Energy, Vibration & Beauty In Movement

When we observe beauty in movement, what we’re observing is a body with high vibrational resonance. Our brains may interpret this as an interplay of form and structure, but at its core, it’s an energetic dance, orchestrated primarily by the fascia.

Fascia has an essential tremor, which is its baseline vibrational frequency. Healthy fascia has a much higher base tremor, a much higher vibrational frequency than it’s less healthy counterparts, which directly reflects how information, on many different levels, is able to travel and move through the body.

Fascia is directly affected by our nervous system states. In the parasympathetic system, my fascia is hydrated, free to slide and move, and has a high energetic frequency. In the sympathetic system, fascia dehydrates for functional purpose; it’s energetic frequency decreases, and over time, loses its tonicity and form.

We could also understand the energetic resonance of fascia as the physical manifestation of our life force. When we observe a being in movement we recognise as beautiful, we are observing the literal flow of life force being able to move unimpeded through the body.

At its highest manifestation, we witness a body in movement as transcendent; an interplay of universal energies making themselves known in physical form. Moments of intuitive recognition that move you, experiences that we constantly chase and seek out as horse and rider partnerships.

This is why when we think of beauty and athleticism, we often also think of freedom. The freedom of the body to choose, adapt and change. The freedom of energetic flow to move without control or restriction, physically, mentally and emotionally.

The universal expressed through the individual.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

 

Connecting The Nervous System To Aesthetic Changes In The Horse

Earlier today, I posted about fascia and it’s relationship to our experience of beauty; how its vibration essence (or lack thereof) is what allows for the transmission of information through the body; how this relates to our nervous system state; and how, what this enables, is the aesthetic manifestation of our life force.

Dianne posted a question on that thread, and with permission, I’m sharing our (paraphrased) conversation snippet here because I find it so interesting:

I have a horse that has been abused and has been very difficult to do the most simple things like leading any where, he decides to leave on a regular basis.

He has had 2 years off from work. Recently I started lead training with him and I see an improvement.

My point is looking at him recently I see a completely different horse, like he was a few years ago. He is beautiful, his face structure has changed. He is calm and a lot more cooperative. He has Dapples. Does this make sense?

Dianne was interested if what I was discussing was connected to her experience with her horse.

My answer was:

– Your nervous system state controls how the body is structured and positioned. What this means is as your nervous system state changes, so too does your posture. We have little awareness of the fact that our bones are their changing position all the time.

So it stands to reason, if the underlying nervous system state changes, you will observe this in the structure of both humans and horses, including facial features.

– Coat and skin wise: we have many layers of fascia. If a body is in fight flight (or sympathetic), the skin layer (the part of the body you can touch) and the fascial layer underneath (called the skin bag) stick together; when we are out of fight flight, they separate.

When the skin layer and the fascial bag layer are separate, the skin feels soft, pliable and ‘slide-ey’, rather than stiff, sticky and ‘stuck’.

In this state, everything is oxygenated and hydrated; we are releasing toxins through the skin and all layers are free to move fluidly, which reflects in the quality of the coat also.

– Behaviour wise, fight flight is a state of reactivity; parasympathetic is where learning occurs, and is a state of responsiveness. Nervous system state change reflects on every level; structurally, emotionally, everything. It’s observable.

The endless delights of a nervous system free to shape-shift in accordance with its needs.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

 

Any Practice Worth Following Is Open To Robust Questioning

Any system or practice worth following will be open to robust questioning.

A red flag always pops up for me when someone expression irritation or pushes away my queries to understand more, to get a better grasp on what it is that’s being presented.

Within my own work, I know I’ve tired quickly of my own righteousness, my own certainties or fixedness that what I offer in the only way or the best way.

The world, the information we have access to currently, what we understand to be true about the body, the mind, the universe, our place in it, holds so many grey areas, so many things yet to be discovered, expanded on, understood.

It’s part of the beauty, not the drawbacks.

Here we aren’t knowers, but adventurers. We should never lose our curiosity to ask, or the ability to receive questions.

I find strength, not weakness, in looking at things from a different point of view, and not being sure what to do with it. In being told, I don’t know, or I’m not sure.

In exploring from that place.

In letting ourselves rest in the ‘we’re not sure’.

In letting ourselves rest in, ‘that didn’t work, what else can we try?’

One of the arts of being human is to be able to hold the questions, the nuance, the ambiguity. And not just privately, but publicly, with each other.

To let ourselves live in the zones with the fuzzy edges and share what it is we find there.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Can We Have An Effective Conversation With Our Horse, Even If Our Emotions Aren’t ‘Positive’?

Yesterday, I wrote briefly about how emotion is an internal experience, rather than an external expression. The following question popped in the JoyRide member’s group in response to that, which is reflective of many conversations on energy and emotion we come across in horsemanship circles:

“Is it true that I can’t be in an effective conversation with my horse if my emotional state is not positive? Even if my actions are appropriate?”

My answer to this question is no, I don’t believe that to be true.

I believe (and beyond that know experientially) that it’s possible to be in an effective conversation with your horse, even when you have judged your emotional state to be “negative” (which, while we’re at it, is an entirely subjective judgement and one that can get us in quite the internal tangle).

Here’s my reasoning as to why…

NB: {If yesterday’s post was brief, today’s answer is not}

1.

Let’s start with confirmation of humanity. I’m human and I’m a horse person which means I’m constantly experiencing emotions, and I’m constantly experiencing emotions in the presence of, and in relationship to, my horse.

The scientific definition of an emotion is a physiological change in the body in response to sensory input.

Put simply, that means my body feels into the environment and my body responds to it. That’s it. That’s an emotion.

The psychological definition of an emotion, is a physiological response followed by a subjective interpretation.

That means:

I feel into the environment and my body changes and responds.

I register this as sensation.

I label the sensation as x, y, or z (“this is anxiety, this is happiness, this is fear”).

How I interpret and label the emotion is my interpretation alone, but it is heavily influenced by culture and story which have ascribed certain feelings in the body to particular emotional states. How I label and create emotion in my mind is subjective.

 

2.

A tale for you (that we can use to put what we’re talking about into action)

The other day, I was in the arena working with a young horse who has very little handling and at present, feels on edge with being in the arena. Our driveway winds up the long side, partially hidden by an orchard of fruit trees, with a thin strip of grass in between.

As I was working with my pony, my children raced up the driveway and starting thrashing around playing some sort of ninja game near the gate. At that point, my pony went from the relaxed state she had only just found, to the equine version of a helium balloon, and in response, I felt myself flooded with feelings that I interpreted to mean I was cross and frustrated (with my kids, not with the horse).

At this point, I felt a little window of possibility open up. One that made enough room for me to make a choice. This little window came about because of what I practice and teach; I have enough experience now, as well as a different perspective, with strong sensation in the body that I’m able to hold it within the edges of my skin without it short circuiting my brain, a somewhat liberating experience.

My options at this point were:

  • To let my interpretation of the emotions run the show and follow through on perhaps what felt most appealing in that moment, which was to yell at the kids to stop and to blame them for the fact my horse now felt upset.OR:
  • To recognise what I was feeling and decide how to utilise that information.

In other words, what action was I going to take?

In that moment, the best thing to do was transfer my focus off my own irritation and back to the needs of my horse. From there, I was able to take action in alignment with intention to help my horse move to a better feeling place, and quickly my body oriented towards dealing with what was in front of me.

The experience of the emotion was transient, not because I did anything special but because that IS the nature of emotion.

If we don’t invest emotion with story, it’s shelf life in the body is scientifically proven to be only 90 seconds.

3.

The experience of emotion- the action we choose to take- is not inherent to the emotion itself.

It’s MY experience of the emotion, and how I respond to it is MY choice.

Emotion registers in the body as a physiological change, absolutely.

But that change does not dictate our action. In this way, emotions are messages, not demands.

They are signals, but not fixed actions.

 

4.

 

When we label an emotion, we both transmute and extend its presence.

Transmute in as far as extend it beyond the physiological shift it began as.

Extend in as far as to have it to consume an amount of time beyond its original design.

The physiological presence of any emotion is only 90 seconds. If we experience anything beyond that, what we are experiencing is our outcome of the STORY we have of the emotion, rather than the emotion itself.

If I use myself again as the example: if I played into the story of the crossness and frustration I described previously, the session would not have continued the way it did.

I would not have been useful to my horse, and I would have felt upset and annoyed that I let the experience overtake me.

As it went, that didn’t happen, and the feelings left as quickly as they arrived.

Emotional experience is transient, not fixed. Over the course of our time together with our horses, our emotional range will naturally be nuanced and extensive.

This is normal and natural.

We are emotional creatures, and that’s ok. Glorious even. As long as we continue to make decisions and take action in line with our ultimate intention, things progress not in spite of it, but because of it, in a useful direction.

In this example, I recognised the emotion and acted in alignment with a different focus. The frustration was part of a control pattern on my part.

I may equally have used that emotion to INFORM the action I take; for example, anger is often a signal that a boundary has been breached. I can use that emotion as a signal to take action on creating a boundary, but the emotion itself is not license to lose my temper or cause emotional or physical harm.

The emotion is a signal; the action is a choice.

The decision of what to do with emotional information and what action to take is the practice of emotional discernment.

 

5.

 

What we’re discussing here is very different to suppressing or ignoring emotion.

I’m not trying to escape my experience- quite the opposite.

I’m not trying to present differently to how I feel.

I’m acknowledging what is presenting whilst recognising I have choice as to what to do. And I’m acting in accordance with that choice.

In this way, I’m with the flow of emotion, rather than resisting it in the hope it goes away and pretending something different.

6.

Moving with the flow of emotion manes I recognise that there is no one way to feel, no one way to be.

I do not seek to control my experience, but instead to allow myself to meet the moment; to recognise old patterns as the come up and develop the skills to gently dismantle them.

To recognise that the beauty in life and experience lies in my capacity to be adaptable; for my body and mind to be able to meet the reality of the moment and respond appropriately.

I make a decision, set an intention, take an action and observe what happens.

We are ever changing, emotional creatures. And that is exactly the way it should be.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

 

Emotion Is An Internal Experience, Not An External Expression

Emotion is an internal experience, not an external expression.

That simple sentence has changed my life.

When a feeling state comes up that has the potential to stop me being useful, that prevents me being a person possible for my horse to partner with, I remind myself again:

Emotion is an internal experience, not an external expression.

I can feel frustrated…

I can feel concerned…

I can even feel cross…

… and not let that influence how I choose to pick up my reins or rope, the next action I take with my horse, or how I respond.

There is no behavior, no set of actions intrinsic to any emotional state.

Can I create patterns of reaction in response to what I feel? Absolutely.

But that does not change the reality that emotions, at their root, exist separately to action.

The greatest conscious power we have is our awareness and the ability to decide how we respond.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

The Seeking Of Harmony: A Process Of Constant Adaptation

The idea of harmony is a really interesting one. I searched for the definition just now and this is what came up:

  • the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce a pleasing effect.
  • the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.
  • the state of being in agreement or concord.

Here’s the way I see it. Harmony, like balance, is not a static state. To my mind, there is no such thing as harmony, only harmonising. An experience of constant adjustment, of ever changing energies that we constantly seek to meet and partner with. The actual idea of harmony, by default, requires an ‘other’. We do not harmonise alone; we find harmony in relationship with something or someone else and that experience produces something more beautiful, more resonant, more powerful than each part could have produced independently.

