Negotiating The Resistance Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

xx Jane

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Taking Your Emotions With You; The Case for Wholehearted Judgement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xx Jane

How am I going to handle it this time? Cultivating a new way forward

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been writing about non-judgement and acceptance and self-responsibility; not from the place of having the answers or “getting it right” (man alive, definitely not from that place!), but from the place of practice. I’ve had the words written above my desk and I’m practicing leaning in to them.

The funny thing is, it’s waaaaay easier to transfer these practices to the “outside”- to other people, situations and circumstances- than it is to ourselves. Self-compassion, acceptance and responsibility is perhaps the most difficult thing to actively cultivate when the intention is self-application. And the real kicker? Our ability to cultivate acceptance for ourselves is directly proportional to how much we are able to extend the same qualities to others, including loved ones, friends, community, horses.

When I saw it from this perspective- when I considered that the amount I was able to accept, celebrate and extend kindness to others was equivalent to the amount I was able to extend to myself- I was jolted into really doing the work. I had- have- way more work to do.

You hear this all the time; you have to do the work. I’ve heard it. I teach it. And I’ve heard it again. But the last month, I really believe I’ve developed a new appreciation for what it means.

Doing the work is hard. It’s really hard. Because it means when you are faced with a trigger, you aren’t allowed to default to your usual practices; you aren’t allowed to react in the same way that produces the same predictable responses and the same predictable feelings. You have to be centred enough to ask “how am I going to handle it this time?”.

I believe that when we found ourselves in new situations; in situations that habitually cause us to respond defensively or that prompt us to switch off and divert our attention to something new, everything that is vulnerable within us rushes to the surface. All our beliefs, perceived inadequacies, shame triggers. And the easy response is the one that we’ve practiced. The easy response is the one that allow us to bash that feeling down and to put it back inside its box.

Instead, we want to position ourselves to be saying, I see what’s going on here; to create distance to watch a habitual reaction rise up. To say, I feel you, I’m working on understanding what you mean- now how am I going to handle it this time?

Is my response going to create more connection and understanding, or is it dividing and splitting? Is my response cultivating more compassion for my position and for yours? Be that your partner, horse, friend, colleague, situation.

Horses are this incredible gift to our awareness and processes because they don’t feel shame. Their emotions are always motivated by honest intent, and consequently, so is their feedback. If they respond or react to something in their environment, it’s real and in the moment. They don’t then create and buy into a narrative that tells them that they are in essence bad, stupid, worthless, unloveable or unskilled. The response is motivated by perceived threat to their safety, and if left to run its natural course will empty out of the system as quickly as it arrived.

Our powers of perception and meaning are both our gift and our downfall. Our prone-ness to being overly self-critical and non-accepting means that we buy in to our internal narrative unquestioningly. We don’t stop to consider which thoughts we are going to pay attention to and which thoughts we are going to let pass us by. We grab as many as we can hold and then some.

Consider for today that the thoughts we choose to invest in are the ones that ultimately allow us to create an identity. Your thoughts aren’t the end of the story. The beginning of the story is when you choose which ones you pay attention to and which ones you don’t. The beginning is when you step out of auto-pilot and say to yourself, here’s this situation in front of me…how am I going to handle it this time?

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you in better living conditions”- Hafiz

xx Jane

The Beauty In Moving With The Pain

Today I have chosen to write about beauty, but not in the way that you might think. Today I want to write about beauty as it pertains to loss.

I want to write about beauty as it pertains to criticism and harshness.

I want to write about beauty as it relates to negativity and unfair treatment.

Because the simple truth of the matter is that in riding and in life, we are going to experience all of those things. And the beauty of mindfulness, of mental skills training and of taking responsibility for yourself is in training your heart and mind to move with all of those things, and not against them.

The “moving with” in the first instance is about processing. It’s a practice of gentle acceptance. Any time we are in the midst of crisis or upset, the energy of that is felt in our body. Some of us feel it in our muscles; maybe they become tight or brittle.

Others in our stomach.

It’s personal, but emotional experience yields physical affect.

In recognition of the beauty of gentle acceptance, we need to allow for a period where the energy of the emotion- be it from an exchange, an interaction or an experience- can move through us.

Expecting yourself or anyone else to “move on” straight away from negative experience is unrealistic and does you both a disservice.

Where is the beauty in this period? The beauty is in the growth.

Maybe it’s the recognition of how you want to behave in the face of someone else behaving in a way that upsets you.

Maybe it’s the understanding or a different way of going about things in your riding or your life.

The gentle acceptance comes from being kind to yourself. From making the choice to move forward. From doing the next right thing, whatever that is for you and holding space for the feeling to “be” whilst simultaneously recognizing its inherent changeability.

It’s a visitor, not a permanent resident. No need to get attached.

And then after you have allowed for this period of gentle acceptance; after you have gone to ground and allowed yourself to feel and experience and be, then you are faced with a choice.

The choice is very simple. You can choose to rise up, redefined. Or you can choose to retract, become smaller.

Retraction is the easy option. In the face of opposition, it’s easy to become small; to let someone else’s truth become your truth. Even if it’s not your truth at all.

Being small is easy. Too easy. In a world that feasts on the negative, your retraction is expected. Your rising is what’s needed.

