Expectations vs Gratitude 

It’s so important to treat each interaction with a horse as a gift, not a given. I find this is somewhat easier to do when first starting out with a new horse rather than an equine partner you’ve been learning with for years – with a new horse, you don’t expect to work perfectly together yet. With the horse you’ve been training/playing/riding with for years, you “work” at a higher level and have greater expectations for both of you. It’s many times easier to handle “bad” days when first starting out with a new horse because there are no assumptions that either of you will be “perfect” – you are just getting to know one another. Once a horse and human are in sync and play perfectly together up to even 90% of the time, this is when it can be harder to face bumps in the road because we expect ourselves and our horses to preform at a certain level. We have high expectations and with that comes a harder fall into disappoint. If we put these high expectations on ourselves and the horses and we don’t live up to the standards we set, we become frustrated, defeated, guilty, and upset, etc. when things don’t go to plan. When this happens, our mood towards training may change in a negative way, truly setting our horsemanship back, rather than allowing ourselves to learn and grow in a positive direction.
How do we get around this opportunity for frustration?

We stop putting expectations on ourselves and the horses. Rather than approaching training/playing/riding from a place of expectation, we approach it from a place of gratitude.

Gratitude is the key here. Even if you have an off day, there is so much to be thankful for. I think most of us would agree that just being with your horse is something to be grateful about. This is so much easier to see when we aren’t swept up in the chaos of disappointment, and for this reason, we must begin by approaching the horse with gratitude rather than expectation. This makes things so much nicer for both horse and human!
If we come at training from a place of gratitude everyday, we easily find things to be thankful for even on our “off” days and thus bring a much more positive energy to our time with the horse we love. With this mindset, when challenges arise we are able to keep a positive outlook and find solutions rather than resort to frustration, anger, and guilt.

When we expect too much on a day that’s a little off, it can put us in a real funk, but when we approach the horse with gratitude, every positive thing that happens is seen as a gift and a reason to celebrate our relationship with the horse we love, no matter the challenges we face.

– A lesson from Annie ❤️

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Baby Sierra and Mosie 

   
Little Sierra and little Mosie – much has changed, but it’s wonderful to see that the love was always constant ❤️
When the first picture was taken, I wasn’t an “equestrian”; I was just a little girl in love with horses. When I met newly born Sierra, I was so in awe. I wanted to be with her – connect with her – love her. I wasn’t thinking about riding her one day – I wasn’t planning her training. I was in the moment with her – so in the present and so in love.
Years went by and with Annie by my side, I was taught to be a “proper” equestrian by my fellow humans. The unconditional love I had for Annie and Sierra never changed, but my perspective and approach towards horses did as I learned what it meant to be an equestrian rather than “just a horse lover”… 

I started to use pressure and force in order to achieve the primary goal… to control the horse at all times. The more I grappled to control them, the more disconnected I felt. I may have gained control, authority, and “power” over the horse when I rode – but I had lost the magic.
Thankfully, when everything fell too far off course, and I felt as though I had lost touch with the younger, horse loving, pre-equestrian self you see in the top photo, I finally stopped listening to the humans around me and once again started to listen to the horse. I started listening to Annie.
Annie taught me how to reconnect with that little girl inside of me. There was intuition and compassion inside her that traditional schooling had led me to lose touch with. She connected with horses so naturally…. Sure she didn’t know the “rules” of proper equestrianism and her riding was far from perfect form… But she knew horses well – their spirit set her soul ablaze. 
She didn’t desire to break their spirit – she wanted to run with it. 

She didn’t care to control their every move – she loved to watch them dance. She didn’t want to make them into “perfect push button horses” – she wanted to make them happy.
She loved them with all of her heart, just the way there were, and they knew it. There was a wisdom inside her that could not be taught by fellow human – a wisdom that was mocked and discredited by the professionals – a wisdom that only a horse could restore to her… A horse named Annie.
Many years and life lessons later, we get to the second picture – a photo that represents a full circle. As I continue to learn from the horses around me, the more I connect with my inner self – the one who loves horses unconditionally and sees them as equals, with all of the awe and reverence of the little girl. Only now having been through a blinding period where I lost touch with my inner wisdom, I have come through even more aware than before. I am awake to the suffering of horses in our human world – I understand how we humans justify our harsh actions and how the pain of another becomes so normal, we hardly recognize it. I believe I needed to lose tough with the little girl inside me so that I could complete this circle with the help of the horses I love so much. It has and continues to open my eyes & soul and shape who I am as a human.
The journey continues – there is still so much for me to learn from the horse, but when I look at this picture, I am incredibly thankful for the lessons that reconnected me with my truth.
I see my true self in both of these photos. 
I am so grateful to Annie for being and continuing to be my leader and best friend through this process of self discovery and connection to the spirit of the horse. You are my soulmate and I love you with every bit of my being!
And I am so grateful to you Sierra for teaching me, helping me, and sticking with me as I transformed again and again. I love you even more now than I did then, and I hardly thought that was possible… when I first met you, I loved you so much!

