning- be it a podcast, an audiobook, a tutorial- is a total must in my day and I’m always looking for opportunities to tune my ear balls into helpful words as I go about doing things.

In my online program, we are really ramping things up to make sure we have the ways and means to support our heads and hearts over this time, and of course continue to create wonderful partnerships with our horses. There is so much incredible content out there to allow you to enrich your heart and mind. Make sure you make the most of it and make space for it in your day.

Humour. Seek it out.

I love me a good giggle snort. This situation we’re in? The universe has really pulled one out of the bag. Yes, it’s serious, but it’s also possible to take the time to lighten up, to soften the edges and realise it’s important to seek joy and laughter in order to make the whole experience sustainable.

I’m really affected by what I watch and read (I think we all are really). When I’m in a position of feeling more vulnerable than usual, I’m especially mindful of what I consume. Watching standup comedians or listening to podcasts that make me laugh is part of my soul food right now and helps me soften the edges of what is a pretty tough time for all of us.

Seek lightness. It’s the only way to be able to carry the heaviness.

Choices. You have them.

A quote that’s always stuck with me (and I paraphrase) is that suffering comes about when we see reality as different from what it already is. What that means is this: fighting against or resisting what is happening only adds a layer of suffering to our experience that is not needed or necessary. It’s possible to observe what’s happening without exaggerating or inflating it with the stories that we tell ourselves.

Suffering is a choice. And that understanding is a liberation. If I feel stress, that’s coming about from me thinking that this situation should be different from what it is.  Instead, I can ask, what’s the next best thing for me to do right now?

Choices. We all have them. And the biggest one might be to reconnect every moment with what is within our control and influence.

To decide on the smallest thing that’s possible for us to move towards a better feeling place.

Onwards.

❤️Jane

How To Get Momentum Back When Your Plans Go Wonky!

You know when you are just trucking along and everything is going great and then all of the sudden, you look to the left and a small child wot happens to be yours looks a little green and next minute, you find yourself tending to their every need for the next few days and you can’t remember whether the clothes you are wearing were the exact same ones you wore yesterday, and the only way forward is the sniff test?

Or perhaps, you think, look at us go! We’re amazing! And then all of the sudden, your boss rings from work and the clean desk you left the day before is now piled high with to do’s due yesterday and you try to tell them, but I have a life! And they reply, what is this life you speak of?

Or perhaps you are the equestrian version of the Sound of Music, and then your left ear falls off, along with both knees no longer working and you lose your sense of smell and have to lie on the couch for two weeks?

Whatever the situation, we all have well, stuff, that gets in the way of our manicured and carefully procured plans. Even if we manage to graciously surrender to the moment, momentum can be hard to get back, and it’s easy to find yourself in a situation where the dust has lifted, your scratchy eyeballs are cured and your ear reattached, but now your mojo has left the building.

Sounds like an emergency plan is in order! Having found myself in a similar situation in the last few days, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share with you a brief plan for getting back on the literal and metaphorical horse.

Let’s giddy-up.

  1. Look at what’s important

With all that out-of-control-ness that you have been living in, what’s needed is to get a handle on your own time again so you can actually gain some semblance of order. It sounds massively boring, but if your head is feeling like a pressure cooker of stuff that you have needed to get done but haven’t managed to, now is the time to look that puppy in the eye and get things sorted.

I write a list of things and then I ask myself these vital questions:

Is this important?

Does it need to be done now?

Does it need to be done by me?

If it’s not important, it can either be shelved until later or shaved off the list altogether.

If it doesn’t need to be done now, bump it.

If it doesn’t need to be done by me, am I able to delegate it or find some ways around it so that it’s no longer occupying my brain space.

Excellent. Let’s move on.

  1. Make a plan

With all of the above clarified, it’s time to make a solid plan for the week. My main way of dealing with this is to project myself forward 7 days and ask myself, if I was looking back on the week from the future, what are the top three most important things that I needed to get done?

That helps me sort of the uber-important things from the list of things that I have already flagged up as important.

Then- and this is really important- I MAKE TIME in the week. Like, I schedule it in. I give those tasks as much weight as any other non-negotiable appointment or thing I have to do.

  1. The horse side of things

It can be easy if you’ve taken an unplanned break to get back into it, especially if things were feeling a bit delicate or you were working through some challenges prior. Picking up where you left off can feel like a lot; in order to keep yourself out of big-picture-what-if-this-happens-overwhelm, you need to bring your focus into the moment and focus on the details.

My go to’s (as I’ve been known to drum into you) are only going as far as the next good step and committing to showing up. Those two things work to keep me grounded whenever I get a case of the heebie-jeebies. Decide on a good start point to begin with and then exercise your superpower of showing up.

Let’s get this party (re)started.

❤️ Jane

The Emotional Discharge Of Anxiety To Anger

Occasionally, I get tagged in posts on Facebook from riders who are going through some confidence issues or challenges that relate to my area of expertise. This happened again a couple of days back, except this time, the person in question was their daughter, a teenager who suffered crippling performance anxiety at competitions and became quite unpleasant to be around as a result.

Her mum, who was attempting to help within the scope of what she was able, felt angry with her that her daughter was lashing out or consistently losing her temper with her at these times, and many of the comments offered how this was “unacceptable”, how she should walk away and “teach her a lesson” or just refuse to take her or engage with her at the competition altogether.

Now from the outset, I want to say that I appreciate this is a tough gig, especially when you throw family dynamics into the mix. Emotions run high. But I wanted to take a few moments to offer a slightly different perspective so that we can better understand why anxiety often spills into anger, and how we can best respond to it.

Emotions travel in groups. Our emotional selves exist within a complex interaction of feeling and intuition that, when honored, allow us to respond effectively and appropriately to the situation that we find ourselves in. The problem is that the skills of emotional self-management and navigation are something very few of us are taught, much less understand. Consequently, we often find ourselves in situations of high emotional charge where we are unsure or unable how to process the energy to constructive benefit, and as a result, we look to discharge it by any means available to us, often resulting in explosive and seemingly irrational or disproportionate behavior.

Anxiety itself is a highly vulnerable and charged emotion. If you have ever felt yourself in an anxious space, you will recognize how threatened and vulnerable you feel, even if the reality of it is that you are perfectly safe. The emotional charge that anxiety liberates into the system is enormous, and the reason for this is legitimate and useful; after all, anxiety is us exercising our superpower of predicting the future in advance. In the face of perceived threat, it creates enough energetic momentum for us to remove ourselves from the situation in question so that we can rest and reset.

