Working towards lightness

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Watching others ride, I often see people riding with pressure instead of lightness. This simply means that people think they need pressure for comfort and control, are unwilling to let go, and do not allow the horse to move as freely as they should. It seems that true lightness actually scares people; if they get lightness, then they will actually have to let go and trust in the horse. This is very tough at first for everyone, but if you’re able to break through this, the rewards are truly amazing and affect way more than your horsemanship.

First off, what does it mean to achieve lightness in horsemanship? Depending on your discipline it can mean 800 different things, but for me it means only one thing: the lack of visible pressure being put on the horse in order to achieve the desired reaction and maintain the horse’s balance at the same time. As far as measurable pressure, if anything it would be a couple of ounces or, at times, complete weightlessness to help your horse make the desired movement. There should be no stretching of the horse’s lips or spurs digging into the side of the horse to scare them into your desired action, throwing them way out of balance.

Depending on your journey in horsemanship, working towards lightness can take many different forms. For most, just taking their horse into a round pen and getting their horse to lope and stop on a loose rein may be it. For others it may be refining the movement to where your hands are only used to collect the horse and your legs or seat are used to direct your horse.

Please do not settle for pulling, kicking, or spurring on your horse. Put yourself in your horse’s position and imagine how you as a rider use the bit or your legs. Do you think that you would enjoy the way you use your aids if you were the horse? Are you getting a result that carries over to lightness? This is as much of a reminder to myself as it is a word of caution to all. Become aware of the way you ride, not only for your sake, but more importantly for your horse’s sanity. Are you working towards lightness or pressure?

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Bucks Hayden Clinic: Good to be called out on my problems!

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Was just in Hayden Colorado in which I learned a lot. Another layer has been pulled back and I was graciously exposed to all. I was on a younger horse who made some great changes in-spite of me being to busy and annoying to him.

My greatest inner battle in the clinic, or working with clients horses, is trying to make my them proud and happy with the progress. In the process I am working with the horse at light speed trying to make him a finished horse in a day. You can imagine how that turns out for both parties. I become hyper-focused on minuet details and the horse despises me for trying to micromanage him.

That is where Buck called me out several times in a very necessary manner. I had been stuck in the rut of thinking the more active I was, the more I was getting accomplished. Finally realizing after being called out and from watching Buck for three clinics on his Colorado tour that it’s not how active, but more or less at how accurate you are with your horse. Bringing me to the term less is more once again.

It is something he has been preaching for ever but it became personal in the clinic allowing me to really step back and rethink everything. I hope that I have had a break through on this very thing that will progress me lightyears forward or if I don’t it will keep me in a continual state of regression.

Others have been hinting towards this with out directly calling me out and even I knew it, but didn’t know where the change had to be made. Then a light bulb finally came on. Hopefully I am able to build on this or perhaps collapse under myself. Time will tell, but I’m excited for the future and every horse in it.

Thank you to those around who let me find this on my terms for I know it probably drove you all nuts watching me with out saying a direct word towards me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you just letting me work at it and search on my own. Thanks to Buck for calling me out several times to allow me to really soak on it!

Letting Go of the Notion of Control: Understanding

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With horses, I am constantly reaching new barriers that I don’t understand, and I’m always working towards breaking them down in order to get to the next barrier.  For me right now, that barrier is lead changes.  I have been working towards understanding how to do them when I want to do them, but I have been continually building my horse up just to break him down through failed experiments.  In my need for control, I try to force the changes to happen, taking about ten metaphorical steps backwards in order to control the lead changes on my terms.  This only reassures me that that approach doesn’t work, so I keep working towards understanding them through experiments and rebuilding.  Over time I will make the breakthrough, and I can’t wait for that day.

When I run across certain people, I try to understand why they do or say the things they do.  If those people do things I don’t understand, I can’t stand not knowing.  I need the control of trying to understand what is going on in that persons head.  I would start to study them and run scenarios until one day it would all come together.  Once I understand them in my mind I can become sympathetic to them or at least understand why they do what they do.  This can be a major control issue if you’re not able to figure them out because sometimes you can’t let it go. It can control your mental state until something changes in the situation with the result that they are not in your life any more.

When the attempt to understand takes control over me, I tend to do too much, finding the boundaries that I know not to try to cross ever again.  The issues always develop from my inappropriate expectations, lack of patience, or a wrong perspective.  Over time I am learning to overcome these challenges associated with my lack of understanding so that I can learn from others without pushing too hard to achieve a better understanding of them. I sit back and listening to what they are telling me through their actions, but at the same time I am able to let go of it at the end of the day.

 

Application to Daily Life: 

Do you ever find that you push yourself or others too far in order to understand something better?  Do you become frustrated because you had certain expectations you failed to reach in a given time period?  In these situations, if your patience, expectations, or perspective are tested, your mind will to turn to trying to understand why you failed.  In these vulnerable moments, do you have control over yourself enough let go of these thoughts, or do you start looking into why the failure occurred?  Do you start to look at your teammates or yourself with blame for in order for you to understand why you all failed?  Can you catch yourself next time before you regret taking your lack of understanding out on others or yourself and let go of the need for an immediate understanding?