 

Control

  

The need for control is one of our biggest downfalls when it comes to our relationships with horses. The need stems from entitlement and fear – a tragic combination that allows us to feel justified in our mistreatment of other beings. We all battle the desire to control others within ourselves at one time or another, especially in times of anger, fear, or when the ego takes control. It’s funny because the more angry we become, the less control we have over our own actions – the only thing we truly can control and have the right to.
The first step to gaining back self control is to realize that you have no right to control or hold power over other beings. When you realize this truth deep down, it makes it far harder to “lose it” when things don’t go exactly your way and easier to remain inwardly balanced. We must give up our expectation for blind obedience and realize that compassionate “leadership” is something to be earned, not something to take. “Leadership” (and I really dislike using this word when it comes to horses) is about trust, NOT about telling others what to do. When you demand and force your will upon others, you lose their trust.
My horsemanship is constantly evolving as I come to understand more and more about myself, ethics, and our relationships with these amazing souls. My number one goal used to be to train horses in the most positive way possible so that they would happily do what I ask – now my number one goal is to honor and learn from the horse. We still play, we still “train”, but there is a shift in consciousness happening… A transformation due to a change in perspective… We must always remain open to new ideas and understandings. If we close our minds to greater knowledge and compassion, we get stuck standing still. Transformation can be scary, for once again, there is a lack of control most of us are not comfortable with. But if we can let go of that need to control others/the situation, we will stay balanced as we becomes greater versions of ourselves.

  

Lucid Dreaming

I have been been very interested in lucid dreaming recently. Well, I’ve always been interested in lucid dreaming and all dreaming really, but these past few months I’ve been really focusing on lucidity.

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It amazes me to see how far I’ve come in my lucid dreaming, particularly in regards to flying while dreaming and how the lessons of the dream world it relate to the waking life. When I first began actively trying to lucid dream, I always found flying to be quite difficult. The more I wanted to lift off the ground, the heavier my legs became. It felt as though I was walking through tacky puddy whenever I tried to take off into the air or simply move faster. Finally after much frustration I was able to find a way to fly through the sky, but it took the help of another object to do it. For example, I would often dream up a flying carpet and allow it to pick me up and fly me away. I couldn’t fly on my own, but at least I was soaring! There are no rules in the dream world – Gravity is not the force keeping you pinned to the ground – it’s all solely you perception, yet for a long time I had to project my own power into another object in order to get around off the ground. It was still incredibly blissful to fly away on that magic carpet, but I knew in order to fly on my own, I needed to let go of the limitations I had made up in my mind. My own thoughts were the only things keeping me back.

Now a couple years later, because of this struggle early on, I am pretty much a master at flying in my dreams, if I do say so myself. 😉 Perhaps I am not a master – but at least I am the master of my own perception (most of the time). I worked in many dreams to change my view until I finally figured out how to free myself of the make-believe limitations I had put on myself. I could fly anywhere as fast as I wanted without the help of any other dream object. It is simply blissful! I’ve gotten quite good at it, and it’s my favorite dream-life hobby. The other night I even taught another dream character how to fly… And the explanation I gave to her got me thinking about the deeper lesson behind what I was teaching.

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To fly in a dream, you must let go. You must have faith that you can move yourself where ever you wish – alter reality however you wish – and simply allow yourself to move without resistance. As soon as you doubt your power, you put a limitation on yourself that doesn’t actually exist except for in your perception, and you cannot fly. If I am standing in a grassy meadow in my dream and I want to fly to the top of a near by tree, I must only focus my attention on the top of the tree and trust that I can make it there. Then I let my resistance go and allow it to happen. The problem before was that I used to struggle to get moving; I used to focus so much on the “how” that I stopped my natural instinct to “let it happen” – to let my focus and intention lead the way. I was more focused on lifting off, getting momentum, flapping my arms as wings, whatever odd move I could do to get myself closer to the tree, all the while becoming discouraged that I would never find a way. My focus then shifted to how limited I felt… And so my dream scape began to limit me. I mentally limited myself in a way that very much effected my dreaming reality.

I think of the dream world as a realm of immediate manifestation – a world designed completely by our conscious and subconscious thoughts. They say in the waking world that we create our own reality – but what does that really mean? In the dream world, we see the power of our thoughts instantaneously. We create our own reality right in front of our eyes. Just like in waking life, usually when we enter a dream, we are not in control of the situations happening around us – but our thoughts, intention, and focus in the dream can completely alter the events taking place. We can either be chased by monsters through sticky puddy (typical stress dream), or we can take off and fly far above our fears, giving us a new angle and perspective. The choice is completely yours, even if it doesn’t seem to be a conscious choice in the dream or waking life – if you are aware enough, lucid enough, it always is. The dream-scape is a great metaphor, a mirror really, for our waking perception. When I learned how to fly effortlessly in the dream world, I came to deeply understand just how powerful my thoughts are – how they shape my reality both in sleeping and waking life.