The problem, of course, arises when the anxiety response is not appropriate for the moment, or we are unable to remove ourselves physically, mentally or emotionally in order to find relief. So what then? Without the appropriate tools, we are left with a high-octane emotion floating around our body, searching for an outlet. One of the most obvious and easily available routes of discharge is through anger.

Anger at its essence is a protector. When we are using our anger healthily and productively, it allows us to set boundaries and preserve what is important to us. When we feel exposed, or unable to cope with what is going on internally, anger often steps forward as our emotional bodyguard. Not always but often, it’s a mask for a deeper vulnerability, shame or concern that’s flowing underneath. Rather than be forced into a corner where we need to look an emotion in the eye, we have neither the skill nor strength to deal with in the moment, anger provides welcome relief. It also allows us to turn our focus away from ourselves and towards other people or things who become unwitting and undeserved earth points for the electrical charge coursing within.

This is not only true of person to person interactions. Without appropriate awareness and skills, we know this to be true of person to horse interactions also.

I’m not suggesting that if we find ourselves the “earth point” in this dynamic that we simply stand there and take it. But it is important to understand the motivation behind the anger and its source, so our responses aren’t just mopping up the water instead of turning off the tap.

Responding to anger with more of the same only magnifies the situation. If we understand the underlying vulnerability, it becomes easier to maintain an emotional distance and not fuse ourselves with the experience. That intentional separateness allows us to question the deeper hurt beneath and understand that distancing or punishment is only going to drive the anxiety deeper in and strengthen the defensive mechanisms that support it. Naturally, this also begs the question: if we recognize the lack of emotional navigation skill that’s apparent in this context, are we equipped ourselves in such a way that allows us to be intentional in our support and response?

Often times, we are not. If we are asking something of someone else- an emotional maturity, a willingness to express vulnerability, a leaning into emotion- then we best be sure we are modeling the same.

Asking yourself is my response relieving or exacerbating the situation allows you enough time and space for a considered response.

The other thing? This is not about you. If you are the receiving end of anger fueled by anxiety (and supposing you are not the cause of the anxiety itself), it’s important to remember this is not about you.

The scope of this discussion does not include dealing with the anxiety itself, but in understanding the relationship between anxiety and anger in order to arm ourselves with empathy, compassion, and understanding for the times we find ourselves in the position of having to deal with it. After all, what lies beneath is often much more than what initially presents.

Onwards.

❤️Jane

The case of the CBA (can’t be arsed)…and what to do about it

The case of the CBA

As someone who throws their whole arse into most of everything they do (no half arsing here!), I always find it vaguely disconcerting when the whole “can’t be arsed” feeling comes to town. The thing about swimming in CBA’d (can’t be arsed) is that while you are busy NBA (not being arsed), you actually really WTBA (want to be arsed) but there is simply no arsing to be had. It’s a complicated situation.

A day or two or CBA is fair enough- after all we all have our off days- but when it lurks into a series of days, weeks, or even months, then we know that this whole CBA situation needs to be looked at with a little more care and attention than perhaps we’ve devoted to it previously.

While for some, the whole CBA is thrown around like a badge of honour, most of us are no longer teenagers wanting to use it as an inane but slick sounding excuse for not cleaning our rooms. For those of us really WTBA (wanting to be arsed), we recognize it as a lack of motivation, creativity, inspiration or mojo; we might be steppin’ but there ain’t no spring in it.

Let’s look at some common reasons why you might be feeling a little flat (and consequently, a little half-arsed).

You’re just plain tired.

Unromantic I know, but chronic tiredness is really quite the thing- and we can only ignore the signs telling us we need to get some rest for so long. The thing about tiredness is that you can ignore it to a point. Sleep often feels like an optional extra; something we can cut down of, get less of or squeeze in here or there because, well, busy. We control our sleep, not the other way around.

Ignoring the warning light on the dashboard, however, does not make the problem go away. In fact, many times, it means the problem becomes bigger until the whole “will I, won’t I” situation is no longer a choice you get to make. Your body and mind (and at times it feels your heart and soul) are ground to a halt and rest is no longer optional; it’s enforced.

Call it burnout, no motivation, or CBA- in many instances, grinding you to a literal halt is the only way your body can get you to pay attention. It may not feel good emotionally, but at this point, feeling good about it is the least of your body’s concerns. You need rest stat and we are going to SYA (sit your arse) here until you get some.

If the feeling of CBA has been with you for a while, consider how much you allow for rest, recuperation and revitalization in your day. ARE they even considerations? Or are you burning the midnight oil under the false premise that your body will just keep up, no matter what?

I’ve noticed (and dealt with myself) a lot of guilt around allowing for even small periods of rest in the day. We are addicted to constant busy-ness, often as a means to prove our self-worth and validate ourselves. I know I have fallen into the abyss of feeling like my value is directly equated to how much stuff I can get done.

Stillness, however, is enormously productive. It’s the point from which everything else is born. Not allowing yourself enough of it is not only unproductive but means that you may well be on a fast track to a lingering feeling of CBA.

The take home message? Rest. You probably need to get more of it.

You’re going in the wrong direction.

The CBA feeling can also be a friendly reminder from your intuition that things are really lining up at the moment. It might be that you are going in a direction that doesn’t work for you, doing something you feel like you should (but don’t really want to), or have just taken a wrong turn; in this case, while it feels like something you want to be rid of, the CBA feeling is allowing you that all important take five to get a handle on what it is that you really do want. 

If you find yourself feeling apathetic or like your mojo has left the building, consider the following questions:

Is the direction you are heading lining up for you, or does something feel off?

Are you doing what you really want to be doing?

Can you think of something right now that really excites you (even if that thing is outside the scope of what you would normally consider doing or how you typically define yourself)?

Give yourself a few moments to consider the direction things are moving in and if they’re really working for you. Oftentimes, tweaking the compass by only one or two degrees allows for huge shifts in how it is we feel and our ability to re-apply ourselves to the task at hand.

You need some help.

CBA has a very close sister, and her name is Overwhelm. Overwhelm can be a little sneaky because she is queen of distortion and confusion. The irony is that with “all the things” that we feel like we need to do, overwhelm leaves us doing no-things; it simply feels like too much.

