This past weekend I was blessed to ride both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s ride ended up being a delightful arena ride where we worked on a variety of things.
On Sunday, I didn’t feel the desire to do schooling, and it was very windy, so I didn’t exactly want to go for a trail ride either. I felt drawn to do connection work. As I walked out to catch Ace in the back pasture, I suddenly knew what I wanted to do. Get on Ace bareback, with his halter, in the field amongst the other horses. Riding my seasoned horse in from the back pasture isn’t a new thing for me. Riding Ace in, however, is. I tried to get on him twice in the past in the field, but he felt too anxious each time. I didn’t mind ‘giving up’ those times in the past because, honestly, I was pretty scared! Getting on a younger horse, the bottom of the pecking order, I was having visions of a horse lunge to bite him, kick, or they all decide to gallop in ahead of us had me more than happy just to lead Ace in. But Sunday was different. I felt different.
See, over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on this guide to help people learn and start using conscious language as it applies to our horses and us. If you’ve ever created something, you’ll know that the creator/teacher always ends up learning the most during the process by preparing, researching, and writing out their content. I want to share something that I wrote in my guide, Harness The Power of Speech.
“I think God has a plan for all of us. We have all been given beautiful gifts, and we are meant to share them with the world. We are to shine our light. When we stop listening to our inner voice, or rather God's voice, when we hide our light, that is when we start to find ourselves in times of chaos or dissatisfaction. Maybe you don't feel worthy of asking for more, or perhaps you don't feel worthy of your gift, to begin with.
Some people have the gift of teaching, working on cars, building houses, creating jewelry, and then there are those gifted with the love of horses. For us who are passionate about horses, our gifts will all look different. Some people will be able to teach clinics, some will jump, rope, do liberty, trail ride, and then some people use will horses to feel connected to God or the universe. I think all of us horse lovers are designed for something extraordinary, just like every other human alive. It is up to us to accept and develop the gift that has been bestowed to us.
I grew up with horses my entire life; I always had a deep connection with them, and they helped me through some challenging times. Horses were, and still are, my safe place. However, what I’ve been learning now is that we have a duty to these animals as well. In the past, I was judgmental, critical, short-tempered, and expected my horses to “fix” me emotionally.
Now I believe I have a higher calling, and so do you. We owe it to our horses to better ourselves on our own. When we start healing from our pasts and being emotionally available to our horses, we are open to seeing their hurts, fears and struggles. We can then open our eyes and begin to learn their language or communication method, and we can start helping them with their emotions.
In my heart, I knew I was missing too many pieces of the puzzle to create a deeper connection. I am so fortunate that I listened when God, or my inner knowing, started pushing me towards a new adventure. I could have let my fear take over and give up. But I accepted the challenge that has led me into the most incredible journey! I encourage you to be brave. You have a brilliant light to shine to the world; don’t hold back, read on!
So, what if you could overcome your fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and self-doubt by merely speaking and thinking as if you were calm, capable, confident, and relaxed...” Leanne Nelson, Harness The Power Of Speech.
The point I want to make is that I could have stayed in my place of fear about getting on and riding Ace in from the field. I could have let my imagination run away with me and think of the endless scenarios of how I could get hurt, or even have Ace get hurt. I could have let my inner itty-bitty-shitty-committee, as Jane Pike calls it (excuse the cuss word, but it just flows so well, doesn’t it?) make me feel unworthy, not good enough, not capable, and in general, keep myself small.
Luckily, I know I am destined for more than smallness. I might not know exactly where I will end up in my journey with Ace, but what I do know is that I am called to be brave, confident, calm, enthusiastic, curious, empathetic, patient, a leader, and always grow. I know this is what I’m supposed to do; accept these challenges and find my way through them, and then share with others.
So, once I got out to the horses, Ace greeted me with his usual friendly lovey-eyed self. I looked around to see the best thing to use to step up on to try and get on. I decided on using the back of an old pickup that amongst the row of automobile gravesites. This was the first time I was using something other than a fence to try and get on. Ace knows how to side pass over to pick me up, so he already knows the hard part. We had to work on his confidence at side passing towards the truck, then staying there while he got a nice scratch. It didn’t take long, and I was able to get on. The other horses were close by and napping, so we started walking around the pasture a little. Only a few minutes passed, and I knew we could make the ride back in from the field to the tack shed.
It went so well! The other horses stayed in the pasture, and we plodded our way down the path. While Ace ate his feed, he became stressed that he was, in fact, alone. I decided to do some groundwork to get his focus back on him and me, and the present moment. I was already over the moon with how well everything went and was going to end things on a happy note and let him go when I had the crazy idea to ride him back out to the herd to catch another horse so that I could take my daughters for a ride. I don’t think I have ridden a horse out to the herd since I was a young, fearless kid. The fear of a horse just bolting to get back to the pasture was pretty high on my mind previous to this. But on that day, I accepted the calling. Yet again, I was not disappointed! Relaxed, loose rein, let downs the whole ride back. Ace even spooked once at some kittens zooming around the corner of the barn, and besides giving a surprising, startling jump, he was calm and relaxed moments after.
I want to encourage you to listen to that inner knowing. That God-in-you knowing. That feeling you have when you know you’re being called to do something. Even if it might seem irrelevant like riding a horse in from the pasture, accepting that call is empowering. God has great plans for you and your horse.
