Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Balancing Learning with Doing

So for those who don't know me personally, my boyfriend, Evan and I bought a farm this past May (cue fanfare!). While that has been very exciting, these first few months haven't left much time for horse-play. 
Our new place!

So, yesterday, for the first time since we moved into our new farm, I got to ride my 5 year old American Bashkir Curly, Lilah on our own property. It was certainly an invigorating experience, riding my horse on my farm! But, it also left me feeling the need to do more. You know, to dig out the dvds, to take more courses, to study more, to be better for my horse. And, while this is incredibly admirable and normal for those of us who follow the "never ending self-improvement" mantra, it can also be paralyzing to actual improvement. 

So, how can the act of learning to be better at horsemanship actually hinder improvement in horsemanship? I know, it does sound crazy! But, here's what I have discovered to be true (at least for myself):

It is easy to get caught up in the mindset that we don't know enough to be effective or to get to where we want to be with our horsemanship. Sometimes, this is reality and sometimes this is in our head. When it is reality, a lack of skills and knowledge drives us to seek out other answers. When it is in our head, a lack of confidence drives us to focus on learning more. On face, these two situations are not necessarily a bad thing as they both lead us to the same result: more knowledge. However, the hindrance comes when we are in process of learning which can cause us to become aware of how much more we do not know, which in turn can cause a greater lack of confidence. Likewise, learning happens outside our comfort zone, and it can feel pretty awkward and embarrassing to practice what we are trying to learn, which again, can hurt our confidence. Pretty soon, it becomes easier and easier to hide in the house rather than actually go out and trying some of these things with our horse! 

Sometimes we perpetuate the cycle with "retail therapy", which can make us feel really great at first. We feel like we are progressing.We think to ourselves, "I'll just buy this new rope, and then, when it comes, then I will be fully equipped to go out and try this new thing with my horse." 

Now, don't get me wrong, as Pat says, a
ttitude, knowledge, tools, techniques, time, imagination, and support are the keys to success. So, I certainly don't want to de-emphasize the importance of good equipment, but the point is that each one of these keys can aid in our success or be excuses for not getting out there and doing things with our horse. I'll be the first to admit, I have used almost all of these as excuses. (I'm too busy, or not creative enough, etc.)

As with all things, we need to find a balance between learning and doing. We will always be our harshest critic. But your horse is not going to judge you for giving it your best shot and using the skills and knowledge you have in that given moment. Doing, practicing, being with our horses is the only way we are going to get truly better with horses. No more hiding behind the guise of learning, it's time to get out there and do it. Yes, we are going to look silly at first, but we will learn, and when we come back to our dvds and courses, when we know better, we can do better. 

Savvy on!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Play With The Horse That Shows Up...A Mantra For 2015

Play with the horse that shows up- Pat Parelli

As we enter the New Year, I've been searching for a resolution to which I can truthfully abide, and I think I've finally found it. "Play with the horse that shows up", a Parelli principle that I have come to learn while dealing with three different horses, two of which have a cusp "horsenality". 

However, this past year has taught me that this phrase has meaning beyond the horse world. In fact, it is the application of this phrase in general life, that inspires me for 2015. "Play with the horse that shows up", meaning- embrace what life throws your way, embrace change, and most importantly, have fun doing it!

If there is anything that 2014 has taught me, it is that life doesn't always go as planned, and when it doesn't, there is certainly no point in stressing over it. 2014 was a year of whims, and craziness, and as such, it was full of adventures that I never would have gotten to experience had I been unable to embrace what life sent my way. I also learned to listen more to my gut, my intuition, and not get bogged down in over-thinking. Remember, the mantra states- play with the horse that shows up. One definition of the word play, is "to engage in". That's what I want for this new year. To be engaged in my life, in every aspect of my life, to jump in wholeheartedly and play with whatever metaphorical horse that shows up. 