Overwhelm can strike for a number of reasons; it might be that you have a lot going on and are struggling to keep up. It could be that you feel out of your depth (in skill level, understanding, knowing where to take things) when it comes to dealing with a current situation with your horse (or away from them). It might be that you’ve been overloaded for a while and actually need to start delegating some of the things on your list to someone or something else. Whichever ticks the box for you, asking for help is a great panacea for curing the overwhelm lurgy.

It might look something like this…

You have a lot going on: Decide what constitutes the highest and best use of your time. What on your list falls under the bracket? What can you delegate or ask for help with?

You feel out of your depth: What specifically feels too much right now? Who can you ring, message or contact to get some help with that?

You feel overloaded: Refer to “You have a lot going on”

 

In each and every one of these cases, asking for help is the thing to do. It may not be that you find the perfect solution for your thing but reaching out in and of itself can provide clarity and help ease the load. It also gets you out of your head and into the “taking action” space, which goes a long way in easing the mental tension and buildup that cumulates over time when we feel metaphorically and literally in over our heads.

You lack clarity.

Lacking clarity (otherwise known as confusion) can be a royal dream killer and a key reason why CBA creeps up on you. If you are in the midst of a mojo-less period, consider whether you are actually clear on what you want, and the steps needed to get there. When we lack clarity over an extended period, you can end up feeling like you’re treading water; there’s no sense of forward, it’s all up and down.

Ask yourself:

What is my intention?

Am I clear on what I need to do?

What actions do I need to take to get there?

 

Clarifying your intention shines a laser beam through ambiguity (and any consequent CBA-ness arising for this reason). If in doubt, get clear on what yours is and decide how it will inform your actions moving forward.

Things are actually coming together.

This one might come as a surprise, but a short burst of CBA every now and then is essential. Sometimes, when we aren’t ready to act- when the thoughts, ideas and learnings are still swimming in the ethers- taking the time to work things out and marinate on something can be mistakenly interpreted as negative form of CBA, when it fact it’s an important part of the learning process.

CBA can also be allowing for assimilation and metabolization of new information, understandings and ways of going about things. We’re like a human trifle; we have to make sure the good stuff gets through to every layer.

If you are in the midst of upskilling or soaking in new information, this could well be the exact type of CBA situation you find yourself in. If so, cut yourself some slack. Intense learning takes a lot out of you and CBA may just be giving you the time you need to make sense of it all.  

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

The Invitation: Of Feel, Feeling & Experience

I extended my hand out to the side and held it there ‘til her nose followed the feel. An inviting hand, I reminded myself, not a brick wall hand. I loosened my body and let my seat soften, gently asking for more of a bend, a progressive loosening and flow that encouraged elasticity and ease.

The idea of the invitation has been one that’s both guided and shaped how I approach things on every level, so much so that there are very few things I can think of that exist outside this framework. On the physical level, we have the invitation of feel. On a more subtle level, the invitation of feeling. And beyond that, the invitation of experience which envelopes us in the ever-oscillating upward cycles of progress.

Understanding these allows us to recognize every moment as a creative opportunity or one of renegotiation, where we are asked to lead both the body and mind towards a corrective emotional experience.

The Invitation of Feel

The invitation of feel is what allows us to communicate our intention through physical expression. The quality of our feel expresses whether we are moving within the atmosphere of demand and authority or communication and partnership

As the hand touches the rein, ask yourself, what is it that I wish to express through this connection? If someone were to interpret my feeling state solely through my feel on the reins, how would they describe me?

Through body and leg, there is a deep chasm between strength that yields, and strength that holds. One offers the possibility of moving with and the other, of moving against. As you sit in the saddle, ask yourself, is my strength here comforting or restrictive?

Our intention creates the atmosphere that informs our feel. Maintaining your connection with what that is allows you to stay tuned in to who it is you need to be in the saddle as much as what you need to do there.  

The Invitation of Feeling

The invitation of feeling recognizes every emotion that visits us as an opportunity to fully integrate our experience and stay in emotional flow. Staying in emotional flow means that we seek to find and understand the motivating questions behind emotions and allow them to inform our next action.

If we understand emotions in this way, we release the need to categorize them as good or bad, positive or negative. Instead, we appreciate every feeling as part of the workings of our emotional intelligence system; an ever present and ever moving invitation that demonstrates how it feels to be us in the midst of the situation that we find ourselves in, and that calls us to do the work necessary to heal any unresolved trauma, release old patterns of limitation and step forward in a way that honors the present and any latent energies of the past that have yet to be resolved.

When we fail to recognize this invitation, we suppress, deny or attempt to explain away how it is we feel. Doing so does little to metabolise the energy of the emotion and leads to one of two options: emotional shut down, or emotional explosion. One can precede the other, but both will keep us stuck.

It will feel like brave work, but it’s the only way true courage is built. To see emotion as experience, and an invitation to understand the messages they offer and to move accordingly in order that we stay in flow.

The Invitation of Experience

The invitation of experience is what I simultaneously refer to as upward cycles of progress. Upward cycles of progress are where we are presented with a situation from the past, or one that is familiar to us, that is seemingly representing in the present moment. Without an understanding of the cyclic nature of experience, it’s easy to marinate in feelings of failure.

“I thought I dealt with this,” you might tell yourself. “I thought this was over.”

Instead, every situation that represents is simply another opportunity to negotiate that experience with the new awareness, understanding and skills you have developed since it first appeared. Viewing it this way lets you understand that there was never a backward trajectory; instead it is an opportunity to peel back another layer, to integrate any information that was outside your scope to assimilate previously and to engage in another upward cycle of progress.

Now, at every point, I ask myself, what is it I am invited to do, or what is the invitation that I’m extending?  

Invitation of feel, feeling and experience.

 

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

The Big Little Things (and why you might not be celebrating them)

The Big Little Things

The first time we did it, I led her down the road. The constant rain of the past month had now cleared, and the gravel road was crunchy and stony under foot. Nadia followed delicately behind me, picking her path through the stones and finding the best landing place for each hoof. She stopped a couple of times to check things out. She wasn’t completely sure- the tightness of the muscles in her neck and the look in her eye spoke to that- but she was brave enough to continue on in spite of it.  

I get it, I told her. But you don’t have to be afraid.