Perhaps when you were younger you played a video game called Donkey Kong. If you got hit by a barrel, you had to go all the way back to be beginning to start the level over. In a video of Warwick Schiller, he refers to the Donkey Kong Principle. Generally speaking, if you are working with your horse and you come up against a problem, don’t just sit there fighting with that problem. Go back to the beginning and start again. This is the best way to find the “hole” where things start to go wrong.
When I was riding the last week, Ace was having some difficulty getting his right lead. This has been a struggle for him in the past but just came up again as a problem. During that ride, I kept changing tactics trying to find the easiest way to show him what I wanted. We were able to get the right lead in the end, and I was fairly happy with our progress. After the ride though, I realized I didn’t “donkey kong”. Yes, I slowed things down to try and work with Ace the best I could at the moment, but I didn’t stop, and start over. Talking with a few knowledgeable friends of mine I got some good exercises to help him.
With harvest still underway, there were about 5 days where I didn’t work with him since that ride. I was also in a bit of a personal funk. I decided when I finally got out there I was going to start with some groundwork, then ride bareback if we got that far. I was surprised where I soon found myself, standing beside him asking him to disengage his hip with just touching his ribs with my hand and he wouldn’t budge. Eventually, I was leaning right into him, and he was looking back at me with the expression, “what are you doing?” Alright, let’s go back even further, two hands, one on his rump, the other on his ribs. Yay, we got a step! Slowly, I was able to get to light pressure with one hand in the place my leg would be if I was to be asking him while riding. I called it a night. The next day, he was much more responsive, and I was able to jump on and practice bareback with a halter. I like this exercise because it really shows his level of understanding when I don’t have a bit in his mouth. It also lets me move freely and really influence his body movements with my own with no saddle between us.
As I reflected our ride over, I realized it takes me much longer to remember to apply the “donkey kong principle” to myself. I had been in a funk for 5 days. I was depressed, stressed out, irritable, and grumpy. I knew I was in a funk, but I honestly had no desire to fix it. Until I got downright sick of being in my darkness.
So, I did donkey kong on myself. I did an ATF session on myself, I inhaled my aromatherapy, I meditated, I changed my language. Not surprisingly, I soon found myself feeling happy, energized, focused, and wanting to be productive again! After some reflection, I realized I was just tired and burnt out. I was wanting a break but felt guilty for it. So instead of being present, acknowledging this, and resting; I let the guilt drag me down into a slump and the depression kept me there, and I found myself zoning out of my life, binge-watching “New Girl” once my kids were in bed.
It is easy for me to sit back and try and break down the steps to make things easier for my horse, and my kids. But doing the same for myself is definitely a skill that requires more practice. I am just thankful I have the right people in my corner to keep pushing me, even if I don’t want to be pushed at that moment.
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I can already see the look on your face as you read the title. A look of: “how does that make any sense,” as you furrow your brow and maybe tilt your head to the side.. I didn’t even really understand what I was learning until the result presented itself. And that was a calmer horse.
First off, these ideas are not my own. I have been following several trainers, and although they maybe didn’t say it flat out as I did, they laid out the work so I would come to that conclusion on my own. So here I am, spilling the beans. Why? Because I think more people should know about this, and it could help a lot of horses and their humans find their calm faster. Let’s get to it.
At a recent Jonathan Field clinic, I participated in it with my horse, Ace. Early on, Jonathan kept talking about the importance of having a plan. I had heard this before, but with different wording with similar meaning. Or at least that’s how I was interpreting it. However, it started to click when we were doing the groundwork. I had to direct Ace in a pattern while he was about 10 feet from me going around in a circle. Pylons were out, and I had to use my body and intention to get him to go on the pylons’ far or near side. Talk about focus! I had to be 100% attentive to what I wanted Ace to do and where I wanted him to go. The second I became wishy-washy in my mind, Ace always went off the path.
It wasn’t long into this when I could see Ace mellow out. He was stretching out, lowering his head, flowing forward in a nice even trot. He was calm. It was like a lightbulb moment for me. He was relaxed because I was focused. He was calm because I had a plan. I knew where I wanted him to go, so he had nothing to start creating anxiety. He didn’t have to be concerned if I knew where I was going or whether I was sure that corner had a monster in it. Ace was able to relax when he knew I was right there in the moment, taking care of him.
I think another large factor in this was Ace wasn’t going to get into trouble for trying to go somewhere he thought I wanted him to go when I had no idea what I wanted, but I just decided to nag at him anyways. In that circle, on our path, he knew if he responded to my slight asks and intention, I would let him do his thing. Go around the circle. I wasn’t nitpicking every little thing. He had a job: trot the circle. I had a job: pick the path of the circle. As a result, he saw me as a confident leader.
Now I want to expand on something a little further here. As important as it is to have a plan, I also want to remind you that we still need to be flexible. Warwick Schiller has taught me to listen to my horse. I might want to work on a specific drill pattern, but my horse might tell me that we should work on something else. For example, let’s say my horse is suddenly not moving his shoulders nicely. If I persistently push my plan forward, I will only butt heads with him because he needs his stiff shoulders worked on. The same applies if he’s a bit spooky at things. If he spooks a little at the halter, the gate, the saddle pad, the saddle, the fence, and the arena gate, how can I be shocked if he blows up and bolts at the next little thing? His worry cup got full, and I was too short-sighted to address the initial concern before moving on to my plan.