If we keep following that train of thought, the seeking out of harmony is a constant process of adaptation. It does not look or feel one set way. It is a process of me meeting the circumstances and environment I am a part of, understanding what is being offered and allowing my emotional and physical self to adapt in a way that allows me to best complement the moment.

Harmony is not a static state and it does not have a fixed presentation. Consequently, neither should we.

To be able to harmonise with our horses, we need to be someone that it’s possible to harmonise with. From a mental and emotional perspective, this requires us developing a relationship with sensation in the body (the way emotion makes itself known on a physical level) that does not leave us either emotionally hijacked and unable to be practically useful. Something that is absolutely possible to expand and develop.

We also have to take care to not use the idea of harmony as another thinly veiled attempt at control where we require our horses (or indeed ourselves) to ‘be’ a certain way- which in many instances involves limiting their energy and expression within a very limited window. It is up to us to develop the capacity to move freely forward with our horses, to become the musical note that together with them becomes the symphony.

Our movement patterns are also a big part of this conversation. Remember, our movement is either motivated by the sympathetic (flight flight) or parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system is a system of reflex. Reflexes are fixed states. If our movement patterns are motivated by the fight flight system, our body essentially only has one set of possibilities to match the movement. It is not possible to harmonise with a horse if we are operating from our sympathetic nervous system. We can control and direct absolutely- but that is a different conversation from harmony.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be discussing this and so much more with the fabulous Josh Nichol. We are teaming up for a 4 part workshop called Embracing Challenge: Exploring Peace, Energy & Balance under pressure.

We would love for you to join us! You can learn more or sign up here.

❤️ Jane

On Comparison: When In Doubt, Always Serve The Learning

Something I’ve noticed when I feel tired, run down or out of sorts is that I’m more easily susceptible to the pitfalls of comparison. It’s like the usual mechanisms that perkily stand guard at the perimeter of my brain, preventing negative comparisons from taking seed, decide to take leave, leaving me open and susceptible to the voices of the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee taking up residence inside my head.

I find myself physically irritated when this occurs. There’s a particular feeling that starts in the seed of my stomach, crawls its way up to my throat. As soon as it makes contact, it swirls and disperses, tightening my thoughts and my voice. But the physical sensation is not the only cause of my irritation. It also comes about because I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be the person who looks at others with a slightly sideways glance, wishing that their experience, success or set of skills they are displaying were mine.

And so, I make the simple decision to not let myself be. Which I’ve discovered, through consistent practice, is a possible thing to do.

Comparison can be the seat of death for creativity, and both writing and riding, my two greatest loves, are both creative acts. There are surprising truths that are hidden behind the veil of comparison, that is we understand them can help us develop a relationship with comparison (and beyond that, criticism) that might move us forward, instead of holding us back.

They are:

  • It takes courage to keep showing up for the things that are important to you and to continually allow yourself to learn. That process is one that requires feedback. But you aren’t at the mercy of feedback; receiving it is just part of the creative act. We aren’t victims of this process; we are generators of it. That distinction is important.
  • If you serve the process of learning, instead of serving yourself, you stay in flow with the experience. You stay in the creative act. Which is a fluid and generous place to ground yourself.
  • Your riding, your horsemanship, your life, is a practice. And if you do it well, you put yourself on the hook rather than taking yourself off it. That means that at times, you are placing yourself in positions of discomfort- something that most of all people spend lifetimes avoiding. If you’re showing up, you’re claiming responsibility. But you’re not claiming responsibility for producing an outcome; you are claiming responsibility for continuing to show up. For the practice. And needing to feel a particular way is not a pre-requisite for the practice.
  • Everyone regularly feels like an imposter. Everyone that cares about what they’re doing. End of.
  • It’s ok to balance the energy to get yourself back to a place where taking the next right step becomes possible. I know if I fall into the comparison trap, my focus has become too wide for what the edges of my skin can hold in that moment. So, I zoom in. Conversely, if I get stuck, or too invested in the specifics of a challenge, I need to zoom out. My focus has become too narrow. Do you need to zoom out or zoom in?

 

When in doubt, always serve the learning.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

The Relationship Of Fascia To Physical & Emotional Wellbeing

I used to think the discomfort I felt sitting or lying on hard surfaces was due to having a slight frame and limited padding over my bones. In theory, this logic makes sense; in reality, I saw regular examples of the opposite that showed me that my thinking was not quite right.

For instance, I had friends of a much larger frame who felt the same discomfort as me. Positioned for longer periods than average on hard ground, they would shift and squirm in just the same way.

When I worked overseas in refugee camps, I would see people the same size as me and sometimes less, happily sleeping on surfaces most western bodies would baulk at. Whilst I would attempt to support and swaddle myself in something soft, they would simply lie down on whatever was available and well– go to sleep.

In wasn’t until I learned about fascia that I really understood what was happening. It wasn’t to do with body size at all, or how much “cushioning” we perceived we did or didn’t have. It was to do with the adaptability of my fascia to respond to outside forces in a way that balanced the pressure from inside to out.

A healthy, hydrated fascial system responds to force with equal and opposing pressure- it actually requires pressure stimulation to be healthy. In the ideal world, if I was to lie on something hard, my internal pressure systems would respond by increasing pressure, so my internal world matched the exterior. This was the experience of my hard sleeping friends; their body had the ability to match internal and external pressure in a way that mine, at the time, did not.

For this to occur, we need nervous system that’s able to shape shift appropriately from sympathetic to parasympathetic depending on the circumstances and environment. Fascia- it’s adaptability and function- changes dramatically between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system states.

In the sympathetic system, it dehydrates to bring the bony surfaces together so I can increase my power and acceleration. It constricts and dehydrates.

If I live in my sympathetic system more often than not, however, I lose the adaptability of my fascia to respond. And over time, the ability of my body to hold its structure and integrity in the face of outside force becomes more and more compromised.

What I observe is when fascial tone is lacking, we begin to lack the same “emotional tone”. When we are no longer adaptable within the situations we find ourselves in, and as a result, we find ourselves doing one of two things:

1. We brace defensively as a “just in case” policy. “Just in case” we need to be on guard or “push back” we move through the world pre-empting something “coming at us”, which reflects in our posture, our behavior, and our attitudes to our experiences.

2. We are porous, with no capacity to either deflect or limit the amount of information coming in. As a consequence, we have no boundaries, no ability to recognize our limits and we end up easily drained and exhausted.

The answer lies in understanding the means to create nervous system adaptability but also understanding how our mind, body and spirit responds to experiences of pressure. Next week, I’m teaching a 4 part workshop with the amazing Josh Nichol, called Embracing Challenge: Exploring Peace, Energy and Balance Under Pressure where we discuss this and so much more.

You can learn more or sign up here:

https://members.joshnichol.com/buy-embracing-challenge-live/

Any questions, please feel free to ask!

❤️ Jane

Sensing The Numinous: Long May We Play

Yesterday, I pulled on my boots and walked out to the paddock to catch Dee. As I made my way down the grassy path, I thought about how surprised he would be. That instead of being greeted for hugs and the odd kiss on the side of his velvety muzzle then letting him be, I would be taking the halter around his big neck and leading him up and out of the gate.

Just as the mountain scenes around me never fail to capture my attention, I always marvel at the beauty of my horses in the strides it takes to make my way towards them. Dee, especially, was always meant to be larger than life. The tallest member of the herd at 17.2hh, he has defied all logistics and predictions, manifesting from a stallion that was only 14.1.

I daily giggle at the length of his legs.  A lovely friend, Jane Lancaster, told me recently that the word “rider” in Arabic translates to mean to be lifted into the realms of imagination. I feel this to be especially true of Dee. To sit on his back in the moment’s things had come together and feel the power that he offered is something that words fall short for. If I closed my eyes in those moments, I could surely touch the clouds.

And yet, alongside this, Dee is also my “things have not gone to plan” horse. The horse who has called on me the most. There have been some physical challenges, a paddock accident and despite being given the “good to go” by all the boxes needing to be ticked, my intuition told me things weren’t quite right. Under saddle things felt more difficult than they should be and a good while back, I called time out. I had promised him during a time when he was especially ill that if he made it through, I would always do the best by him. And recalling those words in these moments, I hung my ego up on the hook inside the stables and whispered in his ear that the pressure was off. That for the next while- and maybe forever- his only job was to be a horse. And I would love him all the same.

Over the last months, I’ve watched him move around the paddock. Seen him trot and canter up and down the hills. Cover the few acres distance from one side the other in what seemed like a few short strides.

And the little voice inside my head returned, niggling in a slightly different way.

I think you could play together again,” it said to me. “I don’t know where that will take you, but if you aren’t attached to riding, you could see”.

So yesterday, we played. I led him over to the round pen, undid his halter and slung it over the fence. He came and stood by me. And over the course of 15 minutes, we played.

Dee moved with me round the space like he’d only been worked yesterday. In truth, I can’t remember how long it’s been. This big, beautiful horse, on a big paddock of spring grass, away from the company of his friends did everything I asked of him, and at the end, stood next to me, hung his big head down and licked and chewed.

I wanted to stand with him forever.

There have been many times when bringing a horse back in after extended periods of rest have not looked like this. Where the lure of their paddock full of friends is a much more attractive option than the draw of a human such as me.

But yesterday, I felt like I was given a gift.

I learned a new word recently: numinosity.  It means to be filled with a sense of the presence of divinity. Whoever divined the Arabic word for rider being lifted up into the realms of imagination understood this. But I wonder, instead of rider, they meant horseman.

Because in my experience, one does not have to be sitting on their back for this to be true.

❤️ Jane

Coming To Your Senses

There’s a negative cycle we get stuck in when we find ourselves living more often than not in our fight flight or sympathetic nervous system.

An active and online sensory system is necessary for us to be present in the world in ways that allow us to really meet the reality of the situation we’re in. This may sound obvious, but in many circumstances, we’re anything but meeting reality; instead we’re meeting our story, through the lens of our past experiences and perceptions.

This glorious animal body of ours is designed to sense, rather than think, our way through life. We have 19 different senses that are constantly feeling into the world around and within us, sending information back to our brain for processing. Our brain then integrates the information and uses it to answer the question:

Am I safe?

The yes, no or maybe answer gets sent out in the form of a motor or movement response that is appropriate for the sensory input. So, if my sensory input alerts me to danger (or the potential of) my motor / movement response will be a sympathetic or fight flight response. A reaction of my survival nervous system.

If my sensory input tells me all is well, I send out a parasympathetic motor / movement response that is designed to match and harmonise with the circumstances I find myself in.

With this in mind, all parasympathetic and sympathetic responses are responses of movement; they are functions of the motor system of the body.

So what’s the catch?

Modern living means we are no longer being stimulated in new and novel ways. We aren’t required to be in the world to build shelter, find food or care for community. We have comforted our way into convenience, and out of the necessary interactions our body would have with the world that allows us to create a nervous system that’s healthy and adaptive.

As a result, movement is something we have to decide our way into.

The brain requires regular, novel experiences by way of movement in order for the sensory system to stay active and online. Without it, it no longer has the necessary information to make “good decisions”. If sensory information is the data we need to understand our literal place in the world, a lack of it means we are lost at sea.