Here's to 2015, and I can't wait to see what shows up. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Look Back: Psychology 101 with Linda at the Maryland Horse and Soul Tour

One year ago yesterday, I received a much anticipated phone call from someone at Parelli Central. I had been selected to participate in a demo with Linda Parelli at the Maryland Horse and Soul Tour Stop. The session was called "Psychology 101" in which Linda took four students, each with a horse representing one of the Horsenalities, and showed them how to use Psychology to bring out the best in their horse. Below is a blog post that I had written about my experience as part of the demo which I had not published until now...Enjoy!

I wouldn’t normally consider myself to be a very spontaneous person, however my recent confidence with my horse, Rydel, led me to throw caution to the wind, step out of my comfort zone, and apply for a chance to participate in the 2013 Horse and Soul Tour stop in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. While I had the opportunity to choose from an array of different demonstrations or lessons with Pat and Linda, there seemed to be only one obvious choice for my horse and me: Horsenality 101 with Linda.
I have had my horse for nine years. Several months before purchasing her, my 4-H group had received free tickets to a Parelli Tour Stop.  After watching Pat and Linda from the stands, I was instantly hooked. I convinced my parents to purchase the level one pack and watched and studied as much as I could until I finally got a horse of my own. From the day I brought Rydel home, I began putting the Parelli principles I had learned in that level 1 pack to purpose and I truly believe it was this prior knowledge that kept me safe around what I later learned to be a very right brained horse. Everyday, I would go out to play the seven games with my horse, but something seemed to be missing. When I would ask her to back up, for example, she would freeze, and when I increased my phases and added more pressure, rather than responding appropriately, she would absolutely explode! We struggled on like this for a few years, and just when I was about to give up, the concept of Horsenality was introduced, and my whole world changed! Suddenly, I had arrows in my quiver to deal with my very extreme Right Brain Introvert, and the amount of progress we made in such a short period of time amazes me even to this day.
Having impacted the relationship with my horse in such a dramatic way, it is easy to see why getting a chance to demonstrate Horsenality was so important to me, and when I received the call that Rydel and I would be in the show, I was ecstatic that everything was coming full circle. When the big weekend finally arrived, I was so concerned with making sure my horse was ready for the show, and so focused on being able to demonstrate how truly wonderful these Right Brain horses can be, that I wasn’t taking a step back to focus on myself. The day of the show the lack of self-focus hit me like a ton of bricks and I began feeling uncontrollably nauseous. As I groomed and prepared my horse for our big debut, it took every ounce of energy I had to not collapse from the amount of retching my stomach was doing. Every deep breath I took, and every attempt I made to talk myself into walking into that arena seemed futile as I slipped more and more into a state of panic.  Finally, after no longer being able to hide my emotions, I burst into tears in a small room behind the retail booth and received some much needed mental coaching (read: friendly game of the mind).
At what seemed like the very last minute, I composed myself and Rydel and I walked into the arena with Linda Parelli and the other horses and humans who would be represented in the demo. In the ring, my worries melted away and I was able to just have fun with my horse. Linda took each horse in turn to demonstrate each Horsenality to the crowd. Rydel was the perfect example of an extreme Right Brain Introvert and Linda talked about and demonstrated the importance of managing your energy when playing with these types of horses. Ladies and gentlemen, cue the licking and chewing!
Principle number seven states that “horses teach humans” and this tour stop was a great reminder of that principle for me. When I submitted my application to be a part of a demonstration on Horsenality, I assumed I would learn a lot about my horse. In reality, being a part of a demonstration on Horsenality helped me learn a great deal more about my own personality than I ever would have imagined! Because of this experience, I now feel more equipped to deal with my own emotions, especially in new or stressful environments, and to be the leader my horse needs me to be all the time, even if when means admitting my limitations and seeking out support. I am so grateful to have a horse that teaches me something new at just the right moments, and I am even more grateful to have the support of the Parelli community to lean on when it’s me who needs a lesson in becoming calm, cool, and collected. 
Rydel at the fairgrounds, relaxing after the show!