Learning these two things and finally connecting them has made me very excited! Ace and I have a very long journey ahead of us. We will be partners for life. I am in no rush for our future, as we are in your moment together right now. I am so thankful he has the patience to forgive me when I fail continuously and show such satisfaction when we have a significant “ah-ha” moment together.
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Until next time, 💜
Someone I deeply respect recently told me that, "Anger is often a result of blaming someone else for our choices."
I have always had a temper. I even received a nickname because of it as a child. I thought it was just apart of me, something I had to learn to control; stuff it way down inside and not let it out. It has been a lifelong struggle between my anger and I. When I heard my friend say those words to me, I broke down. The words were ringing in my head so loud I had to find a chair.
But then, she told me the way out. She said, "The way to the other side is through forgiveness, touching your anger/blame/shame/guilt with your great God love, letting it all be ok and then reclaiming your power moment, to moment, to moment." Could it be this simple? Yes. Simple - yes, easy - no. I was grasping for ways to end the extreme waves of anger. To stop being so easily annoyed at circumstances, myself, or others. Anger has always been my knee jerk reaction to things out of my control. And I never really understood why, until now. I was then to think back of a time where I felt this, which could be moments ago, or from a time in my past. It came to me quickly. I have not been able to forgive myself for some experiences when I was a teen that has scarred me deeply. I was holding onto self-blame, "I got myself into that mess; I should have known better." I felt shame over what happened. I felt powerless, like a puppet, and I couldn't break the strings.
Letting my great God' s-love love me then at that moment, started to take power away from the negative emotions surrounding it. These words will be on my heart and said aloud frequently as I begin to reprogram my thought patterns. "Me love me. Me love all of me. God loves me. Hey, anger, I see you, and I love you and accept you. I choose to reclaim my power."
Not suprisingly, anger was also my go-to reaction when I was working with horses in the past. I was always quick to lose my temper if things weren't going well. I had a negative outlook on the entire situation. The more I learn about my emotions, the more it changes how I interact with my horses. I can see the problem in a whole new light. Learning how to look into the past, understand where the real trigger is, and finally release that negative energy is paramount to moving forward. I'm not giving my ego the power to be easily offended if I fail. I don't take it as personally if I am struggling with something with my horse. I can give myself the grace to continue to grow right alongside Ace. Does this mean I never fall back into anger? No. But I can recognize the pattern and stop the cycle much faster at that moment.
“She is the typical crazy sorrel mare type: grumpy, full of sass, fighting all the time, ears pinned, you know what I mean.”
“Oh yeah, you’re riding a paint, no wonder you’re having so much trouble. That’s just classic behaviour for one of those crazy horses.”
“My horse will always be a hot mess.”
“Jeeze my horse is a special kind of stupid. We had this down pat yesterday, and now he’s acting like a total spazz!”
I think we are all guilty of having these kinds of thoughts revolving around our horses. We put them into prepackaged labels of how we think they are, and how they will always be. And somehow we are still surprised when they don’t change.
What if I told you that it is these exact thoughts that are creating the behaviours you desperately want to get rid of.
To explain a bit of what I mean, I’ll share with you one of my experiences with this. We have a horse on the farm, Hungry. He is my husband’s rope horse and he and I did not get along very well. I had labelled him as the “a** hole,” and whenever I went into the pen I always had my eyes out for that a** hole palomino. When I first heard about changing my thoughts and expectations, I thought this would be a great way to test it out. I was a little skeptical but was willing to give it a try. Before I went out to the horse pen, I did some mental check in’s. I prepared myself by thinking good thoughts about Hungry, and how I wanted our interaction to go. As I walked into the herd he brought his head up from grazing, and just stood there looking at me. His eyes were softer than his usual. His ears were pricked forward in curiosity. I started talking to him and praising him for his good attributes. A few moments later he was walking towards me with kind eyes, his muzzle stretched out hoping for a scratch. This was much different from the usual, ear pinned, “what do you want” glare I would normally get.
After this, I started to try and use my thoughts and mental pictures to my advantage. I made a real effort to project how I wanted my rides to go. I would leave the house already thinking my horse was amazing, the ride was going to be great, and I would have a lot of fun. This soon became the reality! The more I practice it, the more my horses seem to respond and do what I am picturing in my mind. I am very much a beginner at this, but when it does work, it feels amazing!
Mental thoughts are also paramount with our self-talk. If we are playing a movie of negativity about ourselves in our brain we are setting ourselves up for failure. Guess what? We have the power to change the movie! If you are forever swimming in a pool of self-doubt, uncertainty, unworthiness, fear of failure, then you are going to have a very hard time being the active leader your horse truly needs. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can your horse trust you? If you don’t believe in your horse, how can they have confidence in themselves?
I encourage you to take an active change in picking the movie you play in your head about your horse, spouse, and yourself. You have the power to bring in positivity, change, and room for growth.
In my latest Youtube video, I share some ways I have been using these mental images regarding my horse Ace.
Until next time, 💜
“What we speak is what we create.” Andrew Bennett
Others, myself included, believe that our words, and even our thoughts, will shape our reality.
What do I mean by this? It is quite simple in theory. If we are projecting negative thoughts and speech into the universe, that is exactly what will happen. Counter to this, if we are forming our thoughts and words in positive ways, we will attract positive outcomes. This is often referred to as conscious language.
Since making an active change in how I speak, and how I think, there is no doubt that this is changing my life. I am loving the results; it is influencing every aspect of my life! To elaborate, I would like to share with you something that happened last week.