During sympathetic activation, the sensory system is “turned down”. We do this as a means to temporarily support our survival processes; it’s not useful for us to feel all the feels if we are under attack or needing to flee a situation as quickly as possible. But of course, we are only meant to be here for a short period of time.

When we are living more often than not in our survival nervous system, this lack of sensory data becomes maladaptive, and creates a negative feedback loop. The sensing practices I teach are designed to reactivate the sensory system to re-establish adaptability to our nervous system states so we can be fully present and involved in the things that are important to us.

This last couple of weeks in JoyRide we have been exploring Coming To Your Senses; sensory activities both with and without your horse to help kickstart the information your brain needs to pull you out of loops that are no longer serving you.

Tonight’s workshop is all about mapping pressure, using objects such as balls, blocks, and weighted bags to increase sensory awareness and fine tune our sense of our own bodies both in and out of the saddle.

If you want to join me in JoyRide, now is a great time! We are a global community so if you can’t make it live, everything is recorded and on the membership site shortly after we’ve wrapped up. You can read more about it or join me for JoyRide here.

Onwards,

❤️ Jane

Notes From ’23 The Journey On Podcast Summit

 

1. Chantel Prat

“Turn down the voice that tells you you need to be more”

“We are dynamic beings. Our brains grow and change from every lived and imagined experience”

“Beliefs are a value system that you brain protects. It turns up or down your experiences in the world, based on the consistency of what you know”.

“Intuition & belief lie on a continuum and are represented in different areas of the brain and have different learning trajectories”,

“When you think ‘you know’, you prevent yourself from learning”

“Some of our stories we’ve inherited and we don’t even know they’re ‘in the water’; some we’ve inherited”

***

2. Kansas Carradine

“One of the reasons that it’s a gift to be with the horses is because I get to be in the silence”

“It’s our energy, our resonance (that’s operating in the world). Compassion is the lubricant that softens everything and helps things move more smoothly. It helps take away the dissonance.” (Paraphrased)

“The stories that we create about our horses gives us information; it lets us know about the energetic debris that needs to be set aside, and then we guide people into the heart, to be able to consciously decide what we send out into the field.”

“Heartmath brings coherence & order; it brings synchronization into our physiology. Fight flight closes our possibility and takes us our of our cortical thinking.”

“A big part of the piece is sending pre-care.”

“We are always transmitting and receiving. We are all broadcasting. So we have to ask, what is the resonance I want to hold? What is the frequency I want to bring into the situation? Let that be the step before the step.”

“In the equestrian world, we have a lot of crystallised belief patterns, and the heart can help us find a way to dissolve the energetic discord. When we have more awareness, we can repattern the discord”.

“Recognising what is, and feeling into the moment to apply our care appropriately.”

“To lose the performance anxiety: Asking the heart for a more efficient response; recognizing I am here to be of service.”

You can purchase the full summit recording by clicking here

 

Do You Know When The Sun Rises?

Do you know when the sun rises?

One of the things that always makes me grateful to live where I do is that nature is completely unmissable. When I am at home, my presence is secondary to the landscape. The bigness of the land here, and the smallness of the human markers on it, means that it constantly captures my attention.

I can tell you when the tide is coming in and when it’s leaving.

The colour of the sky and the form of the clouds alerts me to incoming weather changes that move towards me like spilled watercolour paints on soft paper.

I try to capture the vastness, the intensity of what I see within the narrow lens of my phone and more often than not I fail. It’s like trying to explain the flavour of your favourite homemade ice-cream with a scratch and smell sticker from Target. The experiences don’t match up.

One of the questions I’m commonly asked is how I cope with jet-lag. I’ve travelled more miles these last months than I care to add up, and with very few exceptions have no trouble sleeping once my head hits the pillow- no matter what time zone that happens to be in.

My reply always involves some version of the following:

I look to the sunrise and the sunset.

The experience of seeing both the coming and the leaving of the light is something that our brains require to regulate our presence in the natural world. It sets off a hormonal cascade that we need to balance our biological systems so they can continue to function harmoniously.

So, when I get off the plane and find my feet standing on unfamiliar ground, I try to be present for the coming and the leaving of the light.

Beyond that though, asking the question ‘Do you know when the sun rises?’ holds the key to a much bigger conversation. The answer gives us information as to how connected- or disconnected- we are to the natural world and her rhythms, how much we have let the inside world consume us.

Often times, if I’m first meeting up with people in a coaching setting, it’s one of the first questions I ask. The answers are always interesting.

In as much as we’ve come to trust an Apple watch to tell us how we’ve slept, how healthy or how rested we are before we trust our own thoughts and feelings about the same, it’s easy to do a quick google search and find the details you wish to know. We love looking to the data on our devices to answer the question of how we are, and what’s going on. We love trusting a device over ourselves.

What time does the sun rise? What were the colours of the sky of the day you were just in? How did the weather evolve?

If you have trouble answering, maybe it’s time to go outside.

“Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.” – Mary Oliver

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Photo of me and the gorgeous red mare I had the privilege of riding to learn about cutting this week 😍

Singing Possibilities Into Existence: Beauty in action through beauty in words

Let me start by telling you a story of The Other Day. Because The Other Day it was lovely and warm, and the sun teased my skin in a way that made me want to ride in only a T-shirt. Which is of course something I’m forced to declare out loud, to anyone who’ll hear it.

Look Liz!‘ I unzipped my jacket, leaving it unwanted and abandoned on the fence. ‘I’M ONLY WEARING A TSHIRT!

Because Liz knows me, she understands this to be a Big Deal. That’s she’s witnessing Something Important. It MUST be warm, I imagine her thinking to herself, if Jane is only in a T-shirt.

She smiles and nods appreciatively. No doubt she’s suitably impressed.

Today, however is not The Other Day. If you had told us The Other Day that today it would be raining with snow to 200 meters, we would have said, this is impossible, untrue. Not only because we (I) are never quite sure what hundred-meter mark we live on (although looking directly at the sea from my window does give me some hints) but because it was very clear The Other Day that we now lived on a kind of Lord of The Rings version of Ibiza, at least from a meteorological perspective.

And also, I was in a T-shirt. Which tells you everything you need to know.

Anyway, My Liz, as she is formally known, has recently returned from Africa, where she has been adventuring with her rather intrepid and quite fantastic family. I’m very glad to have My Liz home.

It’s true what you said‘, she mentioned as we were crooning over Merc, talking about restarting playing with her horses. ‘The ponies haven’t forgotten anything!

They are very smart,’ I returned. A lesson I had been grateful to learn many times.

These last couple of months, my ponies have had more time off than on. With a work schedule that’s seen me travelling regularly overseas, they’ve put new meaning to the term “wintering”, going to great lengths to make it their own. They even had some meetings about starting their own reality TV show, Horse vs Wild, in a similar format to Bear Grylls.

Production was halted on my return, and without wanting to be a killjoy, I told them it was very difficult to get funding.

In particular, I’d been reluctant to leave Merc. Just prior to him having a little break, we started to get a few trot strides that felt they had panache. A big deal for us. Where his body was free and forward, his trotters hovering for a half a second or so above the ground. We were almost ready the Patchy-Pony-Slightly-Heavier-Horse-Olympics, and I, for one, was here for it.

Merc!‘ I had shrilly cried out in delight. ‘You are so, so clever!

It had been 18 months of work, and I could see some shiny glimmers of goodness. I wasn’t sure what the start point would be with a couple of months off, how long it might take to return. To my joy, our trot was still there. And it appears, I found out, we also had more balance in the canter. Rest can be magical like that.

Look!‘ I yell to My Liz as I’m cantering around this arena. ‘I think this is the best canter we’ve ever had!! WE’RE ALMOST READY TO BE ARWEN!”’ I keep going. “DID I TELL YOU THAT I GOT A BOW AND ARROW FOR MY BIRTHDAY? I WANT TO DO MOUNTED ARCHERY!’

I share this with you not only to tell you of my secret dreams of being a bow and arrow shooting Arwen, but also because I am an Enthusiastic Celebrator of The Little Things (which, incidentally, are never really that little). Lightness of feet, I believe, can only exist in combination with lightness of spirit. I tell my horses all-the-day that they are clever and brilliant and gorgeous. That I want to be Arwen from LOTR. That this whole thing we’re doing together is and should be fun.

All of which is true.

It’s so easy to make the our riding experiences heavy. To pick apart what isn’t working, over analyse what is. Every now and then, when I step outside my bubble I hear someone refer to their horse as stupid or an idiot. And a part of me feels injured. I carry with me a naivety that is genuinely shocked.

I’m a firm believer that beauty in action begins with beauty in word. That our inner life is one created through language. Our words are holograms we step into, potentials of lived experience created ahead of time. Possibilities we sing into existence.

To refer to our horses, and ourselves, in a way that is degrading is insulting to the spirit, both ours and theirs. Sometimes we do so thoughtlessly, but we should never do so intentionally.

Clever and brilliant and gorgeous. The start point and the end point, no matter what it is that happens in between.

Onwards.

xx Jane

This is a photo from The Other Day of Liz and Merc. Vogue cover models, the pair of them. I couldn’t love them more.

 

Kindness & Care As Emergency: On tending the beautiful while we repair the brutal

There’s a little track I walk through to get to the field where Merc and Ada graze. It winds its way through a patch of land that for years that had been taken over by the wildlings, many meters of invasive weeds that cloak the trees at their roots like a billowing skirt. The bramble bushes I can call by name, but the formal titles of many others embarrassingly escape me. And yet, I know them intimately, by the shape of their leaves, their individual outlines, what time of day they cast their shade and where. What chooses to grow under them and what does not. The names we call each other are not the names that have been given by the books, but names that together we made up- even if I’m not sure how they refer to me in return.

I write a lot about trees and birds and horses. I’m a tree hugging fan. If there’s anything the world needs more of, it’s people hugging trees. I’ve moved in circles that would be described as hippy dippy, but I was never the right fit. I’m not one for elaborate ritual or for joining hands and dancing. It’s too much work to keep from giggle snorting, uses all my bodily resources. I’m offensive to the sensibilities of the pure. I reach for the mystical and magical whilst keeping a healthy dose of realism in my pocket. It’s taken time, some picking through, to develop a relationship with the non-human and the animate that feels non-contrived and genuine- which mostly involves letting go of other people’s ideas of what that’s supposed to look like and just letting myself be.

Yesterday, I took my coffee and made my way across the paddocks. Past the speckled chicken who daily flies into chicken rages if the feed isn’t delivered fast enough, keeping a wide berth over to the right (she’d been fed earlier). Up along the stony path, feet picking my way through the jagged rocks to find the even ground. Over to the wooden gate that leads to my path. I open it and go through.

At first the land takes you winding down, in amongst the trees that throw a darker shade, before crossing a rivulet formed from a newly burst spring, where the light opens up. At the top of the rise here, the faces of my horses appear, a sight that always makes me stop and smile.

How are you so gorgeous, I call out. Merc blushes. He’s too gracious to reply.

Although I might not be one for formal ritual, I do believe that life is deserving of never-ending celebration. My heart daily grows new foliage. It full of sticks and leaves from trees I love, fallen bird’s nests that I’ve collected, the wisps of hair from horse’s past and present. It carries the people that I cherish and care for, grows heavier with the suffering of both those I know and those I don’t. As I grow older, I learn of its capacity to carry more, to grow lighter and heavier in equal amounts.