We got to the bottom at the T-Junction where the road meets the inlet. Turn right and after 10 km or so you would find you yourself in the closest town centre, a sleepy port where you can buy food for double the price you would pay for it only a few minutes further on.Turn left and you find yourself fairly shortly at the ocean. Nadia and I took neither of these turns but made our way forward to find an opening in the bank where we could both gently tumble down onto the flat expanse.

The inlet. A big, oceanic amphitheater. At high tide, the water rises to about waist height, save for a long, snaking channel that’s always over your head. At low tide, it becomes the world’s biggest arena; a packed mud flat that affords us passage all the way out to the sea.

For horses, I imagine this place to be quite primal. First, there is the salty scent and taste of the ocean, mixed in with the earthy dampness of the hills that surround it. The shape catches the sounds, and a conversation or the drone of a car in the far distance, given the right wind, can be clearly heard. Underfoot it pads and squelches, every step marked by a hoofprint that gets quickly dissolved.

 There on the inlet, you are exposed, on show to all around. To a horse, I imagine that feeling to be quite vulnerable.

 For Nadia and me, this was the next step in our self-imposed brave challenge; our commitment to regular adventures for us to know each other better, to broaden our horizons and to encourage courage in each other. If we’d been working to empty the worry cup, the time had come to fill the brave bucket. And how do buckets get full? Through single drops at a time.

 I jumped up and down on the spot three times and then leapt on bareback.

Riding on the inlet that day was for us a big little thing. It was a push past a threshold that I had been previously reluctant to take. And now, even faced with our readiness, I felt an inner apprehension. Would it be ok? How could I be sure?

 The truth was, I couldn’t. But I could trust that all the big little things that we had done up ‘til this point had positioned us well to take the next step forward.  

 I pulled out my phone and recorded snapshots of our adventures. We sang. We walked through the water. We were free.

 A Big Little Thing. Another drop in our brave bucket.

 In my professional adventures, I often see people hold back on sharing the Big Little Things. The get hidden behind justifying clauses such as:

 I know it’s not a big thing but…

 I know this isn’t a big deal for many people but…

Smothering their Big Little Thing behind a mountain of no-big-deal-ness.

 But here’s the thing. The Big Little Things ARE big deal. In fact, it’s the series of back to back little-deals that make up the things we would consider to be, well, kind of a big deal.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at some common trip wires that get in the way of us celebrating our Big Little Things so we can celebrate each point along the journey with the kind of adoration they deserve.

Reason #1: You don’t celebrate your little big thing: Comparison

Of all the reasons that we fail to celebrate the little big things, this one surely tops the list. Even if we do experience the flash of joy that comes with expanding your courage muscle, it’s very easy to see it crumble into dust under the brutal lens of comparison.

 It’s not really a big deal, we might tell ourselves, people do WAY more than this all the time. It’s silly to celebrate something that is so clearly nothing.

 Let’s back the truck up for a second.

 First up, I hear you. In the case of Nadia and me, people ride on the beach all the time. That in and of itself is not a huge deal. What IS a huge deal is that Nadia and I don’t ride on the beach all the time. In fact, Nadia has never been in any situation like this before, and we certainly haven’t as a combination. And given the emotional state she began with, being able to ride out bareback like this is actually a huge deal. Massive in fact.  So Imma taking it. 

The thing is, there is always going to be something or someone you can compare yourself to. If you use that for inspiration, fantastic. That’s a healthy use of comparison that adds value to your journey and highlights what it is you would like for yourself.

 If comparison is used for denigration or diminishment, however, then we need to check ourselves at the gate.

 Is this a big deal to you?

 Is this important to you?

 Does this feel good to you?

 Then, my friend, you have just found yourself in the midst of a Big Little Thing.

 Congratulations.

Reason #2 You don’t celebrate your little big thing: Perfectionism

A big turning point for me in understanding perfectionism was to realise that perfectionism wasn’t, as I had previously though, a striving for excellence and self-betterment. It’s a hyper focus on the things that aren’t working, leaving us in a situation that’s basically self-abuse.

If you identify as a perfectionist, you aren’t looking at for what’s working in an attempt to make them better. Instead, your picking apart all the pieces that you believe fall below the mark and using them to reinforce a feeling of not-good-enough-ness.

 I know that sounds harsh, but perfectionism is harsh. It’s a yardstick that’s impossible to live up to and that sets you up to fail. It also robs us of the myriad of things that are going right, including all those Big Little Things that are necessary to acknowledge and reward.

 If you are a recovering perfectionist, follow the simple prescription of noticing what feels good. And then celebrating it.

Bring to front of mind the Big Little Things that stand out as part of your regular horsing adventures; soften the edges of your resistance and open yourself up to good feeling and experience.

Reason #3 You don’t celebrate your little big thing: Embarrassment and Shame

It can be a split-second ride between feeling kind of stoked with yourself and then feeling embarrassed that THAT is the thing you feel stoked with yourself about. The conversation in your head might go something like this:

Oh yay! Me and TimeBomb just trotted, whoot! But it was only a trot. I can’t believe that’s all we are doing. Trotting. That something that simple is something that I thought about celebrating for a moment. Is this what I’m reduced to? Everyone else out there is qualifying for the Olympics and I’m having a good day if we manage to get the trot going? Sheesh. I need to get a grip and get some perspective.

 You are correct, you DO need to get perspective. Celebrating where it is you are on your journey with your horse is not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about. It may not be where you want to end your final chapter, but that doesn’t mean that where you are isn’t completely valid and worthy of celebration.

We become our own joy-stealers when we refuse to acknowledge the good in what’s happening and prevent ourselves from creating momentum behind better feeling and experience. You celebrating your Big Little Things gives others permission to do the same.

 And hopefully, the day is not too far away when we realise that the whole dash gone lot was really just a linked chain of Big Little Things anyway that we’d grouped together in our mind as that one big thing we call life.

Onwards.

 ❤️Jane

I Don’t Feel Like It Today

I don’t feel like it today.

A simple enough statement. Harmless in and of itself. And at times, completely understandable. After all, most of us have really busy lives. The “I don’t feel like it” gremlin may not be a gremlin at all, but rather an expression of a need to rest, restore and recuperate.

Often though, there’s a lot more behind “I don’t feel like it” than first meets the eye.

Right now, as I write this, it’s 5:15 am. My husband is away at a clinic with his horse, so instead of walking across the gravel track that winds its way through my garden to sit in my little office amongst the trees, I am cross legged on my bed, coffee sitting on my bed side table, and my children sleeping in the bedrooms either side of me.