My horse Ace and I were attending a three day Jonathan Field clinic in Saskatoon. I was so excited! The morning we were supposed to load up and hit the road, I was very conscious of my language. I was repeatedly stating that travelling alone with my two young girls, (ages 3.5 and 1.5) and my inexperienced horse, for over three hours would be “fun and easy.” Believe it or not, it was exactly that.
If you have travelled with young kids before you will understand the importance of being flexible. Sometimes you have to leave earlier, or later than expected. I was as prepared as possible; most of the bags were loaded and the trailer was ready. All I had left to do was take out the cooler, snacks, diaper bag, kids, and catch my horse. We had a couple of hours to spare so we spent the rest of the morning playing in the yard. I noticed my youngest daughter was getting tired earlier than expected. I was also watching the clouds as it felt like a storm was going to roll in. “Today is fun and easy,” I kept repeating. I decided to get ahead of any potential melt-downs and rain, and I packed a lunch so we could hit the road earlier than planned. Intuition told me to take the last load out to the truck and see how far away the horses were, saying again in my mind, “this will be fun and easy.” I was trying my best not to feel anxious at the thought of having to walk 15-20 minutes with two little kids to find the horses.
Guys, I’m not lying; there was Ace walking up to the gate only feet from my house. They never come around to this gate as they spend their time in the far pasture. So there I was doing a happy dance while I easily caught my horse. “Thank you, God!” With Ace at the trailer and eating his feed, I go inside and get the girls. In no time at all, we were rolling down the road.
The girls travelled well. You could even say it was fun and easy. I decided to travel a different highway to avoid some major construction. Since we left earlier than planned I was going to have to drop the girls off at my parents to use up some time. I also didn’t want to be sitting on the street with a loaded horse and kids in the truck while we waited for the barn to open. As it happened, this new route I had picked to avoid construction ended up being ideal as I could get to my mom’s much easier to drop off the girls prior to going to the barn to settle in Ace. Once I got the girls unpacked, I headed off for an additional 25-minute drive to the barn. Watching the clock I was going to arrive ten minutes early. As fate would have it, the gates were already open. I got a prime parking spot. “This is fun and easy!”
Once unloaded, Ace handled the city like a pro! There was construction going on in the parking lot; tons of trailers were pulling in for an evening barrel racing jackpot. It was a very busy place. He never lost focus. He just sat and happily ate his hay by the trailer while I got his stall ready.
He was so chill and responsive I had a strong desire to go for a ride. This would never have been possible if my girls were with me. Since they were happy with their Nana and Papa, it only made sense to take advantage of the situation. Saddle up, ready to go, and only two barrel racers were in the outdoor arena. Winning! He handled their intense energy amazingly well. At one point a big crane forklift was loading a flat deck trailer right beside the arena, and though he was attentive, he didn’t lose focus. "We are in control."
The next three days of the clinic were life-changing. Ace and I learned so much. I was determined to absorb all the knowledge and experience Jonathan had to offer. Every morning on the drive to the barn I was making affirmations such as, “I easily understand Jonathan’s methods; I easily communicate with Ace; I see what Ace is showing me; I radiate happiness and encouragement; Ace and I are in tune with each other.” I have never felt so connected with the universe, God, or with my horse. So needless to say — I am a huge fan of conscious language and positive affirmations!
Do you find yourself often stuck in a negative cycle? I would love to show you exactly how I started using these methods in my life. Click here to get My Free Guide to help get the world working for you, not against you.
Until next time, 💜
In addition to changing my expectations, I started to do these three things which have helped me have a bit more sanity within the chaos of being a farm wife and a mother. If you would like to see what has worked for me, you can get my guide for Finding Time.
What are your tricks for finding time? Share with us, you never know how shining your light will help someone else.
“I am worthy of my happiness”
Enter guilt: the destroyer of happiness, the dark cloud that taints your joy, the cup of water spilt over a wet painting -- smearing your beautiful picture of life into confusion.
From a young age I was a people pleaser. I would ignore my own needs, wants and wishes if they seemed to make anyone else uncomfortable or upset. I can recall a memory of being visibility upset the night before my mom was going to be gone the next day to work. I hated it when she left; I didn’t like change. I could never understand why she had to go to work. Mostly, I probably didn’t like the fact my older siblings were in charge. After expressing to my dad why I was upset, I remember hearing them having a discussion while I was laying in bed. I remember feeling the tension, even though I couldn’t really hear what they were saying. I automatically assumed it was about the fact I didn’t want mom to go to work. I assumed my parents were having a disagreement, and I was the reason. Since that time, I tried my hardest to show that I was happy, even in moments I wasn’t. I didn’t want to cause issues between my parents. I could suck it up for their sake.
That memory was never one to haunt me, but it was never a pleasant one. Now, as an adult trying to understand my emotions, I can look back and see that is when things changed in my own mind. I didn’t want people to hurt because of me. I never really assessed it, or addressed it. I didn’t talk to my parents about it until very recently. And like most things a child remembers, it was skewed, not factual, and I was really only remembering the emotions felt.
Recently, I have really started to work on my own personal growth. Taking charge of my mental state, and trying to really step into my whole being. I want to shine like the sun. I do not want to be held back; I want to be exactly who God intends me to be. I have things to offer the world, and I am done letting my negative inner voice hold me back. I want to radiate happiness, joy, confidence and compassion. However, this is no easy feat. My inner voice is constantly nagging me, causing endless doubt. “What do you have to offer, really?” “What if people laugh at you?” “You really think people want to hear what you have to say?” “You have way too much on the go right now. Maybe wait another few years.” “You should just be content with who you are, where you are. Why do you need more?”