Yesterday, as I sat down with my horses, I felt an endless pool of gratitude, mixed with a tinge of guilt. I often ask, what can I do? What can a horse do? What use is hanging out in nature if we turn on the news and see the world around us burn? And more so, what’s the use in writing about it?

A horse, a tree, some words about the love of both does not save someone from harm. It does not put food on the plates of the hungry or fill a well with water that’s run dry. It does not grow a roof over someone who’s lost their home. This much I know.

But does it still have value?

I believe so. As a reminder of our human-ness. Of a deep care for the simple. And of the potential for our love.

Things we can never be reminded of enough.

I read this poem recently by Danusha Laméris:

Small Kindness

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk

down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs

to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”

when someone sneezes, a leftover

from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.

And sometimes, when you spill lemons

from your grocery bag, someone else will help you

pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.

We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,

and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile

at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress

to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,

and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.

We have so little of each other, now. So far

from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.

What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these

fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,

have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”

***

Maybe, I think to myself, as I sit with my horses, the seeking of kindness and care is also an emergency we need to tend to. That part of our practice is to not deny the beautiful while we repair and make amends for the brutal.

Look after your gentle selves,

xx Jane

 

Set ’em up & let ’em find it: Allowing illogical ways to reach a logical conclusion

The work involved one of us lying on the ground, and one of us holding onto the others foot.

Should I encourage movement of some sort?” I asked, wondering if there was something else I was supposed to be doing.

Nope,” was the reply I received. “What you choose for them might not be what their body would choose. You have to allow the body to move in illogical ways in order to find a logical conclusion”.

Allow it to move in illogical ways to find a logical conclusion”. One of the most enlightening sentences on movement I’ve ever heard.

Let me chatter some more about what it means (and why it is I think that).

***

The situation was this:

We were learning hands on techniques that involved touch; ways of both experiencing and observing how a body and a nervous system respond to sensory feedback.

The process, in this instance, was very simple. I would take a part of the body in my hands (in this case a foot) and observe the changes that occurred over 35-40 mins. The arch of the foot- just in in front of the heel pad and behind the ball- acts as one of the main diaphragms of the body, an intersection of fascial trains that when hydrated and fluid act as one of the main pumping mechanisms for fluid, pressure, and vibration.

When our body is functioning in the parasympathetic (the nervous system we operate from when not in fight or flight) this foot valve or diaphragm spirals, pulses, and rotates; my question was based on this understanding and wondering if I should somehow encourage this movement with my hands.

The answer I received reminded me that it was not my business or job to determine the path or process a body- horse or human- needs to take to find what we might describe as release, a movement towards better function, or even to create a movement outcome that we might want. That in short, I cannot know what is best for any body better than that body knows itself.

I’m going to give you two examples- one human and one horsey- and then wrap up the discussion with the principle of biomechanics that informs it when you are viewing things through a nervous system lens.

***
Sarah sat on the chair in front of me, with her back facing me. It was easy to see the asymmetry in her shoulders. Her right should girdle appeared broad and wide; the left was more pulled in.

From a conscious brain perspective, I would have said that her left shoulder needed to be “released” to “match” the other side. The logical path to reach a logical conclusion. Our conscious brain loves the path of the most obvious.

I had her sense the bottom tip of her shoulder blade and a point on the back of her pelvis. Sensing involves placing your attention on a part of the body to activate the sensory nerves in that area and forms a big part of the movement work I teach. She did this for 90 seconds on one side, and then switched and did the other.

I watched as Sarah’s body rearranged itself in an illogical way to find a logical conclusion. Instead of the left shoulder coming out, the right shoulder moved in, arranging itself closer to midline. It was the position of the right that was pulling the left in; by giving Sarah’s unconscious brain more information about the position it was in through sensory feedback, it was free to rearrange itself based on understandings I could never have access to consciously, and beyond that made incorrect assumptions about.

When the right moved in, the left moved out, and now the two were balanced.

Illogical ways of reaching a logical conclusion.

***

A few months back, I started teaching my horse Merc shoulder in. He was trying so hard, his thought process seemed audible. It was as though you could hear him talking the steps through to himself out loud.

For a horse inclined to carry himself heavily on his shoulders, it’s been a slow and progressive process to lighten him in front and find strength as a ridden horse in the basic movements. Shoulder In was a powerful and yet not-easy exercise for him to find.

As he worked his way through it, he travelled through a number of weight-bearing postures. At some points, his neck needed to be longer and lower, at some points higher and shorter. The pace and tempo varied. Shoulders and hind ends popped out and in and at many times looked nothing like the movement we were seeking.

My role as the rider was to set things up to ensure that what I was asking was clear, and that I wasn’t getting in the way of him achieving it.

Set them up and let them find it” is a foundational phrase in horsemanship, but we so often meddle and micromanage the “let them find it” part.

For each horse, how their body will find the movement will vary. All we can do is hold a clear intention for what we would like and not be attached to how we get there.

And sometimes, that will, again, look illogical to the neat and tidy path we would have chosen, based on nothing more than an idea we hold that we somehow know better than their own body does.

***

When we talk about allowing the body to move in illogical ways to reach a logical conclusion, we are referring to the processes of the unconscious brain and nervous system, and how it ultimately informs the structure, position, and posture of the body at any moment in time. (I’ve talked about these principles extensively in a podcast here if you want to dive into it further).

In the movement and biomechanics work I teach, we honour this completely- but it’s not without it’s challenges.

What are those challenges?

A letting go of control. Gulp.

A return to sensing.

A letting go of fixed outcomes and expectations.

But the benefits are vast.

The idea of allowing my brain and body illogical processes (illogical, I might add, to our conscious perception) to reach logical conclusions informs my horsemanship, my creative work and my life. In short, it’s a relief. A restoration of natural order, where I can rely on unconscious processes to guide me.

Set ‘em up and let ‘em find it.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

If you are interested in biomechanics from a nervous system lens, you might be keen on my membership. You can check it out here.

We feel, we feel, we feel: A conversation on sensation, energy & aliveness

What we love about horses is also the essence of what we often find the be the most challenging: their energy.

I just don’t get it”, a trainer said to me recently, “why all these women choose these big, powerful horses to work with when they’re clearly over faced”.

I drifted off in thought. “It’s easy”, I replied, “to have this conversation from the level of the obvious. And I agree- there are consequences when horse and rider are mismatched. The work that we both do sees examples of this happening all the time”.

I ignore the sweeping references to ‘all these women’, smoothing down my bristles.

But I do get why it happens”, I went on, “even if the answer defies what common conversation will allow.”

*********

So, here’s the thing: I don’t know how to write about horses, and our relationships with them, without writing about how I live, and the thoughts that course through my brain-space on the daily. My ramblings aren’t good examples of what posts for social media are s’posed to look like. I could care less.

I can’t answer questions that are asked of me without thinking about how horses-wot-were-probably-too-much-for-me-at-the-time were what scraped me off the floor and motivated me to get up. When the feelings and concerns and day to day happenings of my life felt too much to hold within the edges of my skin.

How life, the more you live it, becomes simpler and more complicated, more defined, and slightly crazier, has many more blurry edges than black and white boxes for us to tick.

And how, many conversations I have involves stories of people ending up with a glorious horse creature in front of them that all at once seems magnificent and terrifying in equal amounts, finding themselves inside a blurry box they ticked themselves and wondering how they got there. How they feel overwhelmed and wrestle with their feelings and thoughts. How they perhaps even feel shame to have decided their way into a relationship that they now don’t know how to navigate or get out of. How hopeless it all feels.

We can’t start that conversation without zooming out to consider things from a much wider lens. And if you’re willing to join me for the chattering about it, that’s where I’d like both of us to start.

*********

If I could title this next section, it would be:

‘Things I would like to have said in reply to the trainer but couldn’t because they either came to me at 2am or when I was in the shower, neither time being appropriate to pick up the conversation. And plus, he’d probably think me crazy.’

Here we go.

The energy of horses is glitter in the blood. Our relationship with them and the shared stories we’ve experienced over history informs our collective unconscious. We see a horse and we respond, their presence inspiring a feeling and a knowing, even if we are unsure from what or where it came.

What our modern mind forgets, the clay of our body remembers. Legs and hooves and fur against skin. Movement of a shared togetherness. Partnerships that words feel inadequate, or not enough or clunky to describe.

Horses, along with everything else, are a cellular remembering. Of vitality. Of connection. Of something beyond what present day living would have us reduced to. Of Aliveness.

When I’m asked, what are these people thinking to have horses beyond what their skill or comfort level might allow, my mind falls to this. It might not appear to make sense, I tell myself, but I believe it comes from yearning, from a desire to be shocked out of the neutrality of spirit and of mind modern life has comforted us into. A call above the frequency of normal hearing that makes us cock our heads and turn them to the side, that catches our attention and fills us with desire.

We want that, a voice responds. We want that, we want that, we want that.

*********

But here we are. We have a horse in the paddock. We might be riding, we might not. We might be working with them on the ground, we might not. We find their energy overwhelming. Our bodies cannot match their bigness. We find that it doesn’t take a lot for us to feel frightened and afraid, even if our logical mind is telling us, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok.

We feel it is very much not ok.

*********

What is it that communicates not okay-ness to us as humans? Where do we register that in our body? How do we feel that?

I’m going to start this part of the conversation in a back to front fashion, with what vitality feels like in the body and reversing back from there.

A vital body is a full volume feeling body. It’s a body that’s communicating messages to the brain all day long. Our body sends out its tendrils, feeling into the environment all around us. The regular things don’t capture our attention. It’s the novel ones that do. The way that our body communicates change, new experience or an energetic shift is through the language of sensation.

Our conscious brain notices when things change. Novelty is simply change, a communication of something different to what it was a few moments ago.

Something has changed, our senses tell us. We feel sensation.

*********

What creates sensation?

Sensation is created through movement; physical, internal movement. That movement goes in one of two directions, either towards the midline of my body or away from it.

It moves towards with the experience of concern; everything gets tighter, wraps around itself in an effort to protect (we could also call this fight flight).

It moves away when it is in the process of opening, when the tightness is unfurling (we could call this parasympathetic). When we’ve looked out with our binoculars and decided we are safe.

In both opening and closing, we feel sensation. Our organs, our bones, our fluids, moving all-the-day. In the experience of fear or unfurling, we feel sensation. When our body is closing down, or rising up, we feel sensation.

We feel, we feel, we feel, we feel, we feel. Opening or closing, we feel.

A healthy body is designed to feel.

*********

What gets us into trouble?

… which begs the question, what internal state feels good to you? What amount of sensation can you hold within the edges of your skin before your mind associates it with alarm or concern or something unhelpful?

What feeling state do you associate with “being in control”? What feeling state do you associate with “being in danger or alarmed”?

Regardless of the how you arrived here. Regardless of if there is something we would call trauma or not. Regardless of the story. The start point always begins with a reframing and a new conversation with what sensation feels like in the body, and beyond that, what it means.

For most of us, a neutral body and a horse that is half dead is the only energetic space that feels safe. Which means to change, we have to enter a conversation with aliveness.

It’s not the sensation that’s the problem, this is normal.

It’s our interpretation of sensation that’s the problem.

*********

In our mind, we create word chains. It goes like this:

I feel a sensation.