Rising up- the process of training your heart and mind to move with pain.

Rising up is the process of training your heart and mind to take up all the space it is owed without fear of judgement. Or in spite of it.

Rising up is not about anyone else. Your rise is not equal to someone else’s fall.

You rising up is allowing yourself to participate in the conversation that is full living, ready to embrace all that comes with it. And to continue to move forward, by choice.

“When you stay on purpose and refuse to be discouraged by fear, you align with the infinite self in which all possibilities exist” ~ Wayne Dyer

xx Jane

The Day He Picked Love

Quick backstory: Last week, I flew to Sydney to attend an in-house training for my Equine Assisted Learning Certification. As part of the process, we work with a variety of different people so that we can actively use our skills, get feedback and be mentored along the way.

Cue Monday morning, the first group arrived. Down the driveway, we see a mass of black hoodies, footsteps scuffing, hands in pockets and heads down and lots of “whatever bro, say that again and I’m gonna drop you!”

Although the label feels disrespectful to me in a way, this group were classified as the “at risk” teens; boys between 14 and 17 years old who had been identified as being absent or disengaged at school; those with substance and abuse issues; problems at home. Actually, part of the beauty of the EAL work is that we go out of our way NOT to know exactly what the “issue” is beyond what we need to (if indeed there is one) because we don’t want it to colour our perception or add to any bias’ (conscious or unconscious) that we might form as a result. I love this about it- a beautiful exercise in non-judgement.

At the introductory briefing, they talk over each other, over the facilitator. They muck around, swearing to each other, avoiding eye contact.

I can’t help smiling to myself. I have two little boys and even though one is only at the potty training stage, the boy-ish banter reminds me of watching my 7 year old with his friends. Different levels of course, but the bravado and chest puffing is still there.

So then to the horses. I wonder how it’s going to go. But as is the plan, the process is followed; it’s not about us, it’s about them. The horse is ultimately the teacher.

A tall, lanky boy called Tyler is in my group. Him and two others are given a grey pony who’s shedding his coat, and the others are picking up the fluff and putting it in his hair. Much tustling ensues. More swearing.

I watch though and in amongst it, Tyler always checks in with his horse. His particular horse is known for showing his mind but he goes willingly with Tyler. Tyler talks to him, pats him constantly and at the end, leans across his back for a photo. I’m told later that his horse is not one to let just anyone lean across him like that.

Connection.

At the end, the boys are asked to choose a word off the board to summarise their experience. Tyler chooses “Love”. I feel glad I’m wearing glasses as my eyes mist over.

And I’m amazed. On one level, it’s not a shock at all. On another, I find it astounding.

That in a 45 minute session, a horse can soften the barriers years in the making.

Let’s get the **** out of here, he says at the end of the session as they head towards the bus.

I smile to myself. He loved it, the social worker said to me.

I know, I replied back. He’s a great kid.

Horses amaze me. How lucky are we all to have them in our lives.

xx Jane

You Can Force The Body But You Cannot Force The Breath

Random, little known fact about me: I’m a qualified yoga therapist. I’ve taught on yoga teacher training programs all over the world, including New Zealand, China and India and have spent large periods of time studying the therapeutic applications of yoga and the breath (whilst working overseas as an emergency aid relief worker in my 20’s, the second random fact for you for the day!).

AG and Indra Mohan are two exceptional human beings and my teachers in the therapeutic arts of yoga. They exude a… kindness. A calm. And the whole vortex of energy that surrounds them pulls you into their peace. It’s the glorious side affect of a lifetimes devotion to their practice, primarily to the breath and to many hours spent bringing their mind to one pointed focus. Just to think of them makes me take a long exhale.

I arrived on their doorstep exuberant and ready to push myself to the limit. Up until that time, I was used to making my body work hard. I thought I would be able to show them what an excellent yoga practitioner I was, they would be impressed with my dedication. I was sure of it.

As part of our training together, we met with Indra and she designed for us an individual practice. I was ready. This was going to be amazing. But instead of giving me an impressive practice that demonstrated all that I thought I was capable of, she gave me something… simple. Basic.

I was concerned. Really concerned. Can I also practice the other yoga I was doing? This wasn’t going to be enough.

Truth be told, I was addicted. I was used to working hard. Pushing hard. Addicted to the push, the rush, the burn. I was afraid by simplifying that I would go to seed. Lose what I had worked for. Become unfit.

But that wasn’t really it. I never sat still long enough to really how busy my mind was. My practice was not a therapy; it was an excuse. I was constantly on the run, but the person I was running from was myself.

She told me: For as long as you are here, you will practice this. Only this.

So I did. Every day I woke up to the dark, heady mornings of India. The man outside my window would clear his throat as I took my first inhale. The sounds of the village would bustle around me. The call to prayer at dawn made it feel ethereal.

I practiced simply. Each breath started before each movement. Each breath finished after each movement. The movement of my body was wrapped in the free breath in, in the slow breath out.

And then I would sit and breathe. I would follow my breath. I would practice bringing my mind to one pointed focus.

Each day I would sit on their hard polished floor for eight hours listening to them speak. At first, it was agony. My back screamed. I found it hard to concentrate due to the physical discomfort.

And then after a month, I noticed that my body felt more comfortable. I could pay attention. I could more easily focus.