It has taken a while to really hear what my inner voice has been telling me. I could easily block it out, but the feeling it leaves behind would taint my beliefs. I would give in to the feelings of inadequacy, fear, guilt, worthlessness. I would let them stop any growth and let my ego keep me in what it considered a safe space. Then I started to learn I could actually take control of my ego -- my negative inner voice -- that was causing all this self doubt and ruining my self love. I learned about a method of meditation along with affirmations which is accompanied with specific essential oils to really tap deep into my heart space. It allowed me to truly open my heart as to why I was having such negative feelings. When I understood why, I could then start to let them go, to truly let it dissolve. Now, back to my memory I mentioned previously -- I was able to step outside of that memory and truly realize I was an innocent. I did exactly as I should have. I was sad, and I opened up and expressed why. The effect of what happened after was not my weight to bear. I could feel at that moment of time the reality as my mom needed that income to help us kids with the expense of our horse hobbies. As long as I've known this, the wrong feeling of guilt still haunted me. For all I know, my parents weren’t even discussing me; it could have been a completely different topic. I feel like I can now let it go. I can start to move on from the guilt I carried for so long as a young child. I can look at the situation and see I was never meant to be hurt; I was never meant to feel like a burden. Being a child, I let my wild imagination take me down a rabbit hole that has affected me into adulthood. But not anymore. I’m changing my emotional pathways. I am creating new ways of thinking. I am literally rewiring my brain. Our sense of smell is the only sense that has access to the emotional centre of our brain: the amygdala. That is why the oils make this technique so beneficial, and more effective. Essential oils also cross the blood brain barrier -- allowing for real change to take place.
I did this method of meditation, affirmations and oils last night, and this morning I woke up feeling much different. My body felt lighter, I felt happier, my brain less chaotic. I am so thankful I will be able to continue repeating this process; working through the layers of emotions buried deep inside. I am so excited to have the ability to help myself become a better, more complete human, to really step into my entire brightness that I am meant to share with the world.
I encourage you, that if you feel like you are ready to step into yourself, to dig deep and start letting go of the past, that you are ready to step into who you are meant to be. Don’t hesitate. Don’t let that inner voice, your ego, keep you small. Don’t let your ego keep you where it thinks you are safe. Don't witness another sunset before committing. Be brave. I’m right here with you, in the trenches of changing my world. We can walk with each other, support and encourage one another.
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I hadn’t ridden Ace since the end of April. I had to put down my barrel horse May 1st, then seeding started shortly after, and we worked tirelessly until completion on May 30th. During this time I was able to work through my grief of losing my other horse, and started to feel the call to go back out and connect with my other horses again.
Things finally worked out on this chilly evening to head out. We had received some wonderful rain; the air was crisp, clean, and fresh. I love that smell. I didn’t have a set plan for what I hoped to accomplish. First thing first, would the horses even let me come near them? Earlier that day I had gone out to check on them after a wind storm and they were very spunky, not interested in pets or attention of any sort. I grabbed my halter, swung it over my shoulder, and headed out in rubber boots through the wet grass. Ace saw me a long way off, his big bright blaze rising into the air as a welcome greeting. I walked half way out, sat on a rock, and took some deep breaths. I focused on heart breathing, being calm, relaxed. Only a minute or two later Ace walked to meet me where I sat where we exchanged breaths.
Normally, I had been making it a habit this spring to lunge before riding; however, this time I felt drawn to use the round pen. Supplements eaten, brushed, saddled, and bridle in hand, we went to the round pen. I took his halter off once I had closed the gate, and stepped away. I could see he was already very in tune with me. His head, ears, and entire body were with me. I was very pleased to see how calm, focused and confident he was even though the other horses were on the far side of the pasture. “Time to take the next step,” I thought. Once out in the arena, sitting centered in the saddle, Ace was impatient to be off. “Alright, you’re turn to lead then, Ace.”
Ace was adamant to head out of the arena. We hadn’t been on any trail rides yet this year, and I was fairly certain he just wanted to get closer to the herd. One thing I’ve learned is to work where the horse wants to be; you’ll have much easier success. So off we went, through the intimidating barnyard, and into the field which bordered the horse pasture. Once we got to the end of the pasture fence line, Ace became very showy about his displeasure by tossing his head any time I put pressure on the reins. I figured he just didn’t want to continue walking out farther away from the herd so I turned him back. Work where they want to be, remember? Ace’s head tossing was becoming a nuisance at this point, and I was trying to pinpoint the cause. We were walking towards the horses and he was still obviously annoyed. He wanted to break into a trot, which I was stopping by bending to a stop then waiting for relaxation while flexing. In the past this worked like a charm. Not this time. “OK fine then, have it your way Ace. I’ll just leave you alone and let's see what you want to do.” To my surprise he headed off perpendicular away from the horses, right out to the center of the field. Again, he tried to break into a trot several times. Each time I tried to encourage relaxation through bending to a stop and waiting for the soft flexion. I could see I wasn’t helping him. I could sense he wanted to have fun. I was realizing he wanted to run. Once this clicked, my anxiety started to rise. Ace has a history of bucking in the past. He was also showing plenty of expression by throwing his head around. The last thing I wanted was a runaway, or a bucking runaway. “Ace I’m not ready yet!” I told him. I wanted to think it would all be alright, but my heart rate wasn’t quite convincing me that it would be. I started really going internal, to process my fear. As I tried to come up with every reason to not go for a lope, Ace kept asking, rather persistently.