I’m reading a book right now called ‘Lucid Dreaming – Gateway to the Inner Self’. Within the first couple chapters, Robert Waggoner basically touches on all of these ideas that have been floating through my mind ever since I taught that dream character how to fly. I came across a quote today that I feel explains the power of thoughts and focus in the dream-scape:

“When you focus on your goal, you attract your goal. When you focus on fears, you attract your fears. In a mental space, your focus matters because it naturally draws you to the area of your focus.”

This lesson really comes into play when dealing with anxious thoughts and worries in waking life as well. Anyone who has experienced either of these knows that it can feel like a downward spiral of fear as soon as you get too involved with worrisome thoughts. By changing our thoughts, we not only change our perception but also influence our reality. While results of our thoughts may not be as immediate in waking life as they are in the dream world, still their power can be seen if you are aware, especially when working with horses!

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Horses – they are so in tune. They usually know what you are thinking before you do, and your frame of mind and intention really influences their actions and reactions. If you are aware of their subtleties, horses will show you just how powerful thoughts can be. Focus and intention are languages to the horse – they have a far greater understanding of the power within these subtleties than we do. Horses are ideal role models to those who wish to explore the power of thought and intention. Just like dreams, horses are a great way to explore deeper parts of yourself you were never aware of – they peal away our layers, giving us a glimpse into who we truly are.

Lucid dreaming has helped my find my power and uncover my true strength. My power doesn’t come from putting others down or controlling them or using them… My power comes from recognizing my own inner strength. Like in dreaming, do I believe I’m going to fall, or do I know that I can fly? The choice is mine.

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Horsemanship 

It’s not about the tricks – it’s not about the riding – it isn’t even about training.
It is about putting the horse first over ego, pleasure, or pride.

It’s about the horse – respecting her right to her own body, honoring her free will, and caring for all her needs physically, mentally, and emotionally.

It’s about the relationship. It’s about the friendship.

It’s not about what you can “make her do” – it’s about how you make her feel: understood, appreciated, loved.

This is the nature of true horsemanship.

Subtle Cues

  
Horses live in the world of subtleties; the quieter we become the easier it is for us to hear the horse. Yet it seems so many of us are screaming at horses through our domineering actions and noisy cues. I see equestrians everywhere repeating and/or escalating cues, not giving the horse a chance to figure it out on their own. I know I used to! Cues can be anything you and the horse want them to be: grand gestures or low whispers. When you and the horse are on the same page, you have a ability to create a language so individual to you and your equine friend, you both can make a cue whatever you want it to be without having to escalate it into something else.

For example, let’s say you want your cue for “back up” to be putting a hand up🖐. Instead of putting a hand up and holding the one cue, I often see people put their hand up… it doesn’t immediately work… so they start shaking their hand. Still the horse only takes a single step so they escalate the cue again and start walking towards the horse with the shaking hand in order to get the horse to back🐎👋🏃. The cue intensified; before the horse even had a chance to figure it out for herself, she was made to move. The cue is no longer simply putting a hand up✋; now you must wave your hand 👋and walk towards the horse🏃 to *make* her back up (rather than ask). As you “ask” for more, if you stick to this method, the cues must keep escalating and escalating until they are all the equivalent of screaming in horse body language. 

Because the cue escalated as soon as there was hesitation, the horse didn’t get the chance to contemplate the initial cue on her own. She was made to do what you wanted before she could think of it on her own and then choose to do it with you. Had she had the time, horse and human could have shaped the cue together, making it so that the cue never had to escalate. But so often we correct the horse before she has had the chance to experiment. We aren’t very comfortable giving the horse her freedom. In this case, we must learn to give the horse the freedom to think for herself… And to get it “wrong”. We seem to really fear that “wrong answer”, but it is the key to exploration and deep understanding. It’s okay if the horse doesn’t understand the cue at first! This is all a natural part of learning… for the horse but also for you. 
For most of us, escalating cues is simply a habit! I know it was for me. I wasn’t trying to take away Annie’s time to explore and think for herself; I thought I was helping her out! We want to “help” our horses get it, but in doing so, we take away their chance to think and create with us. For subtle cues, we must change our mindset from one of control to one of communication – instead of micromanaging the horse, creating a silent language together.

In order to do this, the horse must be as active a participant as we are… And usually that simply requires us giving her the chance. 

Subtle Cues

True Leadership

Leadership: the concept seems to have infiltrated every aspect of horsemanship – but our definition is tainted.
Instead of building trust and inspiring the horse, we have allowed the idea to justify our oppressive treatment of them, using it to our advantage however we want, no matter the cost to the horse.

