Yesterday I hauled Ace and our new horse Greg to the arena. It was barrel practice night, and this was the first time going for all three of us.
Ace has been really learning to let go of his anxiety and fears during rope nights with my hubby's help, so I personally hadn’t ridden him the last few times he was hauled. On the drive, I mentally prepared myself to be a relaxed and confident leader for Ace while listening to a podcast. (The Journey On Podcast with Warwick Schiller interviewing Jane Pike)
This podcast really explained things in a way I had never thought of before, and it helped a lot! I want to share a few of those with you now summarized in my words.
My body and mind are amazing. It created defence mechanisms to protect myself during stressful/scary/traumatizing situations when I literally couldn’t process it. I am thankful my body has this ability -- but I am now aware it's time to release these defence methods as they are no longer serving me.
When I feel anxiety, stress or fear, it's like internal energy becoming bigger than my body that I cannot hold it in anymore. I am learning to tune into what my body is telling me and respond before my emotions become bigger than my body, creating a fight/flight/freeze. This is my body trying to protect myself from danger - which again is a beautiful thing! Accepting that nothing is wrong with me is extremely important.
When I start to feel anxious, an easy method to help refocus my brain is to move my body: wiggle my toes in my boots, tap my thumb against each fingertip. Yesterday I also became aware of how I wanted my body to feel to Ace while riding. I envisioned my body being connected to him through my seat and thighs, like in Avatar minus the ponytail hehe. I wanted to feel soft, relaxed, gentle and curious about his own movements. This helped me ride so much softer I was shocked!
Every single thing I learned about myself is exactly the same for my horse. When Ace reacts anxiously or fearfully, this is his natural response to keep him safe and protected. I don’t want this to disappear, or if a bear ever came for a visit, then he would be in trouble! I want to show him he can trust me and that I’ll keep him safe.
His anxiety can feel so big it's pouring out of his body, putting him into fight/flight/freeze; it is up to me to recognize when his cup of anxiety is getting too high and help him empty it before it overwhelms him.
Asking him for simple body movements can help him come back inside his body, getting his mind off his stress, but it's important to keep things very simple and basic, so it doesn’t become an additional stress source.
There is nothing wrong with feeling fear or anxiety or stress, for either you or your horse! This is an instinct meant to keep us safe from harm. Learning to accept this is the first step to understanding and moving past our fears. Invite your fear to sit at a table beside yourself; what would you say to it? Invite your horse's fear to sit at your table; what would you tell it? Loving ourselves through these feelings is so important.
Thank you, Jane, for the amazing reminder.
I was unhappy. I was dealing with postpartum depression, which resonated as anger. I felt lost and confused as an individual, as a mom, and most definitely as a wife. I knew life would be different after having one baby, but being a mom of two was a whole other story. I was exhausted, with uncontrollable hormones, confused, and angry. I knew I had to get ahead of things, or I would sabotage everything near and dear to me. I knew there are adjustments in becoming a mom in my head, but living through them is a whole other story.
My first decision I actively made in trying to feel more, dare I say it, “normal,” was wanting to work with Ace. Big eyes, a wide blaze, beautiful sorrel coat, and he was going to turn my world upside down. Ace was still very green and young. He was a five year old with minimal riding. Between my hard-headed, large ego, stubborn, my-way-or-the-highway attitude and his extreme sensitivity, confusion, and an excellent pinch of spirit, we butted heads. Badly! I knew my skill set was not enough to get him going under saddle again, so while he was away at the trainer’s, I set to work to learn all that I could online.
It’s funny now, looking back at it; that it took a horse for me to start looking at myself, and I mean really look. Not just give excuses for my temper or my training methods or my stubbornness. I began to see how wounded I actually was. My past was still haunting me, even though previously, I was sure I had “moved on.” But healing from abuse is never that simple. I started to find methods bringing to light areas in my past that made me see the world and myself through stained lenses. I started using essential oils to help with my moods, and I was amazed by how well they helped. Then I learned that certain oils could help release anger easier or help me forgive. I could help bring forward those feelings of being a little child again, worry-free. From then on, I was hooked!
I started researching where to apply the oils to my body. Anger is stored in my liver? Really? Fascinating. The effectiveness was only increasing. Then I experienced my first Aroma Freedom Technique. WOW! I was able to figure out, on my own, without talking to strangers, that some old buried memory of mine from decades ago was the reason I was scared to pursue this career choice. And when I was able to see this memory and pour love into it, the most amazing thing happened. The power of those feelings I had been carrying for decades inside my body -- they lifted like an early morning fog. My mind was clear! I understood that past moment for what it was, and I understood the present. Talk about liberating!
Shortly after my introduction to Aroma Freedom Technique, I heard about this Conscious Language thing. To me, it sounded like affirmations. In a sense, it is, but that is like your pinky finger in relation to your entire body. Learning about shining my light, using my gifts, and sharing with the world was very empowering. Then it went to the next level, realizing and believing that I am living my life as God intended, serving others in this way. That when I am serving and shining my true light as planned, I have immense power in my words and thoughts!
All of this because of one horse. Because of Ace. Healing myself was what I needed to do for Ace. He needed a leader, not a boss. Once I was able to be that leader, our relationship completely transformed.
Because of my horse, I released even more trauma, pain, and negative energy to start repairing and rewiring my brain to be a better wife. Because of past sexual abuse, I had walls around my heart so high and wide; they were causing issues in my marriage. I was quick to anger, easily defensive, and would default to distancing myself when I was upset. I wasn’t an equal partner; I held back part of me stuck in the notion I had to keep protecting myself from being hurt. My ego was so scared of completely removing those walls that I only gave small parts of my heart. I then learned that my anger resulted from losing my power, not in the present, but from my past traumas. It was when I learned to send love towards my anger that things started to change.
It’s amazing what happens when you respond with love. Envision a playground bully, they can either be met with fear, distaste, hate, avoidance, and that bully will stay a bully. However, if someone responded to the bully with love, they will pause, think, and most likely change for the better. (This is not a perfect example, but I hope it has you nodding your head with, “ah, I get it.”) I had to learn to love my inner bully; she was, after all, acting out as her way of protecting ourselves from pain, even if she was wrong.
I can’t help but shake my head with half a smile on my face even as I write this. All of this, everything I’ve learned, everything I’ve experienced, the changes in my life, all thanks to my horse, Ace.
My experience is why I am so passionate about teaching others about these life-changing tools. Am I all “fixed” now? Do I have everything all figured out? Is my marriage perfect? Am I the constant happy-go-lucky mom? The answer is no. What is extremely empowering is having the tools and skills to work through triggers and moments of not-so-good. No one is perfect. I still struggle, and that’s ok. I get up, and I recommit. And every time I stumble, it becomes easier and easier to get up, dust myself off and go again. The healing process becomes faster and faster, sometimes, mere seconds. For these tools, I will forever be grateful.
Would you like to learn more about what helped me? I would love to show you more.
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.
Are you looking for people to help you? I’ve got an amazing free community with some awesome people in it encouraging and learning together on how to help ourselves, and our horses.
If you’re wanting something more focused, detailed and private I have a tightly knit membership club that might be more what you’re looking for. Membership is currently on sale!