At this time in the morning, the house is quiet, the computer keys make a loud sound as I type, and I can hear the weather outside; it’s wild and I quietly lament that the onset of summer has not made itself known yet. I’m struggling to think compassionate thoughts about the people that run the weather app I use.

Usually, I have an idea for what I will write about but this week, I find myself waking up on Friday (the day I write a blog) with no fixed idea in mind. And as I sit in front of my computer, I find the words “I really don’t feel like it” float through my brain space.

I eye my book to my left. I would really like to read you, I think to myself.

It’s tempting to crawl back beneath the covers and let myself off the hook. But the future me knows that if I were to do that, future me would be disappointed with the current me. Because writing is important to me. And I have made a promise to show up in this way week in and week out. The promise didn’t include “except if you don’t feel like it”.

I ask myself, what should I write about today. I wait for the burst of divine inspiration. And then it occurs to me. I don’t feel like it today is not just a thought. It’s the topic. And one that derails us more often that you might think.

The I don’t Feel Like It Today that is allowing itself to be ruled by the mood of the moment

Oh yes, the old mood of the moment. How many of us have set a goal or an intention to work with our horses towards a specific end only to wake up the next day and well, not really feel like it? The lure of “I’ll do it tomorrow” is ever present and at times, very appealing, especially when it comes to the establishing new habits or patterns of behavior. Tomorrow is a far more attractive time to start!

The thing about commitment is this: when you make one, you do so from a place of positive possibility. That place understands the higher vision or dream that you have for yourself and your horse and the processes and practices necessary to engage in to get you there. The inspired, energetic zone that we allow ourselves to imagine from is real but will only endure for as long as you actively seek it out. The natural stream of energy means that motivation will naturally peak, ebb and ease. With this knowledge in mind, it’s important to honor the mood of the moment, while simultaneously being connected to the higher vision.

This is where it gets tricky (hello emotional agility!).

Honoring the mood of the moment means staying responsive to what’s presenting and leaning into it. Leaning in does not mean succumbing (not all the time anyway), but instead acknowledging and understanding the motivation question behind the emotion that you are feeling and taking action in such a way that allows you to maintain emotional flow.

 It’s possible to respect and have reverence for what you feel in the moment and still act in alignment with your higher intention.

Take this morning for instance. I recognized that I didn’t really feel like writing. I didn’t beat myself up about it or pretend it was any different. But I did ask, what’s this all about?

The truth of it was, I wasn’t sure what to write about, and that fear of not being able to produce something of worth made me defer to the easier-to-handle thought that I just wasn’t in the mood.

Leaning into the thought allowed me to recognize that and act in accordance with what I ultimately knew was important to me: to show up and write.

Attention to the moment, action in alignment with the higher intention.

Honor the mood of the moment. Consider it and what’s behind it. Check back in with the higher vision of where you want to take things.

The I don’t Feel Like It Today that masks fear

 It’s easy to use the I don’t Feel Like It Today excuse because you are afraid of what might happen if you do actually show up. I see this in my work all the time. It’s a very sneaky procrastination tool and one that we can convince ourselves is right, simply because we can find many reasons to legitimize it.

Busy at work.

Busy with the kids.

Don’t feel so great.

All of those might be true.

You know how you tell if that is really what you want though?

 You feel it in your gut.

 You know if you genuinely aren’t up for it or if there is something behind it that speaks to a bigger concern that you don’t want to face up to.

The thing is, being afraid is ok. Fear is necessary and helpful. But it can only do its job when you stand eye to eye with it and acknowledge what needs to happen to move to the other side of it (upskill, ask for help, learn how to gently manage your nerves). Then you metabolise it.

But until then, it becomes something that it needn’t be.

A beast that controls you.

Listen to your gut. Trust what it is communicating you. And then take action in a way that empowers you to keep moving forward with the higher vision in mind.

The I don’t Feel Like It Today that lacks clarity

 A lot of don’t-feel-like-it-ness comes from confusion. When we are unsure of the steps to take, deal with an issue that’s presenting, or move ourselves from Point A to Point B, the ambiguity can convince us that we just aren’t in the mood.

If you feel like you are chasing your tail, consider the possibility that clarity is what’s needed to reignite momentum.

 What specifically is it you are wanting to do?

 How will you know when you get there?

 What resources do you have to draw from for help and support?

Get clear. And then go out there and make it happen.

 The I don’t Feel Like It Today that lacks passion

 You know a thing that happens a lot? We should all over ourselves.

I should be doing this.

I should be doing that.

If you just aren’t feelin’ it on a regular basis, check in to make sure that you riding life is lining up with what is of value and important to YOU- not your trainer, significant other or friend group.

It’s surprisingly easy to get swept along in the tide of other people’s doing only to find the stuff you ARE doing doesn’t really float your boat at all.

 Is what you are doing in your horsing life really what you want to do?

 What IS important to you?

 Are you having fun?

If this is ticking your boxes, find ways to bring the joy back. After all, without the joy, what really is the point?

 The I don’t Feel Like It Today that speaks to the need to rest

 Before I leave you completely with all this I The I don’t Feel Like It Today possibility, it’s important to drop this one in here to: sometimes, you do need to rest, do less and be more.

Taking a day out here or there, or feeling the need to switch off and unwind is totally necessary and something to be celebrated.

The only thing I ask of you is this: If you DO decide to leave it for today and take five, then really embrace that process. Don’t give yourself the time off and then waste it by beating yourself up or feeling guilty. The Itty Bitty Shitty Committee loves that kind of palava.

No. If you make the decision to do it, then 100% do it. And if you make the decision to NOT do it, then 100 % not do it.

I have a favourite quote that I think applies here:

Don’t half arse anything. Whole arse everything

Whatever you do then, make sure you whole arse it.

There.

After all that, it turns out I actually did feel like it today.

Onwards

❤️ Jane

The 3 Relationships: With Ourselves, Each Other & Our Horses

Everyone has a style that works for them. I know when it comes to speaking of any kind-Facebook live, podcasts, clinics, presentations- I’m definitely a freestyler. Notes pull me off my game and out of flow. When I have them, I concentrate more on pages in front of me than what it is that’s in my heart. So I do away with them.

Despite this, when the time comes to take the stage, I question my approach. Will today be the day my tongue seizes up and I discover I actually have nothing to say? Has it been a fluke up until this point and now the words that I’ve relied on spinning round my brain space have decided to take up residence elsewhere?