“Just TRUST me!” I could almost hear the words coming out of Ace’s heart.
Big breath -- I started off by letting him really extend his trot. He wanted more. He broke into a lope on his own, and I immediately tried to bring him back down. He shook his head in frustration. Back to long trotting, trying to decide what I want to do. “Don’t make me regret this. OK -- Lets go.” I barely had formed the thought in my mind when Ace broke into a lope. I kept trying to create contact with the bit to feel more secure; Ace was getting annoyed and threw in a crow-hop. “Seriously dude? I’m trying!”
“TRUST me!” was what he kept countering with. Trust him, get off his face, and believe we are a team.
I have never ridden Ace when he actually wanted to go out into the field alone, and at the same time, to also want to blow off some steam. This was huge on so many levels. His confidence in himself, and in us as a team, has grown. Did we have a picture perfect lope through the field, my arms in the air like I’m about to fly off? No. Did he offer to crow-hop a few more times? Yep. Everytime my anxiety started to take over and I got on his face he got saucy. But I kept my bearings. I kept breathing, and I rode him through it. I let him express his energy in a forward motion. I kept showing him that it was OK to lope, and it was also OK to accept some direction from me. Now, I could have gotten after him and made him lope circles until all that sass was gone. But I didn’t want to. He was communicating with me the best way he could. And I was trying to listen. I could tell he didn’t plan to make me eat dirt; he wasn’t carrying that kind of energy. I did make sure, however, that we did end our ride after a pleasant, relaxed lope, with no extra sass involved. I do have to get over my fear that any time he shows attitude it will result in a bronc session. I have to “ride the horse that I have today,” as Warwick Schiller would say.
Now here comes the really cool bit. I had to encourage him to head back to the barnyard so we could get back home. He wanted to head back out into the field for more fun. Normally, any horse is chomping at the bit to get back to be unsaddled. Not Ace this time. As much as I was tempted to stay out, I also wasn’t about to tempt fate. I wanted to end on a good note. Coming back through the barnyard he was much more relaxed than when we had walked through previously. He went up to a tractor to smell and touch of his own accord, and again with the grain vac; both objects he was sidestepping when we walked past the first time. A large tractor tire also didn’t cause any concern like it had only an hour ago, and the same for a couple pallets stacked alongside the shed. It was as if he felt that he could brave anything, and finally trust me; because I had trusted him. He felt like we were a team, and I wasn’t going to put him in harms way.
It was such an odd ride, but an amazing one. So many new things happened between us. I’m so thankful for all that I’m learning in regards to positive reinforcement, learning to tune in to what my horse is trying to show me, and becoming more familiar with my own emotions. If I can’t recognize my own fears, I won’t be able to address them, in order to learn techniques to help me understand, process and let go of thoughts and feelings that were just holding me back.
I have a confession to make.
I haven’t caught, or ridden any of my horses since Sonny died - May 1st.
Recently, I’ve been finding myself using every excuse to not go out to the pasture. This morning I decided that I had to face my emotions — whatever they might be. I grabbed three oils that called my name, and when I had a moment from my kids, walked out to the herd.
I didn’t have a plan, or agenda. I just knew I had to open up my heart and feel whatever had to be felt, so I could start moving forward again. As I walked out, the weight of the oils in my sweater pocket pulled heavily on my heart. The closer I got to the horses, the more emotions I was feeling; but they were all jumbled up in a confusing knot. I sat down on a boulder with the horses at a distance. I took a deep breath, trying to prepare my heart and mind for what I knew was inevitable.
I pulled out the first oil I knew that I needed. Forgiveness. Just holding the bottle in my hand was bringing tears to my eyes. I opened the lid, and a few drops fell onto my palm making tiny puddles. Rubbing my hands together, I cupped them around my mouth and nose; closing my eyes I took several deep breaths. I started to have a conversation with my inner self.
“What are you scared of?”
“What do you mean? Failing in what way?”
“Of failing my other horses. Of missing health problems. Of not being a strong enough leader. Of not having Sonny to fall back on as my confidence booster.”
“OK, those are all legit concerns. But I know you. I know you always do your best in any situation. It’s time to let the fear go. It’s time to let the guilt go. It's time to forgive yourself.”
I’m crying by this point. Feeling the flood of emotions listening to this inner dialog. I acknowledge my fears, guilt, and regret. I mentally place them inside a bubble, and I let the wind carry it away. I start to feel calmer, I focus my breathing on my heart. When I exhale I visualize my breath entering Ace’s heart. When I inhale, I visualize his breath entering my heart. I’m slowly moving into a place of calm; then I hear something. I open my eyes and Ace has left the herd and is standing over me. I can feel his emotions as if he was speaking them to me. Pictures enter my mind that I’m certain were from him -- his way of trying to get something through to me. What I felt through those images was “Mom. It’s OK. I know you’re sad; I know you miss Sonny. I miss him too. But we are all OK. And it’s OK you’ve been grieving and taking time. It’s cool mom. I’m OK.” He was persistent in showing me that he was indeed OK.