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We claim the horse “needs” a boss, thus giving ourselves the permission to control her in whatever way we want in the name of “leadership”.
We use “leadership” to justify the “breaking” and bullying of horses in the name of “herd dynamic”.
It’s the same impulse to “rule the beast” that we have always craved – only now we claim our methods of control are “natural” as the horse needs to be “put in her place”.
We are obsessed with the “how”s and “why”s of “leadership”, but it seems we hardly ever stop to ask the most important question: what exactly is genuine leadership?

We think it is so important for the horse to have a “strong leader”, but do we know what a strong leader even looks like, and are we living up to the high standards of one?
A leader is not one who takes control of the beings around them, trying to make all of their decisions for them and “correcting” them when they are “wrong”. Those are more the micromanaging qualities of a manipulator.
A leader is a woman (or man) of balance. Someone who is sure of herself yet not afraid to admit her mistakes.
A leader doesn’t aim to control those around her – her own desires would never outweigh the well being of others, for to be a leader is to put your friends first. To be a leader is to sacrifice your wishes for the good of all.
A leader is someone you look to for security and peace of mind when things around you are chaotic.
A great leader is not someone who controls you – she is someone who inspires you.
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How does one know if they are a genuine leader to a horse?
When you are out on the trail or in nature all alone and something startling scares your equine friend, does she run away? Or does she run to you?
Does she come to you for safety and reassurance?
If so, you are a leader.
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When you are having a bad day and/or are feeling as low as can be, who do you go to to cheer you up and heal your soul? Do you run to your equine friend so she can hug and nuzzle and help you in some unspoken way no one else can?
If so, she is your leader.
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I do not believe horses need a leader in the way we equestrians traditionally mis-define it. They do not need a human to control their bodies or tell them how to be a horse.
The need for control is simply a symptom of fear. A brilliant leader doesn’t deny her fear, but she also does not let it define her. She does not allow fear to control her actions. She is someone to look to up to when things get scary.
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I don’t believe in our mutated definition of “leadership”, but if we are talking about “leadership” defined in its true sense, then I can confidently exclaim that I am a leader in Annie’s eyes and that Annie is my greatest leader… Best I have ever known.
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Being a leader is challenging – it means letting go of the fears that hold us down – letting go of the need for control that we use as a crutch to keep us together.
If you aspire to be a leader, it isn’t about the power you hold over others – it isn’t about anyone else at all.
To be a leader, you must focus on yourself; find balance, strength, and peace within. It’s not about control or other people, it’s about your ability to cope with the unknown and your own fears.
The opposing force to fear is love; love yourself, love others, love unconditionally!
So is the nature of a true leader…

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One of the Most Important “Steps” for Creating a Beautiful Relationship…

The first, most important thing we need to do to start a solid relationship with a horse is to spend time being present with them.
This is time dedicated simply to getting to know one another – no training, no agenda, no expectations.

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Horses live here and now, in this present moment. They are fully aware – fully alive. We humans spend so much time living busy lives, that a lot of the time we let the most precious moments pass us by. We are constantly occupied – on our phones, in our heads, by our worries  – so much so that we don’t have the room for this very moment… we don’t have time for the horse.
One of the greatest lessons the horse has to teach us is to be present and awake in our lives right now.
So it makes perfect sense that one of the key concepts we equestrians miss, something horses are constantly trying to get us to do, is slow down. Slow down – and just be.

Just like in any relationship, you cannot just see your friend when you want something – you can’t just show up expecting to ride, to train, to take. In the human world, someone who only wants to hang out with you when they get something out of it/you do something for them is called “a user”.
Yet we do this without question all of the time to the horses in our lives. We get to the barn and immediately hop on to ride without first building a true two-way friendship with the horse based on how you make each other feel, not what they can do for you.

Horses are desperately trying to get us to slow down with them and just “be”. But we mistake their aid for “bad behavior” most of the time, ignoring their vital message. Lesson one is taking the time to relax and listen.

The best way to get to know the horse you love is to spend time with her doing “nothing”. Go out into the pasture, sit outside a stall, and just be with the horse. This can be a lot harder than it seems for many people! We would think that doing “nothing” should be easy, but sometimes it takes a lot of patience, self nurturing, and love to really allow yourself to relax and feel comfortable “being” in your own skin, no distractions.

This is so important to do with all horses throughout your relationship. Like in any friendship, you need to take the time just to hang out and really know your best friend. Both you and the horse need this quality time to connect on the deepest level and feel at total peace.

Relationship

Take the time you need. Not the time that people expect, not the time that’s “normal”, not the time you want it to be. Take the time it needs, and allow yourself to build something incredibly strong and truly magical. This is a relationship after all.
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