The body, they told me, you can always push. But you can never push the breath. You should only practice a physical posture for as long a you are able to maintain a fluid and even breath. Once the breath is lost you have lost everything.

Our breath is the ultimate practice. It’s a noun, but it’s also a verb.

So far, far away from horses, I learned the best lesson in horsemanship from people who had never come close to the saddle.

I learned how to breathe.

If there is one thing you can do to improve your riding, to improve your relationship with your horse, it’s to come into conscious union with your breath.

Breathing out is the part we need to bring into our conscious awareness. Breathing out is the release.

When someone says “ I don’t breathe when I’m riding” what they actually mean is “ I hold my breath.”

Breathing out is the part that we need to actively participate in.

“You can force the body but you cannot force the breath”.

xx Jane

Getting Out of The Way

When riding of late, I’ve been actively practicing getting out of the way of my horse. Doing the absolute minimum when it comes to guidance and correction, and then saying to her, “You know what to do, I’ve seen the magnificent way you carry your body when I’m not on your back.

Let me try to find my own balance so that you can do what you already know how to do”.

And if she doesn’t find the balance, the softness that I am hoping she will find, instead of making her find it, I’m trusting that she will. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but she will. And as I ride forward, I hold the intention in my mind, the vision that I share for both of us that acts as a lighthouse as we both move forward in our training together.

With horse and rider, I think that the ability to develop lightness and connection can be examined on three levels; the physical, the emotional and the intentional.

It goes without saying that we need to be physically organized; to ensure that we find our own centre of balance first and foremost and organize ourselves to find that with our horse a opposed to the other way round.

Then there’s the emotional organisation. The ability to stay present, to ride with love and compassion, to cultivate positive focus.

And the intentional. This encompasses the vision, the creationery power that allows us to dream of the ideal, not as a weapon against which we can judge ourselves, but as a point of inspiration that allows us to be guided by the highest part of ourselves.

Physical, emotional, intentional. Finding your own balance so you free the horse to find theirs.

xx Jane

Exercising Your Creative Power

Imagine that in front of you was a big line.

The line stretching out to your left represents your past; all the wonderful things, the not so wonderful things, the disappointments, the lows and the highs. 

The line to your right represents your future. All the dreams, the possibilities, the yet to be knowns.

And right now, directly in front of you is a huge pile of stuff. This stuff represents your present moment. You might like what you are looking at. You might not. You might examine it, poke around in it, call some other people over to look at your pile of stuff with you.

So what is that stuff? All the stuff is is the present manifestation of everything that has already happened. It’s the result of all your past decision, your actions (or inactions), you conditioning, experiences. All making themselves known in the present moment.

The thing is, it’s possible to observe this pile of stuff and move forward to create a whole different pile in the future. But what many of us do is we stare at it, kick it around, get some on our shoe and then we drag it with us as we walk into the future. We take it with us instead of looking at it for what it is, taking what we need from it and then moving forward in the way that we need to.

You see, regardless of what’s happened in the past. Regardless of whether you have been wronged, or whether things haven’t gone your way- it doesn’t matter. Letting go of that stuff doesn’t mean that you necessarily condone what has happened, but holding onto it ensures that you take the energy of it and drag it into your future.

So no matter what that pile of stuff looks like that’s in front of you right now, you have the power to decide how you want things to be. You can step back, look at it, and then say? What do I want? How do I want things to be? Create the vision for what that looks like. See it in your minds eye, infuse it into your being. And then move forward in accordance with THAT vision, rather than the “reality”.

You are always free to make things different to what you have experienced. And the only moment where that continues to be possible is right now.

xx Jane

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Playfulness

If you want to bounce against the edges of your own emotional conditioning, experiment with how willing you are to express yourself in different ways.

I’m not the first to mention this- Madonna released a song about it back in 2009 (always ahead of her time!)- but joking aside, it is amazing to observe how rigid a framework we have designed for ourselves when it perpetuating emotional patterns or operating within the same emotional range day in day out.

Your body language is a physical expression of your thought processes. And the beautiful thing is, not only do our thoughts influence the way that we hold and move through the world and with our horses in a very tangible way, but it works in the reverse direction also; by changing up the way we are using our body, we can affect thought patterns, mood and emotions.

So try it… how stuck are you? If I asked you to get up and skip around the room right now, what would you think about that?

If I asked you to look up, hold your hands above your head in a big “V” shape and grin the biggest, silliest grin you ever did grin, would you give it a shot?

Or make a crazy face.

Would you do it? What comes up for you?

We all get stuck. We all become predictable. But one of the best ways to extend your emotional range is to well, loosen up. Be louder than normal. More expressive. Introduce more energy into how you move.

And then do the reverse.

Exercise your emotional agility. Develop the volume of your emotions, both up and down.

You’ll be surprised what comes up.

xx Jane

Sentience

The longer I spend learning about, interacting with, and letting myself be cracked open by this whole horsemanship journey, the less it is about “point here, go there, heels down, look up”; it’s not that the tangible things are no longer important, it’s just that there is so much MORE behind it.

The horse and rider relationship, at the level of art, is about alchemy. It’s a meditation. I don’t pretend to be nearly at that stage, but the idea of it, the inspiration of riding and operating within that sphere is intoxicating to me.