I pull out my next oil. Valor. I repeat the same process, but this time I start using affirmations. “I am good enough. I always do my best. I love my horses, and they love me." It was during this that Hank, our miniature and Sonny’s best bud, came up to me. Quickly, pictures were coming into my mind again. What he seemed to want to show me was, “Hey, look, we all know you tried your best to help Sonny. But we also know he is at peace now, and not hurting anymore. You did good.” Then as quickly as his emotions came at me, he moved on to go back grazing. It was an odd, but beautiful moment. Odd to me because Hank and I have never really been on the same wavelength before, and we haven’t shared a deep connection like that.
The last oil I used was Hope. Breathing in deeply I started to envision Ace and I, regarding where I hope to be one day. I can see us loping through the field bareback. I can feel the joy and silliness as we play around in the arena. I see us exploring the fields around us without a care in the world, but enjoying each other's company. I feel the power of us running around barrels as a true team. Yet again, I’m projecting these thoughts and feelings out towards Ace. Again, he leaves the herd and comes up to me to nuzzle my hands. I get this picture in my mind, and I feel like he’s trying to show me, “About time mom, I miss you.”
I finally feel that longing to ride again. To feel that connection, that bond. To let my relationships with my horses help continue to heal my heart.
I know this story might sound made up, embellished, or way out there. But I’m a firm believer horses often want to show us how they feel. But our own minds get in the way. What happened today is something that I have never experience with such certainty. I am really trying to learn to be present in the moment, calm my mind, and to be receptive. I know these oils aren't magic, but in my experience they truly help me release emotions in such a powerful and positive way. It’s my hope that in some small way, my story and experiences can help you develop a deeper connection with your own horse.
Want to chat? Have you ever experienced something like this? I’d love to hear. Shoot me a message or come check out my private community- click HERE
When I met my future-husband, Brad, he was a rodeo man; he competed in calf and team roping. It wasn’t very long into that scene when I became determined not to be a typical buckle-bunny, just tagging along to every rodeo and jackpot, to sit on the sidelines. As fate would have it, a horse came up for sale under an hour away: a seasoned 2-3D barrel horse who knew what he was doing. I’m a firm believer that “the blind shouldn’t lead the blind,” so I wanted a horse who could help teach me. I knew this horse wouldn’t win me any rodeo buckles, but I just wanted a horse that was fun and safe. I was the farthest thing from a barrel racer. Honestly, I thought the sport was kinda silly. How hard could it really be? I had done barrels at 4-H Achievement Days as a kid, and that was the extent of my knowledge — bouncing around three barrels on our trusty painted pony, Champ, hoping not to get bucked off on the run home. But I was now determined to give the real deal a solid try. Galloping around is fun regardless, right?
Brad and I drove to check him out when we had a break from harvest. I see this nice-looking grey gelding, about 15.2hh; with a beautiful long mane and tail; big, beautiful, bright, dark eyes; and his ears! I am a sucker for ears that look just so, and I loved his, even if his left ear had a split at the very top. Sonny was his barn name, Finishlineyourmine his registered name, and I loved it. The owner took him around the barrels in an open field and he definitely had some spunk! I was pretty intimidated, swinging a leg over his back. But the owner coached me how to slow-lope the pattern. It was that moment, where I felt his power, his energy, his love for running around three barrels in the field, that I fell in love. I fell in love with him, and the sport. We loaded him up in the trailer, I wrote a cheque that was my entire wages for working on the farm till that point, and I couldn’t have been more proud!
I was greener than green in the barrel pen, but we have good friends who were more than willing to teach me. Sonny was taking excellent care of me. We started entering in jackpots and where I was nervous, not having any idea what to expect; however, dealing with the chaos, crowds, and some real crazy horses, he was my calm. He confidently strutted everywhere we went. Flags, music, screaming kids, prancing horses, vehicles — nothing phased him. He was my rock in this new, exciting world. Every time I got on my fancy grey gelding, my heart sang. He was my happy place, and I was becoming addicted to the adrenaline rush that came from racing. I was also surprised how much finesse and refined training it took to have a good barrel horse. I worked hard to keep Sonny confident and not create a hyper, uncontrollable, fire-breathing dragon. Some racers love the real hot horses; I however, do not. I tribute my love for the sport to Sonny, and I think if I had purchased the wrong horse, I could have easily been soured.Thankfully, I listened to my gut, and I never looked back.
Sonny is still, to this date, the fastest horse I have ever ridden. I never pushed him to give his all out in a field. When I would let him open up, he would just fly, his feet barely touching the ground. I encouraged him to open up a little bit a few times. Between the tears and his mane in my face, I could barely see. He loved to run! I would often day dream of us running alongside Jim Craig, helping him chase down his brumbies in the Outback.
Sonny was my first horse to show me how therapeutic horses could truly be. Horses have always been an absolute necessity to me and my mental health, but Sonny took it to a whole new level. If I was struggling, he would take on my pain to try and alleviate my struggles. We were connected. We could go for a gallop, then walk home on a loose rein. We could have a schooling session one day, have him get hyper and excited about the barrels, and the next day go for a bareback ride and lope through the field. He was my rock.