I decide that it’s anxiety (for example).

This is anxiety”, I tell myself.

Every thought I have is a message to the body to respond a certain way.

Anxiety is not just a label, it’s an instruction.

Be anxiety, I am telling my body. And my body dutifully responds.

*********

The other day I got tagged in a post on another page, a beautiful question.

I share with permission:

“If I sense that the horse near me is even slightly restless, anxious, cautious, in a mood to play, or anything like that, it stirs a deep distrust in me. My adrenaline rises, I can’t feel my body anymore, I am afraid of being overpowered by the horse, of being attacked, of losing control of the horse.”

As adults, our energetic conversation with the world often exists within a very narrow window. Over the span of 7 days, most of us can predict with a high degree of certainty, what our life will look like. We move in predictable ways. We do the same routine activities. Our energetic dial is not challenged beyond a fairly average range, both up and down.

What this means is that our relationship with sensation exists within a narrow window also. Sensation appears in response to novelty. If there’s not much novelty, there’s not much sensation.

But then a horse appears. They have energy, a mind, a life force. Our body senses into theirs. It changes, it sensates. We feel.

We feel, we feel, we feel.

If our only association with feeling is concern, our experiences are always going to be interpreted as dangerous or “bad”. Often swiftly. Often unconsciously.

We respond.

This is bad, this is bad, this is bad.

The feeling is not the problem. It’s our association with the feeling that is.

*********

The journey might progress to the development of skills, of relational conversations between horse and humans, but from my perspective, it begins in not so obvious place, with a discussion of vitality. And in the very practical ways we can learn to embody it.

In my work, the basis of our renegotiation with the language of sensation lives in movement. We move our body with sensory awareness, in novel ways, and we observe. We begin to have a more nuanced conversation.

We allow more, control less, interpret with discernment, take action and observe.

We re-teach ourselves to feel and stay present in the midst of it.

The capacity to hold bigger energetic frequencies within the edges of our skin is something that can be relearned. To interpret all sensation with alarm is a by-product of modern living. And one that our horses invite us to step out of.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

9 ways to keep going when your heart is hurt, or bruised, or broken.

I re-read a message today that made my heart hurt.

I’m not sure if you do anything for grief,” it begins. Beyond that, we know what follows.

Another, in my inbox for weeks now, deserving of an answer. The loss of a horse. The confusion of how to love another.

I’ll get back to you”, I’ve said, which is the truth. “Let me get my thoughts together.”

In reality, there is no answer for grief, for heartache or for heartbreak. It’s not a problem to be cured, a challenge to be fixed. We know it to be the contract we all signed with our aliveness.

And yet, that doesn’t help.

What does, I have found, are gentle reminders of how un-alone we are in what we are going through. Reminders that what you are and what you’re feeling is ok, even if the situation isn’t.

On January 5th of this year, I lost a horse who was very precious to me. I have lost people too, at different times. And it is exactly those experiences which tell me that I cannot tell you how to be, what to do or what you need.

I can’t answer the question for you of how to keep going, or what to do and when. But I can share with you the things I tell myself, in the hope that it helps you find your way to a loving hug or gentler thought.

I’ll leave that with you now.

 

**

9 ways to keep going when your heart is hurt, or bruised, or broken.

 

  1. Let your son make the cookies. Let him measure and pour the milk himself, even though it will go everywhere. Hold the chair for him, with its back against the bench, so he’s tall enough to reach. Push the ball of your foot up against the leg so it doesn’t slip away. When he takes his finger into the mix and scoops it into his mouth, let him. Let him eat all of the sweetness and don’t make mention of teeth or tummies or dinner’s soon. Hug him and smell the scent of last night’s woodfire from the fire pit they built and the night before that’s shampoo. When the cookies are ready, tell him they are the best cookies you’ve ever eaten. Mean it.

 

  1. Collect the buckets. Arrange them in a row. They are all black rubber, look the same. Some are more flexible, easier to walk with. Find those ones and pull them to the front. Those will go to the paddocks the longest carry away. Take out your pink plastic scoop and make it half full. Pour the beet into the bucket. Repeat this for each one. Notice how they look like grey corn flakes. Take the hose, turn it on, and cover them with water. Think about your creations, now still lakes with river shale. Let them soak to become mountains.

 

3. Comb manes with your fingers. Undo the strands gently. Start at the bottom and gently feel your way up, taking apart any hairs that have found their way to knots. Take your palms, run them over the contours of their body. Notice the muscles and the bones. The breath. Notice yours. If you want to tell them of your heartache, you should do so. If you don’t, it’s ok. They know anyway.

4. Ring your friend. Promise yourself you will not cry, will not make it about you. Cry anyway. Make it all about you. Tell them how you promised yourself you wouldn’t cry, that you wouldn’t make it all about you. Let your friend laugh gently. Be a pool of tears and snot and shudder. Remind yourself, it’s ok, its ok, it’s ok, even though it doesn’t feel ok. It’s ok.

5. Remember Ada Limon’s poem, Instructions On Not Giving Up:

 

“…  it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty.”

 

Remember it every time you forget.

 

  1. If you want to ride, ride. If you don’t want to ride, don’t ride. In truth, everything you do is in service of your horses. Do not worry about the Not Riding. It will come.

 

  1. Keep the nectar feeders full. Even if it feels like lots of effort. Remember the Tuis, your beloved birds. Keep the nectar feeders full and watch the Tuis. Let yourself love to watch them.

 

  1. Take your dog’s head in your hands. Her greying whiskers and soft, curly ears. Let your hands run over her, checking her for burrs. If you find them, pull them out. Let them sit in a little furry burr pile until they make an abstract work of art. Tell her how you remember collecting her when you were pregnant. All about the ride home with her in the cardboard box. How even though everyone said you were crazy to get a puppy at that time, but that it actually worked; you both needed to pee all night anyway. Think how you wished dogs lived forever. Tell her she’s the most beautiful dog in the world (but not to tell her sister that you said that).

 

  1. Find ways of allowing for the feeling. Write it down, even if you feel crazy. You are not crazy. Read or don’t. Listen to music or don’t. Be a pile of mush or run ten miles. Do both, one after the other. Let yourself find a way through it. There are no rules.

 

As ever onwards,

 

❤️ Jane

Let it be more than healing trauma.

I’m standing under a cluster of Blackwood Trees. It’s started raining lightly. The ground under my feet is still dry, a network of elevated roots making it possible for me to raise up higher still should that situation change. The contour of the land means I’m standing above Merc, a lead rope length away, eating his hay, the lower, thinner branches of the trees allowing just enough room for his height and width to stand sheltered and cocooned but not boxed in.

We knew the rain was coming before we felt it, before we saw the clouds open like a paper bag softly torn across their base. The strong smell of soil and rotting leaves and bugs with busy lives underfoot sent out the calling card aroma we all know as Land Before Rain. A scent that feels damp and rich and heady, soil speaking greedily to sky.

I lean against the rough trunk of the tree. My eyes fall on the ashen colored tones of bark mixed in with tans and browns. Some single drops of rain run in between the grooves, arms tight by their sides, heads stretched out, racing towards earth.

We are here for The Waiting. The time of day when Ada, my almost-yearling eats her feed- slowly, methodically, with baby chews and some obligatory, fumbling awkwardness- and I stand with Merc, lest he steal away the goodness in her bucket.

He’s finished already, moved on to his hay, the line of rope between the halter and my hand still holding a soft loop. In my busy-ness of feed making and hay transporting, I have my ear buds in, listening to a book. My stopping, The Waiting, makes that very specific type of listening suddenly seem all wrong. An inherent disrespect. A missing of something, although to whom and of what, I’m not sure. I notice all at once I’m being watched, being witnessed, by nothing and by everything all at once.

We must miss a lot, I think to myself, by hurrying over land.

Merc reaches his nose towards me. In the position that he’s in, he could easily displace me, push me over. But he does not. His reach is gentle, enquiring, a whiskery “hey, hello”. Maybe he’s heard what I am thinking, his nudge a cue to bring me back. I reach out and instinctively rub his right eye, remove the long strands of forelock that have merged themselves with the sticky globs of waxy dust that together found their way to the corner.

He turns his head the other side; we repeat it on the left.

His ears stay soft, forward. I feel like he’s enjoying my company but what communicates that to me, I’m not sure exactly. I feel pleased. I let myself trust the feeling. So many beautiful moments lost by not trusting what we feel. And even if it’s not the case, may my believing make it so.

**

When I reflect back over the years I have been teaching what I teach, I know that what originally motivated the journey was very different from where it is I’ve landed. Perhaps this is not only true for me, but true for you also.

In the very early days, it was a heady combination of competition nerves and a fear that sat very separately to that. Not fear of getting hurt or losing or being seen as not good enough, but more of the existential kind. A fear of turning into someone I wasn’t; a fear of being trapped within a cycle of pre-determined destiny that meant I was left looking round the corners of my own mind, waiting for something to jump out at me, take me down, a something that I didn’t even know was there.

A fear of something inherited, passed on or passed down, that meant I could only be in control of my mental faculties to a point. The rest was hidden in my genes, a waiting game with a pre-determined destiny not of my choosing.

For some of you, what I’ve written will not make sense, and if that’s the case, let’s just presume this particular piece of writing’s not for you.

But for those of us where the strands of mental illness run in family lines (and I will hasten to sorrily say that this is many), we come at the work of finding new ways to move in the world from this place; for the sake of both ourselves, and for others.

Horses are a tremendous gift in this sense. They soften the spotlight, avert the gaze, let us think momentarily it’s about them, whilst we make our way back to the core of ourselves. While we shed the stories gifted to us we never wanted. While we let ourselves be new.

And when that happens, what is slowly revealed is wonder. Is a new looking, a new appreciation. When I thought about what to write today- after a long period of not writing here, a period of introspection and investigation- it was really this:

Let your adventures with your mind and heart and soul not just be about a healing of trauma, a nervous system reset or a way to manage. Let it be about a return to wonder.

Let it land you in a place where you not only move across the land a little more lightly, but notice what’s around you as you do so.

So, to riding, to exploring, to big aspirations, yes.

But to also noticing the incoming movement of the rain, the drops on the bark and the forelocks in the eye, when we are fortunate enough to be in a place to do so.

And to letting that, in that moment, be enough.

Onwards,

❤️ Jane

You Don’t Have To Be Afraid To Be Operating From Your Fight Flight Nervous System

I had a really interesting conversation a little while back that sparked some thoughts I want to share with you. The challenge came from a showjumper who was having trouble calculating distances to jumps. It was a situation of “it’s going well, and then, suddenly, it wasn’t”.

A problem they described as getting worse and worse.

They asked if I could help them and, having an idea of what was going on, I suggested that they join my membership. They responded that they weren’t a good fit, that they didn’t have a problem with fear; that their job had put them in many life-threatening situations, and they were usually the one picked to ride the most dangerous horse.

The problem wasn’t fear.

It was just this one thing with distance that was needing to be fixed.

I completely appreciate why they thought this- and it could be that you agree. But what it highlights are some common misconceptions about our nervous system, our relationship to fear and how it effects our experiences that I thought we could chatter about now.

Before we’re able to do that, however, there are some principles we need to cover first…

 

  1. Your parasympathetic and sympathetic (or fight flight) nervous system is what we are referring to when we talk about the autonomic nervous system.The autonomic nervous system is under the umbrella of the motor control system.