Oh, Itty Bitty Shitty Committee. It’s lucky we’re such good friends.

Last week, I was invited to teach at a Pony Club Development Camp and give a talk in the evening to 100+ members in attendance. The night before, I scanned the audience at the introductory dinner. As I watched them relaxing in their camping chairs, potluck dinner in hand, I immediately changed my mind from my original plans. And then changed it again. And again, over the course of the next day.

The main reason was the age range. The youngest were 6 years old- little ones! – and the oldest was 23. Not to mention the parents and supporters too. What would appeal to everyone? What is it that everyone needs to hear? How could I deliver it in a way that wouldn’t bore the pants off them and make them fall asleep in their pizza?

The theme of the camp was relationships. I mused. At the base of it, I decided, the relationships here took three different forms; relationship with oneself, relationship with each other and relationship with your horse. Things that affect all of us. I would touch on those three things.

 

Relationship with Yourself

I got asked the question once, that if I could choose one habit to focus on that would create the biggest impact for those I worked with, what would it be?

That’s easy, I said.

The habit of believing in yourself.

The simple truth is that the habit of not believing in yourself has reached epic proportions. Of all the limiting beliefs that I hear about on a daily basis, the “I’m not good enough” mindset takes the top prize. You see, I’m different in that when people come to me, they come with the expectation that we are going to discuss the matters of the heart and mind. This short circuits the master plan of the I’m-Not-Good-Enough gremlin, whose genius lies in convincing you that you are the only one that feels this way. This simple act of connecting with another person and sharing what you feel breaks down the wall we’ve built on the mistaken assumption that we’re the only one that feels that way.

It’s simply not true.

Having had hundreds of conversations with individual riders along similar lines, I now know this: from happy hackers to world class professionals, I’m-not-good-enough-ness strikes us all the same. It crowd funds its minions, the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee, to speak to you constantly; to talk you out of decisions, to trick you into inaction, to minimize your effort, so in the end, they don’t actually have to do very much at all. You’ve convinced yourself they’re right before they’ve even got to having their second coffee.

I understand that it can be unclear how having a negative belief impacts what it is you experience, but the relationship is an important one to get your head around. Think of it this way. What you believe directly impacts the decisions that you make. In the face of opportunity, forward movement or anything that equates to growth (and consequently putting you outside of your comfort zone), limiting beliefs cause you to play safer, smaller or not at all.

If you DO choose to play, chances are the level of effort you put in will be less than that of someone who really believes that they have what it takes to succeed. As a result, our limiting beliefs lead to limiting decisions and low-level effort, which in turn creates a result which reinforces the cycle.

We essentially prove ourselves right.

In the same way that success breeds success, poor results also feed on themselves.

The thing about good-enough-ness is that it’s pretty much your birth right. Your worthiness and deservedness are never in question. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, what you have (or haven’t) won, whether you hired a horse trailer to get there or arrived in your luxury truck, all of us have the same starting platform.

You are good enough and you deserve to be here.

The practice of self-belief comes with cultivating the ability to separate out the low-level thoughts and act in alignment with the bigger vision of where it is you are heading.

It’s an inside to outside game.

The mistake we make is that we wait for evidence to show up on the outside to determine how it is we are going to feel.

When “x” happens, then I will believe in myself.

When “y” occurs, then I will feel confident.

We have the wrong way around.

The self-belief comes first. Our only job from that point is to align our decisions and actions alongside what we want to believe and operate from that place.

Attention to the moment. Action in alignment with the higher intention.

 

Relationship With Each Other

The word “culture” does funny things to us. It makes us believe there’s an entity swirling around us that is creating the atmosphere for how things are.

I often hear statements such as:

Horse people are so bitchy

Horse people love to gossip

Horse people aren’t very inclusive

Culture, though, is you and me. If we are horse people, then we form part of the culture of our world. Culture is not what happens to us. It’s what we create.

If we want to see less bitchiness, then we need to practice kindness.

If we don’t like gossip, we need to be careful with our tongues.

If we feel like we aren’t included, then we need to practice inclusiveness.

It’s not enough to lament what you don’t like. We need to practice what it is we want to see and allow that energy and way of going about things to create momentum.

Culture is you and me. Be the culture you want to see.

 

Relationship with Our Horse

You know something we often take for granted? Just what a miracle it is that horses let us partner and work with them in the way that we do.

The fact that we can ride, train and learn from these huge powerful creatures is something that I am in constant awe of.

It’s one of life’s everyday miracles.

And as a result, we are 100% responsible for ensuring that the interactions we have and the quality of what we offer in terms of energy, empathy and understanding is front of mind every time we present ourselves to them.

Most of the time, we’re not responsive to what’s presenting in the moment. Instead, the stories that we tell ourselves or how it is we react is a consequence of either past experience or future projections, usually centred around trying to avoid what we don’t want to happen. A huge part of what I offer in my online program, JoyRide, centres around the skills of emotional flow; the ability to be in the moment, to check in with yourself not only a logical and intellectual level, but on an emotional and instinctual level and then ask, what is it that I am feeling, and what does that feeling mean?

Take anxiety or fear as an example; the intensity of these emotions can make them difficult emotions to process, especially when we are unsure how to do so skilfully. If we don’t understand the motivating questions behind them, it’s easy to get stuck in an emotional loop that spins back around on itself. At this point, we get pulled out of alignment. Our thoughts, feelings and how we are presenting don’t match up. We are out of emotional flow.

Our ability to be in flow and in alignment directly correlates to our ability to show up as trustworthy and reliable partners to our horses. Their ability to feel safe and supported comes with being in constant communication with their environment and the members of their herd. When we remove them from that setting and ask that they instead trust us, they naturally assess how reliable we are as partners, and a key criteria that either confirms or denies this is how anchored we are to the present moment.

A mind that is living in the past or zooming to the future creates a fractured energy not anchored in the now. To your horse, if your attention is anywhere but here, how can you be relied upon to be responsive to what’s presenting- in your environment, with your horse, and perhaps most importantly, within you?

You can’t.

Presence is where it begins. Being grounded in the moment. Present to what you are feeling. Present to what is presenting. Deciding on the most effective course of action in alignment with those two things.

Attention to the moment. Action in alignment with the higher intention.

Onwards.