And I realise to even begin that dance, to even have that as a possibility, we need to consider that a different level of being with our horses exists- and to even begin to have THAT within our line of vision, we need to first and foremost recognize their sentience.

I’ve been reading a lot of books of late on collective consciousness, and interweaved among it are incredible encounters that involve animal communication, stories where the normal boundaries of the day to day have been dropped to allow for something higher, more connected to be experienced.

I got to sharing my thoughts with my husband last night, and he said that when he was in Africa filming with the Baka tribe (a pygmy tribe in Cameroon), he would go out with the hunters on their hunts and the forest was so high, dense and thick, that if you lost sight of the tribesman, you were completely disoriented- you didn’t know which way you came from or where anything was. It was like being in thick fog.

One say he asked them (through the translator), how do you know where to go? We go in different directions every day, how do you know where to go? And they said, We don’t know where to go. We ask the animals.

He said he was confused for a moment and thought that something was lost in translation, so asked again, what do you mean?

And they said, well, they are animals and we are animals, so we ask them where to go and they tell us.

Simple as that.

Maybe it’s true what they say. Maybe it’s not learning we are involved in, but remembering.

How could we ever be bored when there’s so much magnificence yet to be experienced.

xx Jane

Taking Time Out

Ive been doing this crazy thing lately. Some of you may have heard of it but chances are, some of you haven’t.

It’s called “Time Out”. And it’s amazing. Google it.

Not time out as in “go and sit over there on the naughty stool until you’ve changed your attitude” time out. But breathe in the air, feel that lovely feeling of hugging your horse and allowing some white space to come into your mind Time Out.

You see, I know what it’s like to be more about Time In than Time Out. I have my own wonderful business. I have two little boys, 6 and 2 years old. I have a husband and horses. And I also have dreams and aspirations and books I want to read and times when I want to just do nothing.

I’m not alone. We all have our own version of this.

The thing is, all of those things that require energy? I love all of them.

Like my business. Wouldn’t change it for the world. The word “business” actually diminishes what it is to me.

My family. Bit of alright they are. I love squishing them together in a big bear hug.

My horses. Goes without saying. Rainbow unicorns the lot of them.

But when the equation is all out, out, out and no in, your perspective on the things you love can get skewed.

So if this has you nodding your head, consider that is not WHAT you are doing that has to change, but HOW you are doing it.

Maybe looking after yourself hasn’t been as high on the list as it needs to be.

So this is me and Nadia (isn’t she amazing?) taking time out in the middle of the day, safe in the knowledge that it’s going to make the Time In a whole lot better.

It’s part of our new Degree we are studying for called “The Positive Effects of Being a Time Out Ninja”. It’s a home study course. Try it yourself!

xx Jane

On Expectations

I hear a lot of talk about expectations, especially in advice-giving scenarios.

“Your expectations were too high! That’s why you are disappointed!”

“Oh yep, high expectations will get you frustrated every time.”

I’m inclined to disagree.

What if our expectations didn’t only predict our reality, but created it?

Your level of expectation dictates your internal stretch. When we project our expectations onto ourselves and our horses, day in and day out, we start to believe in them. We start to see them as measures of our capability, as future predictors of what’s possible for us and our horses.

We create safety nets for ourselves that stop us from going all out. Trip wires that highlight that seed limiting belief that’s lurking below the surface.

“Good luck!” someone might call to you.

“I’ll probably stuff it up!” you shout back… despite the fact you really want to do well. Despite the fact you’ve been working really hard.

Safety nets we put up for ourselves… just in case. Just in case we can’t actually do what it is that we really want to do.

You achieve at the level you expect of yourself.

Want to know the catalyst to great change?

Set high expectations. Don’t adjust those. If you need to adjust anything, adjust your time frames.

Take notice of what comes up, of the safety nets you cast for yourself. Why is it that you are concerned to back yourself? What information does that give you and what are you going to do about it?

Expectations create reality.

Low expectations are a vacuum of nothingness that sucks you in little by little. You then take events from the past and use them as predictors of the future.

Your level of expectation determine the decisions that you make, the actions that you take and the amount of effort you invest in yourself and your horse.

Keep them high.

Make believing in yourself your highest priority. And surround yourself with people who believe in you also.

xx Jane

Comparisonitis

Toot Toot! Look out! It’s the Don’t Believe Everything You Think Train coming through reminding you to well…. not believe everything you think.

There’s nothing that can trigger our deepest insecurities and limiting beliefs than comparing ourselves to other people, or other horse and rider combinations. It’s like there we are, merrily minding our own business when CLUNK! We trip over a massive log placed directly in our path by the YoureNotGoodEnough Fairy and fall flat on our faces.

And while we are busy trying to get the dirt out of our left eyeball and gather up our reins, WHACK. We take another great copping blow by the her evil sister, Miss YoureOuttaYourLeague.

Aside from maybe having a quiet swear to yourself and grabbing a bar of 85% dark lindt chocolate (so good just FYI), it may also comfort you to realise that comparisonitis is something that is familiar to all of us at one point or another. In part it comes out of operating from a fixed mindset, but it also comes from a place of scarcity- of believing that someone having something that you have means that there won’t be enough for you also. And as I mentioned earlier, if there’s any way to really bring to the surface those limiting mindsets we have about ourselves, is to start to think about where we should be, where we aren’t, or how we would love to be in the same place as that person over there doing that thing that we want to do.