    What that means is your body moves and holds itself differently depending on what nervous system state you’re in.

    The brain makes this decision based on its perceived level of threat to the environment.

    If it assesses you are safe, it sends out a parasympathetic response. If not, it activates one of the sympathetic reflex patterns. This expresses in your posture and in your movement.

 

  1. The sympathetic (fight-flight nervous system) is a system of reflex. If we consider the different sympathetic states (fight, flight, freeze and collapse), each of those different states has its own postural template that the body assumes, something that is common to all mammals.That means that you, me, and everyone else reading this—when we go into a sympathetic nervous system response, our bodies arrange themselves in the same way. It’s a part of our defense mechanism when we are under physical threat.

    We do this to maximise our powers of force and acceleration, to better defend ourselves, to flee faster or go into shut down mode.

 

  1. Consequently, all our movements originate in either the parasympathetic or fight flight nervous system.

All movements have a dominant system that the brain chooses for that movement.

For instance, my walking style could be sympathetically or parasympathetically dominant. All that means is that the way that my body leverages (creates) the movement is either rooted in the sympathetic (in the case of being sympathetically dominant) or parasympathetic (in the case of being parasympathetically dominant) system.

It’s possible to change your dominant pattern by influencing the body’s sensory system.

  1. If we continue to use the example of the walk, I may have a walk that is sympathetically dominant as its movement pattern. This doesn’t mean that as I walk around all day, I’m feeling afraid. The emotion of fear is actually entirely subjective (I’ll post more about that shortly).

But it does have consequences on the body including:

– Increased wear and tear on the joints

– Leveraging of the lumbar and cervical vertebrae

– Narrowed sensory input (this part is particularly important in relation to the initial question)

I’ll add a side note here and say that us modern humans have got into quite the funky town place when it comes to movement generally. We have lost the nervous system adaptability of our hunter gatherer forebears who would never have had to tackle such situations or think of addressing thing such as their movement; their lifestyle took care of it for them.

For us, in our sedentary, non-natural environments, where we think our way rather than feel our way through the world, we have got ourselves stuck.

Instead of flipping back out of fight flight mode when it’s not required, we find ourselves using it as our primary operating channel. Which is where things start to get messy….

When we look at the initial question of striding to a jump, what this optimally requires is a wide field of sensory input, so our brain can make assessments that occur faster than conscious thought.

This is where we transition to riding artfully; where it’s our feeling body that is making adjustments rather than our thinking body.

If we are riding  and the pattern our brain chooses for us is sympathetically dominant, our sensory awareness is limited or turned right down (depending on where we are sitting on the spectrum). In circumstances where this lack sensory adaptability is especially obvious or even dangerous (calculating distances for example) this is somewhat problematic.

Of course, we can think our way through certain situations and get away with it for so long- but the conscious brain can only hold so much and has limited bandwidth. At some point, this strategy becomes problematic and, in some situations, where we’ve relied on it, we’re left with no strategy at all. Especially when there is increasingly more pressure, or the “problems” we have to solve (or jumps we have to jump) become increasingly complex.

If you remember back to the beginning of our conversation, it was mentioned that fear was not an issue. And I’m not suggesting it’s even relevant now. But what I do want to reiterate is that you don’t have to be experiencing fear for the survival nervous system to be the dominant program you’re using.

And when what you’re seeking is harmony, awareness, nuance, and adjustability, this is not the system you want to be riding from.

The work I’m interested in looks at movement and sensory awareness as the foundation for nervous system health and adaptability; so that we can ride and be with our horses in a way that promotes harmony, wellness, and optimal performance, whatever that looks like for you.

It doesn’t sit separately to practice, experience, skill, and partnership. But it does sit solidly alongside it. And for me, understanding my nervous system’s relationship to movement was the piece that I’d been missing.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

On Horses, Commitment, & Being Anchored To The Seasons

When it was obvious I couldn’t hold winter back with the force of my intention alone, I moved Merc and Ada to the back paddock. On the northern side, there are a strip of Gums that have bequeathed this patch of earth its title, the Bent Wood. The weather patterns, with all their wanton fierceness, have shaped the growing trunks with their hands and formed them into abstract sculptures. They weave like stiff strands of hair into the sky, the younger limbs belly dancing in the breeze, providing a landscape of both shelter and of interest for the young and curious minds that I’ve placed in their care.

Before Ada, this paddock belonged to Bear. Our log is here, where we would commune and chat. Or perhaps I would chat, and Bear would listen. I like to think it worked both ways. Bear passed away before he had seen a full stretch of seasons. Ada is now approaching her first full summer. I’m filled with gratitude for both; the one who stands with me and the one in the realm of my horse ancestors. Both extend care to me in ways that are felt and tangible.

At feed time, I place two buckets in the paddock. Ada takes her time. Snuffling her bucket, glancing up at the scenery. Occasionally she’ll walk off, do a brief lap around nothing in particular and return to her bucket looking happy and content.

Some metres away, I hold Merc. Part of the reason I had avoided the paddock switch for as long as possible. Now, without the luxury of yards attached, the job of feeding involves more manual labour, and ultimately time. To Merc’s eyes, Ada’s bucket is a Michelin star smorgasbord compared to his dry bread sandwich. So, I take my halter, and together we wait until Ada has finished her dinner and normal programming can resume.

Earlier, when I was considering the mealtime tetris and how to balance it, I thought of The Waiting as somewhat of a chore. When I actually did The Waiting, I recognized it as anything but. Things in life often go like that.

Each day, at roughly the same time, I stand in the same spot with my horse, and I observe. I think of the great nature writers whose words fall on me like incantations; my favourites are not those who necessarily travelled widely, but who travelled deeply. Whose closeness to the area of earth they came to know intensified rather than limited their vision.

I look at the same patch of gums each day and each day they are different and the same. I play with looking directly at them, and then looking at the spaces around them. I want to see them better somehow, I want to see everything better, even though I don’t know exactly what that means.

I stroke and murmur to my horse in between.

The sound of the Tuis, a native New Zealand bird, punctuates the background. Their song starts and then, a gap before the notes pick back up. I learned recently that there actually is no gap. That the notes just reach a pitch that the human ear is unable to hear; that the song is actually continuous.

I marvel at this. I wonder what else I am missing, without even knowing it. All this time, the Tuis have been singing their secrets around me. To hear them, I resolve, I need to listen with my full body. To catch the notes my ears aren’t designed to hold.

Many times, I hear from non-horsey folk, what a lot of work it must be to own horses. What a ball and chain they must be, or can be, especially during the moments when you want to go out, or holiday or take a break.

I understand these thoughts. They are surface level obvious for those for whom freedom involves an anchorless existence. Perhaps, at one point, I have also thought the same.

But for me, the truth runs deeper and wider. Horses anchor me to the seasons. They call me into the element’s morning and night when the comfort of the inside seems greater. They let me go deeper, and further. They require that I move my body in the way and amounts its designed for when modern life would have me do the opposite. They give me gifts like The Waiting, which I never would have conjured or taken for myself without them. They ask me to notice deeply and to wonder what I am missing.

So, while there are many things to be grateful for, perhaps one of the biggest is the one we lament the most; the commitment, the time, the energy.

I happily give it to them, and then some.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

 

 

On Losing The Capacity For Self-Preservation

I recently was in a rather blokey conversation with a rather blokey man. We were talking about motorbikes and things that go fast and things that you can shoot. In other words, things that I have absolutely no authority to speak on. I feel I did a somewhat magical job just keeping up.

At one point, the conversation turned to horses, and I felt myself pull out of the slow lane and step excitedly on the accelerator. After spending a not insignificant amount of time talking about all manner of relatively dangerous things that this person happily does daily, he turned to me with an ashen look on his face and said quietly, you know, I really am kinda afraid of horses.

I faltered for a moment and then said, that makes sense. A healthy respect for the size and stature of such a glorious creature seems to me to be a very normal response.

I thought back to the clinics and lessons I have taught over the last few years. It’s not uncommon to have someone enter the arena with their horse completely on top of them.

It’s ok, the owner lovingly croons, stroking their neck. There’s nothing for you to be worried about.

From my position, the opposite is true. There is, indeed, a lot to be worried about.

As I examine the small print of my insurance policy, I watch near misses of flying trotters being swung over the arena, big, muscular shoulders maneuvering their owners around, and a series of reactive movements putting them both in a position that I would classify as fundamentally dangerous.

So, what’s up with this? Why is it that an otherwise rational human can be oblivious to a situation where there is potential- even likelihood- of physical harm?

What is it that makes us unable to create a healthy boundary between ourselves and our horses for the simple reason of keeping both of us safe?

There are a few main reasons why I understand this to be the case.

The first and most striking one is that a system in collapse loses its capacity for self-preservation. We have literally and metaphorically lost the necessary oomph to be able to assert ourselves, and beyond that, the sensory information coming into the brain is turned down to the point where we have little awareness of ourselves in relationship to our environment. In other words, our capacity to accurately determine our safety is so compromised, it’s as good as non-existent.

You see this reflected in people’s relationship with their horses, and within human-to-human relationships; where one person is treating the other badly and it feels like all indicators of potential harm on the receiver’s end have been snuffed out.

The second ties into the first and that is a lack of physical agency. The ability of my body to both draw things in and push things away requires adaptability of structure, posture, and the capacity for my internal world to hold different tensions. In collapse, I am essentially porous; I allow everything in without an appropriate filter, and I lack the strength to be able to push things away.

You can observe in movement the same mechanism of action that is reflected emotionally and in boundary setting. They all exist together as a co-dependent whole.

The third relates to our survival patterns. Sometimes, the owner can see what’s happening but doesn’t want to be the one to have “that” conversation with their horse.

You do it, they say, handing the lead rope over.

The need to be “liked” or non-confrontational trumps the reality of what they know needs to happen; a firm conversation for the benefit of all concerned (which to my mind, ironically, is the most loving thing to do).

Nervous system adaptability and the ability to respond appropriately to your environment is fundamental to not only keeping you safe but keeping your horse safe also. With some time and energy, it’s all figureoutable. If you’re interested in exploring with me further, you can check out my membership- I’ll post the link below.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

On Returning Home + New Beginnings

I returned home on Thursday after a 4-week trip away. I’ve travelled a lot this year but this one was a little different. For the first time, my two boys came with me, and I bookended work and clinic dates at either side of our time together.

Coming home is always a slightly strange experience. Everything is the same and different all at once.

Your brain does its best to click back into the familiar pattern. You know this, it tells you. All these things are familiar.

You agree, to the extent where a faint hint of a voice inside your head wonders if you ever actually left in the first place.

It’s your senses that remind you that change has happened. That there has been an absence. That you, in fact, have been absent.

I ran my hands through Merc’s mane and noticed the short strands that got rubbed last year near his wither had grown another inch, blending into the thick waves that extended up his neck.

My thumb and forefinger finger some newly created dreadlocks, gently pulling at the individual strands in an attempt to unravel them without causing the hair to break, a visual reminder that winter has lived here while I did not. The wind has had its way with my horse while my brush and comb sat waiting on the shelf.

Walking back, I notice the previously naked trees now have blossoms.

As I eat my dinner, I look at the clock. 6:30 pm. It’s still light, I marvel. We are marching towards spring.