 

❤️ Jane

Upward Cycles of Progress

My whole world blew apart when I stop thinking in terms of straight lines and instead began thinking in cycles. After all, nature moves in cycles. The seasons are cyclic. The days are cyclic. Hormonal patterns are cyclic. Being of nature ourselves, it makes sense then that our learning, understanding, and growth is cyclic too. 

Removing myself from the idea that progress and success was a trajectory from A to B was not a simple one. As I began to distance myself from the conditioned version of success so well-known to many of us, I learned to embrace familiar challenges with a renewed sense of purpose and understanding. What’s more, I came to understand cyclic “problems” not as personal failures but as invitations to apply new skills, learnings and awareness that had been unavailable to me previously. What I saw now presenting was not a roadblock but a necessary part of my evolution; it was an upward cycle of progress. 

One of the most common “deflation points” I see with riders that I work with are feeling of failure or disappointment around situations “coming back” that they had considered resolved; this is especially common in situation where there has been anxiety or trauma. For instance, if you had previously identified as being a nervous rider, but had got yourself to a position where the nerves had taken a backseat, feeling that familiar flush of concern in your tummy when it comes to saddling up can feel like the past has come back to haunt you. 

I thought I was past this!  I can’t believe this is happening! Am I never going to get over it?

The “will this never go away” feeling is a typical one when we are operating from a linear mindset. It causes us to compartmentalize what it is we are experiencing into categories such as good, not so good, working on it and done. The “done” box is where we come unstuck. When we consider an experience to be done, any experiences to the contrary are disempowering and deflating. We berate ourselves for not being better than this, 

stronger than this, less of a failure. What’s more, we think that we are “back at the start” and lose the sense that we have made any progress at all.

The thing is, we are only able to deal with a situation within the skillset and understanding that are available to us at the time. Doing the work does not mean that you will never experience anxiety, fear or upset (for example) again, but it does mean that within the range of possibility that was available to you at time, you created enough momentum to move you towards a better feeling space.

If in the future, the same fears or anxieties return, it’s not a failure or a reflection of deficiency on your part; you aren’t in the same place that you were before. You have moved forward. Instead, what you are now presented with is an an opportunity to renegotiate that same experience or feeling state with the new skills, understandings and resources available to you in the position that you are in. An upward cycle of progress.

Peeling back another layer.

Another invitation to take things forward.

Upward cycles of progress.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Creating Clarity: I feel, I want, I’m willing

Much of the confusion, overwhelm and disempowerment we feel in the midst of emotional challenge comes not from the emotion itself, but through a lack of skill and understanding as to how to navigate the experience for the constructive benefit of both ourselves and our horses. Take anxiety for example. When we are in the midst of anxious feeling, it’s easy to feel like your options are limited. The tendency is to shrink into the uneasiness, our focus similarly narrowing until we are unable to connect with or decide on the options that are available to us. 

The good news is that it’s not about knowing all of the answers as much as it’s about being able to ask yourself really good questions. I have a series of “compass questions” that I change depending on what’s happening in the moment and who it is that I’m riding, but what I want to share with you now is a formula for creating clarity when you find yourself giving your power away to forces outside of your control and influence.

Before we get into it, let’s take a moment to define exactly what power is. In this instance, I’m working with the understanding of power being your ability to be self-responsible, to operate with integrity and to act in a way that is more likely to initiate or create momentum towards beneficial change. With that in mind, what you need to do is take the experience of the moment and use it within the following statements:

I feel {insert what you are feeling}

I want {insert what you are wanting}

I am willing {insert what you are willing to do to move towards what you want}

We’ve already mentioned anxiety earlier one, so let’s use that as an example to get us started:

I feel anxious about riding my horse at the upcoming competition.

I want to feel focused and responsive to what my horse needs from me when I show up.

I am willing to learn how I can better manage myself under pressure and put the necessary work in to get to where I want to be competitively.

Here’s another one:

I feel misunderstood by the people in my barn currently.

I want to feel respected and like I can do the work I want to do with my horse without opinions or judgement.

I am willing to have the hard conversations needed to let them know how I feel and see if we can create a better at atmosphere for all of us.

And:

I feel afraid to ride my horse today.

I want to feel like it’s enjoyable experience for both of us.

I am willing to take it step by step and ask for help whenever I need it.

The most beautiful thing about this exercise is that it allows you to exercise self-responsibility and decide how it is you would like things to be moving forward; to recognise that we have the capacity to channel and direct what it is we experience, rather than be on the mercy of it.

I feel: Checking in with your current experience.

I want: Exercising your creative power. Deciding how you want things to be moving forward.

I am willing: Identifying what you are willing to do in order to get you there

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

The Courage in Consistency

I love the word courage. Just letting the word roll through my head makes me sit a little taller. When thinking about courage, and perhaps choosing the times in your riding life when you have been called to summon yours, it’s easy to mine your memories in search of defining moments, breakthroughs, and pivotal experiences. What I am noticing more and more is that courage is about the details; it’s less about the “I did it” and more about the “I’m here, and I’m ready to do the work”. And it begins to grow as soon as you make the decision to consistently show up.

Of all the superpowers talked about, consistency is one that’s often left off the list. Being consistent isn’t glamourous. It might not always feel good. And it requires holding yourself to a higher intention of where you want to take things (which means not letting yourself be ruled by the mood of the moment). But of everything it might not be, consistency is guaranteed to build your courage muscle in ways that may not be perceptible to you moment to moment.

Let’s look at three ways consistency breeds courage and why often the best promise you can make to you and your horse is the commitment to simply showing up.

Consistency creates perspective

When you commit to riding or working with your horse as often as you are able, the continuity of time together means that you can view your training progression from a broader perspective. Instead of viewing each session in isolation, you begin to appreciate the natural ups and downs that form a part of the training rhythm; consequently, the need to ruminate or blow things out of proportion is minimized as you spend less time thinking on the problems and more time acting on the solutions. 

The more experiences you have; the more challenges you’ve faced (and negotiated) together, the more rides you (literally) have under your belt, the more resources you have to draw on in the future when it comes to navigating your way through similar territory or deciding on the best course of action. Committing to simply showing up means that you have a higher purpose that you are working in alignment with; that regardless of how you feel, or what it is that is going on, you will show up and do the best you can with the resources that you have and what’s available to you at the time.