 

Letting Go of the Notion of Control: Perfectionism

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Perfectionism (term from Merriam-Webster Dictionary):

: a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable; especially : the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.

After reading the definition of Perfectionism it kind of makes you wonder why anyone would do something like this to themselves.  In trying to be a leader, I held myself to the unrealistic goal of being perfect at whatever I did!  Young and dumb I guess, but I always thought of it in the way that if I were willingly going to follow a leader, that is how I pictured them being.  At the time, I believed that all the mentors I looked up to while growing up were standards of Perfectionism, or at least I thought they were.  I figured that the only way I could get others’ respect was to be perfect at everything in which I was trying to lead others.  It became a standard of accountability I put on myself based on my perception of being a leader.

An example of this in my young life was my sporting career.  In high school, I was a mental wreck inside, even though I had an aura of confidence or arrogance suggesting that I believed in myself.  All through my young sports career, I kept excelling and excelling until I got to about the 10th grade in high school.  I hit a major brick wall in that I was trying to become perfect at everything.  Ultimately, this limited my progression due to my major fear of failure, screwing up, or making a wrong decision, and this in turn caused an overwhelming sensation of pressure.  This pressure plagued my sports life for at least the next 4 – 6 years both into college and into my professional career with horses and people.

The second example is from after college while I was working at C Lazy U seasonally and later full time.  Not only did I run into some huge issues with the horses, but, based on the standards to which I held myself, I just assumed everyone else had the same standards.  Talk about trying to micromanage and control the way people and horses are – almost as difficult as trying to mold a soldier to the point where you tell him not to be himself anymore.  As you can imagine, the learning curve was quite steep in my progression in both leadership and horsemanship.  I was butting heads with all the horses and people I worked with.  I look back and laugh about it now, but back then I was determined to make some huge positive changes in everything by means of Perfectionism.  The difference between my sports career and my professional career was that I at least invited failure in the latter.

Finally, I started to listen to where people and horses were coming from in order to move forward together towards the greater goals.  I learned to spend the most time with people who were interested in the bigger picture and allowed those who were there to enjoy the experience of a summer to take it all in for what it is worth in that sense too.  I can’t express the joy I had the last few years spent there based on just understanding where people and horses were at and where they were looking to go!  Little by little, I let go of my need for complete perfection and control over everything.

I still battle Perfectionism every day, but I am more aware of the consequences derived from it and know when Perfectionism wants to creep back into my life and try to take control of me again.  It is important to think on the other end of the spectrum too some people deal with not being aware of the finer details or not holding their standards high enough for themselves and others.  That, too, can be a difficult task to overcome.

Here is a quote from Edwin Bliss brought to my attention by a great mentor and friend:

The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating and neurotic. It’s also a terrible waste of time.

 

Application to Daily Life:

Go back through your past or current life to see if you have had any moments where Perfectionism controlled your life and how it affected everything.  Did your Perfectionism cause you to be too hard on yourself and others?  Did you expect too much in an unreasonable time period?  Based on your perception of what you desired the outcome to be, did you push others too far instead of being ok with the progression that others could make in a specific time period?  These are just a few questions that come to my mind about Perfectionism, but there are countless others too.  I would love to hear some examples of how Perfectionism or the lack thereof has affected your life, how you have learned to let go or get past these problems, and/or how you’re currently dealing with these issues.  Please leave comments or stories below!

Are You Living in a False Realm?

Humans are notorious for taking the easy way out of their problems. Blaming others for their own issues, ultimately living in a false reality of lies and deceit.  A false realm where, instead of helping themselves and everything around them progress by being accountable, they try to take down others with negative actions or comments.  In the end, never benefiting from the learning moments presented in each and every moment of a persons daily life.

Over the years horses have been continually teaching me how to hold myself more accountable.  With horsemanship, you always here people blame their horses for bad behavior.   Such as Sprinkles wont do this or Sprinkles is being a jerk, but what they should be asking is what they should be doing differently to help Sprinkles succeed.  Changing the focus from a “problem” horse on to the incompetent rider, at which point you can then progress forward.  This is not to say I have mastered it myself, only saying the progression I have made up to now has been with an open mind, learning from the horse instead of blaming the horse for my ineptness.

Say you started to blame a horse or a person for a problem, once this occurs, you immediately give up your reasoning capabilities to positively affect the outcome.  Instead of keeping a conscious thought process of what could be done differently to benefit all parties, emotions start guiding the decisions leading to irrational outcomes that can become harmful to all parties.  To help keep yourself on a beneficial track, ask yourself; Am I doing everything in my power to positively influence the outcome of the current situation in the smoothest, least resistant manor possible?  That one question will help you control your emotions in tough situations and keep yourself accountable for your actions.

There were, and still are, many reasons I lose control of my emotions while working with horses or people.  Mostly originating from my lack of knowledge, experience, and understanding.   Being the beginner that I am, I don’t understand the process or have the patience necessary to help the horse through certain situations which, in the end, angers me beyond productive reasoning and results.