My senses prod my brain again. See, they tell it. Things have changed while you’ve been gone. I scramble to catch up.

As I left the US, there was a distinct “back to school” vibe. Shopkeepers would comment “Are you looking forward to going back to school, boys?” and we would nod and smile, avoiding the inevitable questioning that would follow if we ventured to say we home schooled, even more so in our antipodean accents.

As a resident of the southern hemisphere, September has never held such transitions aside from the movement out of winter. But I muse, as someone who homeschools their children and runs their own business that the usual markers of rest, change and new beginnings of new terms, holiday breaks and even long weekends are not socially dictated to me. They are something I must find for myself.

Returning home from travel is not dissimilar to going back to school after a summer break. On the one hand, you are grateful for the routine and there are inevitably things that you have missed. But on the other, you must find a way to hold onto the newness of the person you’ve become, molded by the learnings and experiences you’ve had, and to weave it into the familiar, the regular and the mundane.

From a nervous system perspective, travel scrambles our brain maps in the best possible way. It forces us to be new as we are required to find ways to place ourselves literally and metaphorically in our new environment, challenging our old patterns and shedding old skins. This can be uncomfortable, liberating or both. Often at the same time.

The art of adulthood, I believe, is carrying forward the knowledge we have, with enough routine to keep us grounded, with a perpetual sense of newness and curiosity. For many of us, this is not a mindset or experience that is built into our day to day. It’s something we have to find.

With our horses, the emphasis is the same. How can we lightly hold what we know to be true about our partnership and our experiences together whilst simultaneously letting ourselves be new? What would change in our actions and observations if we allowed this to be the case?

How can we return to working with our horses, or meeting our day with blending the new and the familiar like the return to a new school year, or a coming home from travel?

It’s a matter of a perspective shift.

Some questions I’m playing with currently are:

Where is the opportunity for something new?

What can I let go of that’s not serving me?

How can I hold the things that I find heavy a little more lightly?

To new beginnings, both required and created.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

The Weekly Feels #2

I always have the best of intentions of sharing my adventures in real time when I’m on the road. The truth of it is, however, by the end of each day of teaching I neither have the words nor thoughts to share anything of value (neuroscientists describe this condition as “better just go to sleep because what you write will probably be drivel”). I also get so excitable in the moment that all thoughts of posting elude me. BUT what that has created is lots of space for us to steam towards yet another Weekly Feels blog, which is exactly what I have for you now.

Over the last 10 days, I have taught a three-day camp with Kate Sandel, a two-day clinic with Rupert Isaacson and a weekend retreat with Kathy Price and Tania Kindersley. At the time of writing this, I am in Germany (my bag, incidentally, is not and still lurks somewhere between here and Scotland having a lovely time on its own, which could be the sixth feel of this blog- slightly sad with a whiff of frustration). Because there are JUST. SO. MANY. feels to share from this time, I’m going to shave off the retreat from this week’s adventures and add it to next week’s escapades. Let’s do this.

LIKE I’VE JUST OPENED A BOX OF CHOCOLATES AND I GET FIRST PICK & IM SO EXCITED I DON’T KNOW WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE 🍫

The Camp of The South that I co-taught with Kate Sandel has been many months in the making. We were so fortunate to be able to host it at Ayton PRE stud, home of the fabulous Nicola and Tom, who went out of their way to make sure everything had what they needed, but beyond that, that they felt as comfortable and taken care of as possible. If every person venturing out with their horse landed in the arms of such generosity at the other end, we’d all be fighting our way to clinics on the daily.

If I thought I was spoiled having such a gorgeous space to teach in, the gratitude was increased exponentially through teaching with the incredible Kate Sandel and the wonderful horse and rider combinations we were lucky enough to work with. Kate and I pinged back and forth depending on what we felt the main emphasis needed to be, and what best served the combination in that moment. Although this is always the aim, in practice it can be a tricky dish to serve; as riders, we often arrive to clinics with a list of things we want to accomplish and work on, and to be willing to let that go in favor of what shows up in that moment is often easier said than done.

The riders were full of courage, grace, good humour, and curiosity, and together we played with a variety of different techniques, swinging between horse focus and rider focus, that created such a rich ground for learning and possibility. Those auditing were also supportive, invested and involved, and I consider myself very lucky to be a part of it.

Thank you so much to everyone that came. The pleasure was mine.

FUNK-TASTIC 🕺

In March, the fabulous Rupert Isaacson and I taught a clinic together in Ireland, and Joanna Smith had flown over from England to audit. She asked if we would consider running a clinic at her yard in Leicestershire, which is how we ended up with another group of glorious peeps, and a handsome crew of horses.

The clinic was a combination of theory and practice, exploring the nervous system and movement from my end and classical dressage, both in hand and in the saddle from Rupert’s.

As per above, it’s always wonderful to work with such a supportive and interested group of people- something I never take for granted (especially when you are introducing thought processes which can be new and not necessarily mainstream) and working with Ru is always a pleasure.

Thank you for being such a glorious group of people who tolerate my often-bad jokes and are willing to dance when Ru begins singing funky town tunes.

HEAVENLY 🌷

I love these women. I don’t need to write much other than to say, I can only hope that everyone gets to experience the type of love and friendship they give me on the daily. Naturally resting on the foundation of much inappropriate humour and collective frivolity. Two photos for the one feels!

LIMINAL 🌳

A little while back, Tania Kindersley told me the story of the oak forest that grows a few minutes’ walk from her house. In the 1930’s a 25-year-old woman called Pamela had stood in that forest and said no to the men who wanted to cut it down. The story moved me so much that I’ve thought about Pamela every day since. I even feel like, within the colorful depths of my imagination, that we’ve become friends.

I often think of what it took, as a woman of that time with little power, autonomy, or voice, to say no to those men in grey suits. To say yes to those beautiful trees. I’m filled with admiration and wonder at her feist, her determination and her strength. I’m filled with awe at the stately oaks. I’ve thought about the concept of legacy and creating one. What could be more beautiful, if nothing else was left to whisper your name, than to have the spirit of a hundred oaks stand for you.

As I stood in that forest I looked up and said thank you to Pamela. You will never know me but my heart thanks you, and in 2023, someone you will never know carries a little piece of you with them.

I saw your oaks, and I understand. Thank you.

HALF A STEP BEYOND RIDICULOUS DELIGHT 😆 🌭

I mean, check this puppy. As part of my Scottish adventures, Tania took Kathy, myself, and the lovely Emma from Horseback UK to the Fyffe Hotel for lunch. Having rather outdone myself at breakfast, I wasn’t feeling that hungry, so I choose the sausage off the starter menu.

The thing to point out at this stage was ordering the sausage was an experience in itself. I was so transfixed by my kilted waiter’s accent that I couldn’t look him directly in the eye, choosing instead to angle my shoulder in towards him like a somewhat dissociated horse you are working on the circle and look out the window instead.

When said sausage was delivered, we shared a bonding moment in the form of a snigger and a giggle snort. When they said sausage, they really delivered. It was literally a sausage on a plate.

Now I’m no chef, but if I was, I wouldn’t let that order leave my kitchen without some sort of garnish. Something to add a splash of colour. Break up the hard lines. But then I thought NO.

This sausage is, in fact, a metaphor for owning your own worth. Clearly this was a bloody good sausage*. And when you are bloody good, you can own your space on the plate without any need for anything else. Except perhaps a bit of mustard.

So, I told everyone us their meals looked cluttered, which told me a lot about the self-esteem of the food on their plate, and I ate my sausage.

*It was a great sausage.

Much love to your feeling self,

❤️ Jane

The Weekly Feels #1

This week has been a whirl of last minute getting ready-ness, goodbyes, long haul flights, hellos, new people, and horses. I was thinking about the best way to share my adventures with you and have decided to share a visual diary of sorts that I am naming the Weekly Feels; a little collection of stories, wonderings and musings and the feelings they evoked in me.

So from the wildflower meadows of Devon, England, here are the first of my Five Weekly Feels.

Wonder

Granted by this stage, I’d been waiting for my plane for over 12 hours in a combination of domestic airports and flown the first international leg of the trip for 11 more, but it always blows my mind how I can step off the lush, wintery soil of New Zealand and land in the humid, orchid filled halls of Singapore only a few hours later.

With it being such a normal part of modern life, it’s so easy to become complacent about air travel and forget that you are being propelled through the sky in a little metal tube to end up in a place completely different than the one you started in. With that in mind, I took a moment to admire the lights and drink my coffee in the short moments I had between transit gates.

When Your Heart Smiles All Over Your Face

Horses. But more importantly, Des. When Kate asked if I wanted to ride Des, I tried to act casual and allow a normal number of seconds to pass before saying yes in a couple-of- decibels-too-high voice. After all, when someone lets you ride their horse, one needs to look as responsible and measured as possible; leaping around with your arms doing excitable hula-hoops might lead them, understandably, to change their mind about your suitability for such an honour.

I love a horse who knows their own worth. One where you don’t even have to close your eyes to imagine them proudly leading their band across the plains. Des is one of those horses; his beauty reminds you what an everyday miracle it is to ride a horse at all.

Kate gave me a lesson on Des and my heart smiled all over my face. I rode my first half pass, flew down the long side in extended trot and felt nothing more than sheer joy for all the minutes and seconds I was up there.

Thank you, Des. All the cells of my body bow down in your honour. Exactly as it should be.

Delight

I mean, what is this sorcery?! Golden feathers. My eyeballs could barely behold such a delight. When Kate led Des over to the mounting block for me, I looked down and for the first time was met with the visual feast of unicorn legs in summer.

I was forced to squeak ‘LOOK AT THOSE!’ whilst immediately taking a photo.

I understand if you feel instantly compelled to make this your screen saver. You’re only human after all.

Gratitude

As I type this, it’s 4 am in the morning (hello teensy bit of jet lag) and it is the first day of the Camp Of The South I am teaching with Kate. Yesterday, we went to the glorious arena of Nicola and Tom at Ayton PRE and I was filled with gratitude for the beautiful space we get to share with an incredible group of people and their lovely horses, and for the work that everyone had done (here’s looking at you Ginny!) in setting it all up.

Beyond that, I am also so grateful for Kate. Kate and I have become close friends but have never met in person until now (a fact that is still quite wild to me). The mark of a good friendship is when you hit the ground running and it’s like you hang out every day. If you look up “person of super radness” in the dictionary, you will see Kate there- a fact that is nothing but appropriate, simply because it reflects reality.

And while we’re on the gratitude train, I’m also very grateful for my husband, who in the midst of winter in New Zealand, holds the fort (and horses) while I trek off to the other side of the world. It is never unnoticed or unappreciated, and thank you never feels sufficient.

A Slight Carboard-ey Feeling

This is a public service announcement. On the domestic flight between Dunedin and Auckland, I was offered the choice between the cookie and the beetroot crackers. Before you say anything (please don’t talk over me) I wanted to give the crackers a chance. I thought, everyone judges the cracker, but has anyone actually tried them?

Well, now I have.

Highly do not recommend.

To your lovely feeling self,

❤️ Jane

If I Run Out Of Brave…

​My littlest boy Tommy was off playing in the snow today. My husband, Giles, just sent me a message that he went on the ski lift for the first time, and sent a video of them high above the slopes.

How did he find it? I asked.