Consistency decreases your anxiety

If anxiety or worry is a constant (or regular) feature of your riding life, then consistency of action is more important than you might realize. Have you heard of the saying “neurons that fire together, wire together?” What that means is that the more we think a specific thought, the stronger that thought pathway becomes. For instance, if you are concerned about something in your riding, and you continue to brood and worry over it, it’s much easier for you to default to that same thought in the future simply because you’ve given it a lot of airtime. Although on a conscious level we can recognize that our imagined experiences are exactly that- imagined- our unconscious mind doesn’t have the same level of discernment.

This can work both for and against us. It’s one of the reasons why intentional visualization is so powerful, and also the reason why worrying about something occurring increases our anxiety levels about it occurring over time; to our unconscious mind, that imagining is real. If you’ve fallen off 50 times in your mind’s eye, those same sensations have registered in your nervous system, regardless of whether it was a real experience or not.

Showing up consistency means there is less time for worry and rumination before you give yourself a new lived experience to draw from. It’s not the only solution to managing and understanding anxiety but it’s an important element to pay attention to when it comes to exercising your courage muscle and ensuring you are spending more time out there with your horse, and less time in your own head. 

Consistency cultivates trust

Think of it this way. The more time you spend with someone, the more you understand them. You become aware of the quirks and nuances of their character. You understand what motivates them and what they dislike. You find ways of working together that plays to your strengths and allows you both to do your best work.

This kind of relationship only evolves by spending time in each other’s presence. You can’t know this about someone by texting them once or twice a week. You can’t know these things by simply meeting up for coffee when the mood takes you.

True friendship and partnership come from shared experience. It comes from adventuring together. From going through some rough times. From working things out. From enjoying each other’s company.

It’s the same with our horses.

Creating a partnership with your horse that is based on mutual trust and understanding involves establishing a common language between you. And that takes time, consistency and riding out the waves together.

Showing up is the only way for that relationship to have to space it needs to become everything you desire it to be.

Commitment, consistency and courage. They all work together.

A readiness to do what’s needed. Openness to the moment. Action in alignment with the bigger vision.

❤️ Jane

3 Things To Look Out For When You Start Playing Bigger

Here’s the thing: If you are trying new things, putting yourself out there and make any sort of effort towards improving yourself and your abilities, you’re going to be uncomfortable at some point. In fact, if you are doing ANY of those things even a tiny bit regularly, bets on you’re are feeling uncomfortable on a pretty regular basis. How do I know? Well, I’m right there with you.

Having chosen to adventure into horsing territory previously unknown to me- the adventure of starting my own horse under saddle- I find myself on a daily basis reflecting, considering, contemplating and revising my horsing plan from one day to the next. The truth of it is, we all have our own Everests that we’re facing. No matter what your current horsey dreams or challenges, if you’re stepping into territory that pushes the edges of your comfort zone, then your discomfort is valid and to be applauded. In the face of consistently extending yourself, it’s easy to shrink back and play to what you know. It’s an expression of every day bravery to keep showing up and commit yourself to doing something that requires you to seek more of yourself.

I read a quote from the winner of the just-completed Mongol Derby, the wonderful Bob Long. The words that struck me were “Well, I would hate to think I couldn’t do it”. His words have rung in my ears since. And he’s right. It may not be the Mongol Derby that applies to you, but we all have a thing that We’d Hate To Think We Couldn’t Do. Which makes the only choice available to us to get out there and make it happen.

This morning, I sat down with myself and thought about the common themes that come up from choosing to “play bigger”. Let look at a couple of the top contenders now.

Trap # 1: Not Good Enoughness

Inevitably, as soon as we start to extend ourselves, the are-you-good-enough-to-do-this gremlins start to come out to play. The excuse of not being good enough is a massively convenient one to draw on when you feel uncomfortable. After all, if you make the assessment that you actually aren’t good enough, it’s pretty much game over. You’re able to return to the place where the tea and chocolate is. And at times, let’s face it, that’s super appealing.

The thing about not-good-enough though is that if there IS some validity in it in terms of needing to upskill or develop your understanding and abilities in a certain area, then it’s simply a sentence in your last chapter that informs how the next one is going to look; it’s not the end of the book altogether.

If it does hold weight, the power lies in turning the I’m-not-good-enough-full-stop into theres-something-I-need-to-learn-or-master.

The Itty Bitty Shitty Committee are masterful at convincing you that your not-good-enough concerns are nothing to do with skill and everything to do with intrinsic value. Don’t believe them. Being good enough is a decision to ongoing learning, showing up and incremental bites of progress moving forward. If you want to be good enough then you have to decide to be; acceptance and kindness to yourself in the moment, action in alignment with your higher vision and intention.

Trap # 2: Comparisonitis

If you are in the process of giving your comfort zone a little shimmy-shimmy, it’s so easy to start to measure where you’re at alongside your projected assumptions of where other people would be at should they be in the same position as you, or to think about where “you should be by now” within a linear time frame of expectation.

The thing is, that you are your horse are a completely unique combination. Creating a partnership that is based on mutual trust, understanding and growth has nothing to do with what anyone else is or could be doing in the same position as you, and everything to do with what you are doing.

The motto that I align myself too in moment where I catch myself indulging in comparison is simply run your own race. I remind myself of my intention and then continue to make decisions and take action in alignment with that.

At the end of the day, it’s an exercise in focus- and you can’t focus on two different things at the same time. Focusing on other people and comparing yourself to them costs you energy and attention you could be channeling into yourself and your horse. Use your resources wisely.

Trap # 3: Storylines

Here’s something to practice. How long can you have a direct experience of a moment before you add a story to it? It’s a skill all of us could use practice with.

More often than not if we feel afraid, concerned or upset, the story that we have created around the circumstance is far worse than the reality of what it is that we are being presented with. 

The next time you are with your horse and you have the chance to pause and observe, see how long you are able to give them your full and open-hearted attention without adding a story. Without exaggerating or inflating what it is you are seeing and experiencing.

Instead, detach yourself from the thought and focus on the feeling, on where your observations register in your body. Stay with that until you notice a shift.

When we let go of the story, what we are left with is direct experience. At that point, we are left to decide if there is something to be done, or there is nothing to be done.

If there is something to be done, ask yourself, what could I do in this moment to move both myself and my horse to a better feeling space?

If there is nothing to be done, then the task is simply to allow space for both you and your horse to cycle through the mood of the moment until the opportunity presents for the focus to be taken in a different direction. 

Direct attention without the story.

Deliberate action or non-action.

Movement towards better feeling places.

❤️ Jane 

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

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