This post though is not about limiting beliefs, or fixed mindsets or even dealing with the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee. It’s me grabbing my megaphone (do they still make those?) and yelling in your eardrum…

You. Are. Enough.

You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else because #1 it won’t get you closer to what you want anyway and #2 you are completely unique.

That brand of you that’s floating around inside you? Nobody else can ever have that.

The combination of you and your horse? There is not another horse and rider combination out there the same. Not one. Not one in the whole. freaking. world.

In your face whateveryournameis Fairy.

Your riding journey has very little to do with what others are doing and where it is that they’re heading, and it has everything to do with what you are doing and where you are heading. So don’t get caught up in other people’s stories and forget to write your own.

So as you were. Back to being fabulous puhlease.

Ain’t nobody got time for anything else.

xx Jane

Is it safe to trust yourself?

Part of the 1:1 work that I do involves making guided audios that address specific concerns or limiting beliefs that we may have. In order for someone to be completely relaxed, it’s important that they feel safe. That they know that it’s safe to make the changes that they need to make. That it’s safe to connect to the more intuitive part of themselves. That it’s safe to really be in touch with their own inner wisdom.

That word “safe” though is a big one. I’ve got feedback from more than a few people who really respond to the word safe, like it’s a huge relief to think that it IS safe to relax, to trust and to move towards whatever it is you dream of or aspire to manifest in your riding and your life.

I feel as though we’ve been conditioned to feel that it’s NOT safe to trust ourselves. That instead of cultivating the ability to connect logical thought with intuitive instinct, that cord has been cut. Thought and feeling have become disconnected and as a consequence, we are missing more of our own emotional notifications that tell us when to do, when not to do, when to back ourselves and when to back off. Instead, we wait for someone else to tell us what we can and can’t trust.

In my own learning and evolution, I have moved from someone with a very competitive focus to realizing that horses have been the lens through which I experience self-development on every level, including (dare I say it), spiritually. And as part of that understanding, I’m learning that in order for my riding to become art, in order for the harmony I seek to become actualized, I need to ensure that I am congruent on every level. That my thoughts are united with my feelings, and I am aware of the signals and energies that I am projecting on every level that are so keenly felt by my horses.

It’s less and less about my horse and more and more about me.

So I wonder… do you feel that there is a disconnect? Do you find it hard to merge thought, feeling and intuition? Do you find it easy to trust yourself?

“Who you are speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

xx Jane

Internal Buoyancy

It’s easy to get caught up in the feeling that you are the only one who feels anxiety, fear or self-doubt, but what I find myself most apologizing for these days is my level of enthusiasm, excitement. You see, it’s part of the norm, almost expected that we gather together and share our concerns over what’s not right with ourselves, with our riding and with the world, but in my experience, what needs equal attention and love is the epidemic of well, all of us, who are afraid of being… shiny. Exuberant. Full of enthusiasm for what a broad sense of possibility life holds for us.

Gosh, sorry, I’m getting carried away, I say.

Or, wow, can see I better tone it down, I might add.

Or my internal voice, the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee might pipe up with, gosh Jane, wind it back hey! You don’t want to appear over the top!

But the truth is, screw that.

Enthusiasm, the ability to have something move you and cause you to bubble over like a human can of soda is something to be celebrated. It’s a signal you are in the midst that means something to you. Something that has sparked the internal flame, and all parts of you- the logical part, the feeling part, the energetic part have lined up and said YES! Pay attention. This is the good stuff that you want more of. This is the place you need to spend more time.

But for whatever reason, we are afraid of being our fullest, most shiny version of ourselves. And for the most part, it’s not because of us at all. It’s because we don’t want to make other people feel bad. We don’t want to separate ourselves from the idea of what is accepted or expected. And unbridled enthusiasm? It’s celebrated in children. As long as they stop when you say. It’s very rarely seen in adults.

So if you feel that energy, be fearless in stepping into its embrace. If other’s don’t accept it, that’s ok. Light always shines a torch into the dark places that some would rather forget were there.

But the most important thing, it’s not about anyone else. Suppression never gave birth to joy, or change, or connection. Whether it be good or bad, suppressed feeling turns in on themselves and become something they never were in the first place.

So just as you may need permission to feel your feelings that represent challenge, you also have full permission to feel your feelings that represent joy and to not be afraid of them.

Joy is your reminder that you are part of the bigger matrix; allow yourself to be split open and let it overflow from within.

xx Jane

On Focus

You can’t look out for bad things and expect good things at the same time.

You can’t focus on what’s working and what isn’t working at the same time.

You can’t focus on what you want and what you don’t want at the same time.

It’s one or the other.

If you are focusing on what’s wrong, then you are choosing to focus on that at the expense of what’s right.

If you are focusing on what you don’t want, you are favouring that over what you DO want, and as a result you highlight that in your mind as an object to move towards.

It’s a choice.

If you are here, you can’t be there.

xx Jane

On Seeking Beauty

Over the weekend, whilst flicking through a non-horsey related magazine, I was confronted with an image that made my stomach turn and my heart feel sad. It was a picture of a wild horse overseas being used as a centrepiece in a demonstration, and the contraptions that they had in his mouth and the look in his eye doesn’t beg description.