He replied, he was nervous to go but looked over and said to him, if I run out of brave, will you hold my hand?

And off he went.

That’s all we need sometimes, isn’t it?

Someone to hold our hand when we run out of brave.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Freedom To Suck {You Know You Want It}

When I first started to teach Merc shoulder in, it was a massive suck fest. There were literally stops and starts, overshooting the lines of travel, too much bends and too little bends. Such was the comedy of the situation that I could almost see the thought bubble floating above us, the cartoon cut out of Merc’s brain, saying out loud, what the hell is she asking? Do legs actually move like that?

My husband, who was standing at the side of the arena asked me kindly, do you want me to record this? To which I hurriedly replied, no! These most definitely weren’t the moments I wanted captured on film.

In hindsight, I regret my no’s. I wish that my husband HAD filmed the process because it seemed as if by magic not-that-long after that limbs were coordinating to the point where the beginning of shoulder in results in an explosion of yawns on Merc’s part.

I regret saying no when he asked the same thing in the early days when it felt like I was trotting faster than Merc in an attempt to encourage forward, even though I was the one in the saddle.

I regret saying no when all he wanted for 4 months was to take the left lead, and our canter felt like the opposite of the dictionary definition if you looked up the word “pleasurable”.

I regret it because I wish I had more of the suck to show.

Because when you get to the other side of it, it’s cool to look back and celebrate the process that allowed you to move out of that place.

Freedom to suck is a necessary part of learning. In fact, one could argue, that when it comes to sucking, there really is no such thing.

If you pulled your brain out (alert: do not recommend) and asked it, what do you think about sucking? It would look quizzically back at you and reply, I’m sorry (brains are quite polite like that), I don’t understand the question?

The reason for this is that what you and I consider the suck is nothing but experimentation. Your brain, if given a clear directive, understands the intention and then observes the results of our action to see how far the outcome strayed from it.

When it does this, it doesn’t say to itself, wow! Jane, you really suck! Wot a loser! You should quit now!

No. Our REAL brain, the one that sits underneath the often present Itty Bitty Shitty Committee (the little negative voices inside your head) actually says, great! Useful to know! Let’s do that again and see if we can shoot the ball closer next time.

A question I ask myself now if I find myself getting all wound up about nothing (nothing meaning sucking at something) is, should I throw this in the swimming pool? The idea for throwing it in the swimming pool comes from this quote by singer songwriter, Joan Baez, who incidentally in this interview was talking about her drawing.

“If I really don’t like what’s happening, I drop the drawing in the swimming pool. If I’ve gotten too precise about it, the imperfection brings it to life. One of my friends said, “Tell me just one thing that will last. Make as many mistakes as you can.” When you’re trying to make it perfect, trying to make it exactly what you want it to be, then it’s time to drop it into the pool.”

In the privileged position I am to hear the stories of literally hundreds of riders on the daily, let me tell you, I could count on one hand the amount of times I hear people hung up on ideas of perfectionism. That is, if my one hand had a trillion fingers. Which is to say, almost everyone.

To throw another creative genius at you, I not only want you to throw your ideas of perfect in the pool, but now I also want you to listen to two radios at the same time. I present you now with Tom Waits:

“I like turning on two radios at the same time and listening to them. I like hearing things incorrectly. I think that’s how I get a lot of ideas is by mishearing something.”

Thank you Tom.

Not only is Freedom to Suck necessary to get to the place of Not Sucking Quite So Much, but it can also create situations where you discover things about you and your horse that you wouldn’t know without it. Sucking is actually creative. It’s inspired. And it’s necessary.

A point of clarification: Freedom to Suck is not the same as Freedom to Be A Bit Of An Arse or Freedom to Make Unfair Requests of Your Horse (or yourself).

It’s Freedom to Learn. Because learning, my very lovely friend, always, always, always, involves sucking.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Photo is of Tommy and Merc on the inlet thinking strongly about how they don’t suck, and are actually rather lovely.

 

Waiting For The Last Line To Come: Confessions Of A Non-Goal Setter

Yesterday, a familiar topic got presented in my membership group: goal setting. I don’t really set goals, I mused. I don’t find goals to be supportive of the way I like to work. In fact, I find the opposite. They serve as a distraction.

The fact that I don’t set goals can come as surprise to people. In my line of work, there’s often an unconsciously harbored hidden expectation that I’m a voracious goal setter. That I chomp at the bit at the thought of a good goal and rub my hands together in the face of carefully reverse engineered plan. A few years ago, you might have been right. Goal setting has most certainly been a part of my history. But it’s not a part of my present and, dare I say, unlikely to be part of my future.

I was asked then to explain, how I plan my days and get things done as the goal-less heathen that I am. Sharing my thought process around this saw me venture far away from horses and arenas and into the creative, bounding waters of poetry and the arts.

As you may or may not know, I love to write. Poetry in particular. When I sit down to write a poem, I only have the idea that I want to write about. A point of inspiration. From there, I am at the mercy of the experience of writing. It is THROUGH the experience of writing the poem, that the words and lines and the shape of the poem itself known.

It’s often a surprise to me what comes out. That’s part of the delight. I have no idea what imaginings swirl beneath the surface of my skin until the moment my pen hits the page. I might start with the feeling of sharing what I know, but something much more magical occurs. It’s the experience of writing that allows me to know myself, and to unknow the parts of myself that are holding me back.

When your write, you must allow room for the mystical and magical. For the words to reveal themselves, a process that cannot be forced. If your writing is only conscious, it is dead. The conscious can only ever contain the things that we know. It is the unconscious that is an infinitely vaster and more interesting world, and it is that which makes every good piece of art a process of curiosity, experimentation, and patience.

What I definitely don’t know when I start to write is what the last line of the poem will be. Even as the writer, the conduit of the poem, the last line only ever reveals itself once the process of the poem has been worked through. Up until that point, it remains unknowable entity. It requires the constellation of words and universes of thought to combine and then it presents itself as something entirely new. Your own, uniquely created starburst.

When you create art, you begin to recognize that your experience with the formless- of the energy, of thoughts, of inspiration, of observing the seen and unseen- are vital to the tangible, final result. In the act of the writing experience, the formless takes shape and makes itself known. But there are countless scribbled pages, mashed up words and failed sentences that come before the words that you have been seeking find their way to the tip of your pen.

You can’t decide your way to a great last line. You can’t force it to be revealed. And it can only reveal itself once the conditions have been created that allow it to be so.

To me, my horses and working together with them is much like writing a poem. In the purest sense, it is a creative process. It is art. I have a general idea of where I want to take things. I understand the possibility available, and like every good artist, I do everything I can to be better at my craft. I study, I observe, I learn, and I upskill.

But ultimately, the process that we follow is not one that has clear definitions and solid outlines. It is the process that allows for the knowing; it is the process that teaches me what I need to know, which is something I could never have defined before starting.

Not setting goals does not mean wandering around in a directionless fog, or that you lack ambition. Instead, it’s a process of surrender to the bigger forces that be that will allow the path to unravel before you, if only you let go of any fixed ideas of what it needs to look like. A letting go of control.

In the place that I stood ten years ago, I could never have imagined the place that I stand now. The path in between, with horses, with work, with life has been one of following what I love and my curiosities and saying yes (or no) to the things in front of me with no clear idea of where that would lead or where that might take me.

I’ve never known what the last line is going to be, and I don’t want to. Letting the last line find me is the magical part. Even if the middle part has been somewhat of a necessary mess.

So, in parting, if you are a happy goal setter, good for you. You’ll hear nothing from me except the melodic chant of “power to the people, you do you!” as I support you on your merry way.

But if you’re not, welcome to the club. We can join hands at the table excitedly, maybe anxiously and definitely messily waiting for the last line to come. And we’ll do our best to have a good time while we’re doing it.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

What Does It Take To Feel At Home?

This evening, I leant on the wooden fence next to Ada as she ate, and watched my other horses organize themselves in their post feed routine. Elvis was still involved in snaffling up any possible left-over remnants that may have been discarded in various feed buckets, determined that even if they now resembled compost, to remove every visual trace.

Tango stood by the gate looking cross, giving Ada the evil eye through the space in the railings. He wanted her to know that should he have the opportunity, that delicious feed would be his, and the fact that it wasn’t was nothing more than luck with a good splash of favoritism on her part.

Merc was view-finding. He stood, surveying the distance, until one of the other two got restless and started herding his good-natured feet around. At one point, he started rolling in the dusty patch under the trees and I tried not to be offended, the part of myself in love with a clean horse silently weeping in the corner.

Ada and her different dietary needs have proved to be a blessing in disguise. Every night, we greet each other, have a conversation and a smooch, and then she waits patiently while I put her halter on and weave our way through the obstacle course to the yards. First there is a hot tape gate to get through; she has to lead, turn and wait for me to hook up the slightly awkward handle on the post, a good exercise in baby agility and patience.

Then we go through the big metal gate into the yards, where the piles of yet-to-be spread gravel wait for her to explore, and she once again is forced to stand momentarily to have her halter off and for me to get her feed. This little productive and purposeful routine has allowed me to teach her the basics of leading, and we end our feed time with picking out all four feet, a routine exam she passes with flying colours, the reward being one of general adoration from the gallery (that’s me).

Tonight, I looked at her and wondered how she was feeling. As far as horsey landing pads go, hers is a good one. She has a big pasture with lots of friends, and all her basic needs are attended to. But a question that has always fascinated me is how long does it truly take for a horse to feel at home? The question gets wider and deeper the more I think about it.

When I think of it from a nervous system perspective, our fundamental aim is to be adaptive to our environment. We are all originally born of hunter gather stock, traversing the landscapes, working, and moving with them in a reciprocal relationship of exchange. In this way, everyone- and everything- profits.

I wonder, if during these times that our definition of home might be different to what we traditionally consider it now. What does it take to feel at home? What even IS home? Is it a place, a feeling, people, a relationship? Is it all of those things?

Can our feelings of home shape-shift with our situation? When we say we are homesick, what exactly is that for?

When it comes to considering how long it takes for something or someone to feel at home, I guess that depends on how we define home in the first place.

If I consider the times I have felt homesick in the past, it’s often been for people, or horses or landscapes, but equally so it’s been for comfort and safety; the feeling of knowing somewhere, of how you fit into the ecosystem of a place and your role within the community and relationships you are a part of.

Homesickness can just as much be for a sense of certainty, safety, and predictability as much as anything else. And perhaps when we have those things fulfilled sooner, we feel at home sooner as well.

I know there have been numerous horses I’ve been blessed to join my family who appeared relatively settled on arrival only for me to realise a year or so later (sometimes more) how many behavioral “issues” or quirks had resolved once they’d settled in. And equally so, how many had arrived “highly strung” only, again, for me to realise their base nature was anything but that once they felt “at home”.

It’s often a source of befuddlement to me reading stories of people with newly purchased horses with complaints about this, that and the other, when to my mind, the much lamented horse has have barely had a chance to get their feet on the ground. Us humans, we are definitely doing better, but I think we vastly underestimate the emotional world of the horse and just how upsetting and unsettling it can be to be moved from one living situation to another.

It’s a lot.

I might never have a firm answer about how Ada is feeling or what she has had to process in her move. But like any good friend, I’ll keep showing up, keep doing what I can to make her feel safe and loved and hopefully, eventually to feel at home.

❤️ Jane