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.
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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 all of a sudden, 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, then the gate, then the saddle pad, then the saddle, then the fence, then 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 onto my plan.
Learning these two things and finally able to connect 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.
To hear more, Watch This!
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, 💜
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