It seems also, that this last week more than most I have come across images and read words of “advice” from people whose ideas of horsemanship and equitation clearly differ from that of my own. And although it is easy for such matters to dominate the mind, I do believe that the tide is turning, that there is a rising ground swell of consciousness and understanding that appreciates the sentience of the magnificent animals that share such a large part of our lives, and who seek to find the way and means we can go about creating a fulfilling partnership for both of us.

I am also of the belief that you do more good by promoting what you love than “hating” on that which you disagree with, so I have decided to take a few moments to write about what it is that I hope to do through Confident Rider and it’s influence on our most beauteous, most magnificent of equine partners.

It is my hope that as riders and horse people, regardless of our background, level of experience or level of expectation, we will do everything within our power not to inflict both a disorganized body and a disorganized mind onto our horses. Instead, as an inquiring rider, as someone who is interested in the qualities of partnership, respect and beauty, we will take moments to disconnect ourselves from our “problems” or our “horse’s problems” and seek to discover ways firstly, that we, ourselves, may be perpetuating or initiating the current challenge- be it through our own biomechanics or body organisation, lack of skill or horsemanship knowledge, of confidence or emotional control- and actively enquire as to how we may go about finding solutions to any limitations that we may feel arising.

If you feel stuck, move. Ask. Enquire. If the answer doesn’t work the first time, ask different questions, get different answers.

As riders and horsepeople, we must learn continuously to “stay in the moment”. Do not expect this to be instantaneous in the saddle if you can’t do so out of it. Practice mindfulness. Set yourself realistic challenges and be patient.

If we are seeking unity, seeking beauty, we must work our horses ethically, to let go of arrogant assertions that we are somehow training them and be open to the realisation that true horsemanship is self-mastery in union, more than mastery of another. We have to find ways of working with them that promotes joy within us, and consequently allows them to feel the relationship is of benefit to them also.

As the saying goes, “Anything forced or misunderstood can never be beautiful. If a dancer was forced to dance by whip and spike, he would be no more beautiful than a horse trained under similar conditions” ~ Xenophon, the Art of horsemanship.

My thoughts.

xx Jane

Congruency, Rapport & Resonance

I’m fine. Nothing. Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal. I’m ok. It’ll be all good.

I’m musing.

How often are you congruent in your daily life? How often do your words and feelings fail to match up?

How often do you suppress, deny, invalidate, ignore gut feelings, dismiss emotion with vacuous verbal expressions?

Not just the “bad”. The good too. Sometimes, it’s harder to accept the good. Worthiness- or lack of- is a constant discussion.

If you’re anything like the rest of us, it’s happening all the time. Colourful emotion swapped for disassociation and blandness.

Logic at the expense of intuition.

Rationale over emotion.

Practicality over sensuality.

A disconnect

Your horse does not communicate with words. They see your incongruence. Sensuality, instinct, intuition is their world.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation that feels uncomfortable. Repetitive. Even destructive or dismissive. Because long ago when the emotional notification was sent, you learned to shut it off. In order to be… acceptable. The same. The most normal.

In order to do what was expected.

And so your horse…

You might close the door. Dissociate to a swirling pool of emotion. Switch off. Or think you have. But your horse sees the pool behind as strongly as you are overwhelmed by the heady scent of perfumes in the cosmetic department at a department store.

Words might be your primary language, but emotion, intuition, instinct is theirs.

He’s a bit up today.

He’s so anxious. Flighty. Uptight. Difficult.

He’s a hard case. Stubborn.

But maybe he’s just congruent. Congruent with you.

And so maybe he’s also calm. Relaxed. Easy.

Aren’t you lucky?

He’s such a joy to be around.

But maybe he’s just congruent. Congruent with you.

Either way, the thing about the horse, the gift of the horse as a teacher is either way, there is no rejection, no judgement. It just… is.

I never fully understood that idea of horses being your mirror, but I’m beginning to touch the sides. To be more self responsible in my honesty, with myself and with others.

Everything in your day provides the opportunity for practice.

The journey to mindful connection with another- horse or human- begins with mindful connection to yourself.

Emotional congruency, rapport and emotional resonance.

Onwards

xx Jane

FaceBook Live Recording

On Letting The Emotions Move Through

This morning I felt the swirling of anger as I walked up towards the horses. It’s not something that visits me often and it made me feel uncomfortable. Some things had happened over the last 24 hours that were outside of my control and influence and, I could see that it had grated round the edges.

I did my best not to suppress the feelings but to let them flow through. I continued to look them squarely in the eye and said, what is it that I am supposed to learn from you? What is it that I am supposed to take from you?

The answers did not float into my brainspace straight away and although I had some superficial inklings, I felt like there was more to it than I was currently able to see.

I had planned to work with my horse just now but considered that maybe I shouldn’t. Not for fear of using it against her but in the recognition that her sensory acuity was such that I didn’t want to feel like a swirling loop of chaotic energy coming towards her.

As I looked out into the paddock and saw my beautiful horse, I knew instantly that I would be able to separate it all out, to separate what I was feeling now from our time together.


She had already pulled me into her peace.