Luckily my mentors had introduced me to the study of awareness (http://horseproblemsolved.com/2013/07/28/study-of-awareness/) early on,  allowing me to become more aware of my emotions in all situations.  Once I was aware of those emotions, I was capable of managing them to start thinking more cumulatively, instead of impulsively.  This process keeps my ego and emotions from getting in the way, helping me slow down to listen and learn from all experiences.

By doing this I started to take control of my problems and life I suppose.  Where I used to try and blame other people or horses for “their” problems I suddenly reversed the view point.  Even if people were wrong, instead of blaming them, I tried to figure out what I could do to be more personally proactive.  Meaning, instead of thinking how I could change the people, I started to think how I could change a situation to benefit everyone.

Example:  The other morning I went to start the tractor to load hay on a flat bed truck to feed all the critters around the ranch.  I jumped in the tractor to start it and the key was left on which drained the battery.  I went to get the charger from the shop and the shop was locked.  An hour later, I was able to enter the shop to grab the charger in which I was going to transport to the tractor in a small red truck.  The truck was also dead and had a significantly flat tire to go along with it.

Old thought process:  Get pissed off as I fixed the problem and hold the anger from the situation with me all day.  Taking the anger out on others for no reason at all.

New Thought Process:  Good deal, now I can catch both vehicles together, instead of running across the situations separately.  I wonder how I can help people avoid this from ever happening again?

Old Solution:  Do nothing about the situation except hold the anger, from fixing others mistakes, within myself.  Holding the anger inside me through out the whole day, taking a little bit of the anger out on every person and horse that I encountered.

New Solution:  Accidents happen, but how can I help others avoid this from ever happening again?  My thought was to make instructions with labelled pictures that covered how to  properly turn off the vehicles.  Taking those instructions and putting them inside the vehicles in a position that no one could miss them.  If that didn’t work, how else could I adjust the situation to further help others avoid similar problems?

Instead of always blaming other people for certain problems/situations, step back and take a long hard look in the mirror.  Asking yourself if you did everything in your power to have a positive influence on the situation or did you become a self complacent expert of blowing smoke up your own rear end to where you actually started believing it?  Nothing bothers me more then people who look to blame their horses or other people for their problems or even worse, they take out there frustrations on other people and horses.  Stop blaming others for your problems and start holding yourself accountable for your actions and or lack there of.  Taking control of the only thing a person truly has any control over, themselves.

Horse Purity

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When I work with a horse I am always mentally preparing myself ahead of time.  Before I ever catch a horse, I am already creating a rough draft plan in my head of how I’m going to communicate openly with a horse.  Before I enter the corral I have everything set up ahead of time to where there will be no complications or issues caused while tying up, grooming, feeding, and saddling my horse.  When I enter the corral I have my halter prepped before hand to help support the horse if needed and make a smooth process of haltering, the whole time studying the horses and horse I’m about to catch.  This allows me to break down where I think the horse is at, helping form the rough draft of my interaction to come.  But with all horsemanship, it’s nearly a rough draft based on where the horse is at.

Based on where the horse is at, the plan is continually changing with him.  With that being said, one of the most important lessons a horse has to teach humans is the control of ones emotions.  For when you have definitive expectations for where you want the horse, you have only set yourself up to fail.  You have changed the agenda from what the horse needs to where you expect the horse to be based on your needs.  When this occurs one will lose control of their emotions because the horse is not properly prepared for their expectations or their expectations were met, but the horse was ready to progress further.  This ultimately changing the situation from feel to force.  I hope one day I truly have complete control over my emotions, but that’s not even close so I try to work on it every day through awareness.  Always being aware of my mental state, trying to hone in on how to best help the horse succeed.

Feel vs. Force; Feel meaning you are in a constant state of thought to help the horse succeed at the progression of the transformation of a green horse to a more refined horse.  Force simply meaning you have an idea of where you want the horse to be at, no matter the education level of the horse, and you will force the horse into doing what you want through fear and anger.  This creates a braced up, visually deceiving picture of a correctly balanced horse (if you succeed at what you think is correct) to the untrained eye or a horse that reacts strictly out of fear rather then choice and desire.  Force creates horses that have no life to them any more.  You may look into the horses eye and see no more twinkle for they have lost that special piece inside of them, never to be seen again.  Feel creates a horse that believes in the human and desires to “work” with us.  You can see these horses from a mile away because they just have a different energy to them that attracts people.  To me it’s similar to seeing someone who is miserable and hates their life, learning to except their situation, compared to a person who loves their life and is always smiling.

They still have the inner horse left in them, for they have always succeeded with the human.  The human has worked with the horse, as the horse has worked with the human, through the stages making it through seemingly troublesome spots over and over again with support combined with success.  Learning that they don’t have to be on guard as a species while they are with the human, for they have taken all the troubles away while the horse has given the human a sense of purity.  Purity through awareness.   For what horses have to offer us is so much more then anything the horse receives in return from the human.