Two years ago Sonny had a real tough time. He dropped weight even after the spring grass came; he was lethargic, not himself, and I was getting very concerned. This was the start of his health problems. There is so much here that I could write. I could go on and on about all the things I wish I would have done from that first moment when I knew something was wrong. But the honest truth is, I did what I thought was best, in that moment. And living in regret is no place to live. His health would fluctuate with every major season change causing both of us large amounts of stress. My companion was sick, and, despite my best efforts, nothing was keeping him healthy. It was a cycle that I couldn’t figure out, or break. In January, 2020, Sonny was starting to colic from abdominal pain, I didn’t want to put him down without first knowing I did all that I could. I hauled him to get a scope, and they discovered ulcers, and bloodwork showed his liver was also in very poor condition. After four weeks of very expensive medication I thought we finally had it beat! But then it happened. I went out to feed him his supplements and I could see that look in his eye, the way he held his head, how his ears drooped low. He was in pain. Again. I gave him extra supplements to help the best I could, and I knew it was a waiting game of the worst kind. Within three hours he was looking much better, but I knew deep down, a decision had to be made. I saw the look in his eye; he was so sad, and tired. I felt his energy: he couldn’t take the pain episodes anymore. Being faced with the decision to put your horse down is never an easy one. Anyone who has been in my shoes knows this. But I had to honor him in the best way possible. I had to take away his pain. I had to let him go run in green pastures without me.
We had just started getting into my newer methods of working with his energy; to help him relax easier, and to release his tension mentally and physically. He was slowly opening up even more to me, trusting me with his big emotions. He was the kind of horse that didn’t want me to know he was struggling. He wanted to take care of me, protect me, but I knew he needed me too.
It's been just under a month since I said goodbye to my Sonny. Every time I look at the horses I’m still looking for that grey with the beautiful long mane and tail; those big, beautiful, bright, dark eyes; and his ears, with the split on the left. I’ve been having a tough time having the heart to ride my other horses. My heart seems a little bit lost without Sonny to anchor it here, but I know he’s wanting me to continue on with my passions. Even if it still hurts.
Losing Sonny due to health reasons has lit a fire in my belly. I promised him I would find better ways to help horses with preventative care to support their bodies. I am on a journey to understand how to give care to my animals in such a way to nurture their very cells, to work from the inside out to keep them healthy and strong. I owe it to Sonny to share what I’m learning, and to help you on your journey too.
It was only a glint that I saw at first, in my father-in-law's eye, and a flood of different emotions engulfed me — excitement, apprehension, and panic. My heart rate climbed, my senses were on full alert. We were going to start seeding today!
I married a 4th generation grain farmer. My husband works with his father, and his grandfather still puts in more hours than the average hired hand, I’m certain. Farming is in their blood; they live and breathe it. I came from a smaller, hobby-type acreage throughout my childhood years. We had a range of animals, from horses to cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, geese, dogs and cats. Horses were something we had from my earliest memory on -- oh, and our beloved childhood dogs, too. So, needless to say, I was in for a huge culture shock when I became a part of the farm. My first experience farming was when we were still dating and I moved here for the spring of 2014 to help with seeding. A lifestyle change is a bit of an understatement for what I experienced. You can be told what it's like to farm: the pressures; insane hours; relentless struggles; breakdowns at the most frustrating moments; the blissful aroma of freshly turned soil; the countless, stunning prairie sunsets; the all-too-often sunrises; and the amazing feeling, deep in your soul, that you are working the land and trusting in God to help your livelihood succeed. But being told these stories, feelings and emotions that you are going to experience is nothing compared to living through them. I fell in love -- both with the man I was working beside, and the farm life.
Fast forward 6 years and we are married with two beautiful daughters. I went from working beside the men in the field, running equipment, and just helping wherever I was needed, to becoming a full time mom and cook for the crew. I’ve always been a get-my-hands-dirty type of person, so the transition to trying to cook with children underfoot has been, and still can be, a big struggle. I was honestly a little resentful at the start. I didn’t want to leave my babies in any sort of child care, but I also was having a pity party at the thought of cooking. Looking back, I see how illogical it all was. At the moment I think I knew that too, but I wasn’t guarding my thoughts, and I let negativity take over. I also started dealing with postpartum depression after the birth of my second daughter, so a lot of my thoughts weren’t balanced. A journey then started towards natural solutions to better my mental health. I was soon able to actually enjoy my position as cook, and feel proud at my contribution to the farm.
I knew we were going to be starting to seed soon; I had made my Costco run in preparation for the food items we would need. I was about as prepared as I could be, but seeing that glint of excitement in my father-in-law’s eye honestly made me panic at first. “I don't have any meat unthawed!” “Do I have enough fresh produce?” “Uh no, I forgot to find the coolers the other day...I hope I can find them!” “How am I going to get all this done, and participate in my prior commitments?” “Please, please, please let my girls have a happier day today! If they are both grouchy, I don't know how I’ll handle it all and keep my cool." I’m proud to say that I did not let this panic take over, or ruin my day. After a few minutes of letting these feelings surface, to validate each and every one of my internal concerns, I set to work. I took a moment to breathe deep in conjunction with my favorite aromatherapy. I then started my affirmations: “I know exactly what I’m doing. I’ve done this before. Nothing is new. I have a good system. I know my system. There is a solution to every concern.”
It wasn’t very long ago that those negative feelings -- stress, panic, and apprehension -- would have overwhelmed my senses. I would have become a grouchy mom, trying to function in a fight-or-flight state. I’m immensely proud of how far I’ve come in my mental health journey. The tools and techniques I’ve found have changed my life. I hope I can help others to achieve a sense of calm and confidence in moments that would normally have taken over their thoughts and emotions.
The excitement is so real you can almost see it in the air — everywhere you go, farmers are in the field. I am beyond blessed to live this life. Seeding 2020 has started! Cheers!