As we walked down towards the arena, I put my hand on her wither and explained the events of the last 24 hours, and I appreciated her ear.

Along the way, she caught sight of the ram in the paddock to the left, and the pigs further down on the paddock to the right.

I appreciated the ancient memory from her ancestors that told her that they might be of concern.

That Ram, I told her, we hand raised him. He got stuck in the fence as a baby and so he came to us. He’s only at the fenceline to greet us. It’s not about you.

Those pigs, I said, are the same. They get fed here. They think that we are here to feed them. You don’t have to be worried about them. It’s not about you.

You don’t need to be concerned, I told her.

I was grateful that as much as she was a comfort to me, I was a comfort to her also.

We continued to wander, and had one of the best sessions we’ve had together so far.

I was so grateful for her. I was so grateful for the connection, for the ebb and flow.

I could teach her what I knew about the world through my eyes, and she could teach me through hers.

Today, I am so grateful for her.

And then in my mind popped the voice. It’s not about you. And I felt the feeling pass through.

xx Jane

Following A Process: Adding a Few More Pieces

Notes from My Horsing Adventures

Deciding to start my own horse has always been on my dream hit list, but for some reason I never really considered it within my scope of possibilities. I have worked with young or very green horses in the ground work stages, and been the first jockey to take over after they have had the first initial rides, but I have never been the first one to back them, or see them through the very early ridden stages.

The decision to do so was motivated by a number of factors, one being that I wasn’t 100% sold on who to choose to take over such an important piece of the picture for me. I was no longer prepared to hand over the reins,

both metaphorically and literally, to someone I wasn’t completely sure of, and those I was sure of lived too far away. I had also invested in myself and my own horse training education over the previous years to the point where I was very clear on the approach to both handling and riding that I wanted and it became increasingly apparent that if I wanted it done in such a way, then I was going to have to step up to the plate and do it myself.

The primary motivating factor, though, was the horse that I had in front of me. If I were to completely humanize Dee, he would be the equivalent of the strong, exuberant, youthful child ready to jump into life. He’s a pleasure to be around. He’s family.

He’s also been fortunate never to have had any of the “bad experiences” that we so often read and hear about and so in essence is a blank palate in the best interpretation of the phrase. Having been privileged to have him in my life the last little while, he has taught me and given me so much that I consider the least that I can offer him is to carefully safeguard his education. If I had decided to send him away to be started and returned to me without his spirit and softness in tact I never would have forgiven myself.

Arrogant? I can see how it could come across that way! But the truth of the matter is I had never been in such a position of choice before. I felt like for the first time in my life, I had skills to draw on that would allowed me to consider such a possibility, people around me with more horse training knowledge than myself who I could draw on if I got stuck and who could illuminate the path, and the best thing of all- I had time. If I abandoned the idea that moving from the ground to ridden stages needed to happen within a couple of months, I liberated myself to take the time that it takes to meet both of us where we are at, which is exactly what I have done so far.

 

Like nothing else before, the decision to go on this adventure with Dee has shown me the importance and power of process. I’m not going to pretend that the decision to begin has not been without its anxieties; I had a series of quite vivid visuals as to how that first ride could go and none of them were particularly positive! Fortunately, however, I know enough about the working of the mind to be able to keep myself in check; as is the case in almost all instances of anxiety and overwhelm, I was getting way too far ahead of myself. The anxiety that I was experiencing would, and has, been be taken care of by following a logical process; by making sure that my foundations are solid and by taking care to ensure that each step was easily understood and accepted by both of us before moving on to the next one. Working in this way has ensured that each new addition be it a stimulus, gear or activity has been pretty much a non-event.

For those of you in a similar position, pay attention to the process. Set your goal in the big picture and then break it back down to focus on the detail. By focusing on the detail, you are always working on what is within your control and influence and as a consequence, the big picture takes care of itself.

This past weekend, my friend and trainer, Ellie O’Brien has been staying with me and we have been adding a few more steps in. I’ve been so grateful for her advice along the way; she has a beautiful way with horses and a wealth of knowledge that I am so lucky to be able to benefit from.

Ellie has also been an important part of helping me define the very process I have been talking about. I’ve been part of her pilot Start Your Own Horse course; it’s perfect for people in a similar position to me, who have the goods and consider themselves proficient handlers and riders but are interested in more education and support bridging the gap between on the ground and under saddle. I’ve love the course so far and having Ellie to troubleshoot and discuss things with is a total godsend.

For us, this week was all about bridling. I had spent some time prior just working with the end of the lead rope up to his lips and then getting him to the place where he was happy to have it in his mouth, and now we substituted that for the actual bit and bridle. Success!

Click! My Journey with Positive Reinforcement Training

I admit that it took me a little while to come around to the idea of using the clicker in my training. Despite my current enthusiasm, I had a long list of largely uninformed and wildly presumptuous reasons as to why I didn’t think it was something that I wanted to incorporate into my training, or why it wasn’t the way forward for me. At this point (which I am thankful to say is a little while ago now) I had done something which I see often in the equestrian world- I’d closed myself off to what is an amazing training tool simply because it was different to what it was I currently did.

Growing up, I was always a very traditional rider and trainer. My entire family rode, we looked after our horses well and loved them very much, but I never really explored outside the box of what everyone else around me was doing. It was only after a break from horses due to working overseas and then the return to having them in my life as an adult that my mind blew open to the various possibilities that existed in terms of not just training, but in developing partnership. And now, just as in the “people training” work that I now do and love, I can see that horse training begins with ensuring mental stability and relaxation also. Create an emotionally happy horse and the rest is just gymnastics.

The biggest difference in my approach now is that I used to work from the outside in. Now it’s from the inside, out.

In my journey over the last few years, Warwick Schiller has undoubtedly been the biggest influence on me, and through knowing and working with him, I have been led to the awesomeness of Robyn Schiller, Ellie O’Brien and Katy Negranti, all of whom I consider to be integral members of my horsey tribe, friends and mentors. There is a long list of things that I admire about these gems of people, but at the top of the list is their open mindedness. They are willing and open to discussion about most of anything and then evaluate it against what they know and what is the best for the horse. I have them to thank for the continual explosion of brain cells that happens regularly now in terms of opening my eyes to how my horse thinks and responds, and I’m blessed to be able to draw on their passionate wisdom.

 

Most recently, I have come to include Georgia Bruce in the list above; I have been fan girling on Georgia for a little while now, and her ability to pair positive reinforcement techniques with incredible performance results made me reach a little deeper into the clicker training world. More recently, when she sent out the call for a handful of 1:1 clients to work with this year, I applied to be one of them. And fortunately for me, I have begun the journey to incorporating clicker into my training with Georgia to draw on for advice.

I’ve only been going a couple of weeks, but before I tell you of the benefits I have noticed, I want to share with you some of my hang ups about using the clicker and maybe shed some light on some misconceptions that are floating around there also.

Let’s take it from the top.

My horse is too greedy for the clicker. If I start using food rewards, he’s going to turn into a man-eating dinosaur.

Fair play. The first thing that we often think of is the food rewards, and if our horse is currently a bit snatchy snatchy with the treats, then it can seem like an all round bad idea.

What I have since learned is that firstly, having a horse that really likes his food is great! It means he will have a lot of motivation for the reward, so it’s something you can definitely use to your advantage.

Secondly, and perhaps most ironically, the use of rewards or positive reinforcement actually teaches them manners and empties out the anxiety around food. One of the first steps is to establish that the clicker and the subsequent reward only comes with the cue; once the rules are established, then you can start to work with the clicker elsewhere.

There’s no flow to it. It seems really stop-start-stop-start

For a long time, using the clicker to me seemed to interrupt the flow. I also had a really hard time seeing how you could move from working with the clicker on the ground to utilizing it under saddle. I had it all the wrong way around.

In the beginning, there are a lot of repetitions. Whatever behavior you are looking to train and reinforce, you do so with a high rate of repetitions immediately after the behavior is offered. The feeling in practice is much different to what I expected though- I thought I would be pulled “out of flow” but instead, there is a clarity and focus between us when using positive reinforcement that makes us so much more “in flow” than we ever were before. Once we have shaped and enforced the behavior enough, then with any tool we can phase the clicker out.

The other thing is that the physical and emotional transitions are so beneficial. Physically, it’s resulting in a lot more balance and power. Emotionally, the transitions between rest and go are not only reinforcing the behaviors that I want, but creating an emotionally pliable horse who finds it easy to move between being stationary and active without losing his emotional centre.

You either have to be “this” or “that” but you can’t be both.

If we need to get to the nitty gritty, the main approach I have been using up until now would fall under the banner of negative reinforcement (so the correct response results in removal of pressure). I really wasn’t sure how to utilize positive reinforcement within the scope of what I know (and am happy with). What I understand now, however- and I think this has come with my evolution as a horse person- is that everything is based on principles. If you can understand the principles of when to apply what, then the technique doesn’t matter.

Utilising the clicker hasn’t been a departure from what I’ve been doing already, but literally a positive addition. So now when I ask for something to happen as a result of intention, energy and pressure and release, I positively reinforce the behavior that I want. Click.

What I have noticed…

 So far, these have been the biggest benefits I have noticed from incorporating the clicker.

Increase in Motivation

This has been off the charts. Dee is naturally a laid back character and he can tune out if things don’t interest him. The clicker has made him tune in and switch on in a way that’s really lovely to see.

Increased learning speed

Again, it’s been off the chart. For example, I started to introduce the click for the frame that I wanted at this stage, which was long and low. Don’t tell him I said this, but I thought it would take him a while to catch on to what I was talking about, but seriously 3 clicks later and he was totally on to it. It’s now his preferred modus operandi, and I’m seeing many examples of just how quickly he’s picking things up.

Decreased anxiety / increased relaxation

For the first few sessions together, Dee was really busting it out to try and get the right answer. I saw a distinct personality change from being a little bit too chillaxed to being slightly anxious. For example, he started anticipating a lot of my requests and his energy was quite “up”. I talked to Georgia about this and on her advice, just kept on keeping on, being sure to reward the fundamentals of what I was looking for and within two to three sessions he had completely relaxed around the clicker and the rewards.

We’ve only been going a couple of weeks introducing the clicker with diligence, but I’m really excited by how much it has impacted our partnership and learning. I’m excited to keep sharing our journey together with you!

xx Jane

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