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Listen Carefully…

this is meAhh… the simple question of a child. The ten year old at lessons yesterday so intent on getting right the timing with her horse, stopped suddenly in tears of frustration. “I’m so stupid!! She’s not even trying to listen to me and do what I say. We are never going to get this right, I don’t even know why we come here. Stupid horse, stupid heat, stupid ground. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Ms Cat why do you even come out here with us?” Tears rolling down her face, in the 96 degree weather on a hot Thursday afternoon in Texas.

With only attempting one new move, a tiny shift in her posture to re-learn after my noticing her growth spurt of the last few weeks. After taking the time to adjust her stirrups and explain how it would help her sit and feel better. I told her “just takes a little while to get used to”. Watching her face as I demonstrated how those 2” of adjustment were now going to allow her to be able to sit deeper in the saddle, to feel her horse up under her. She would no longer be crouched forward in trying to keep her stirrups in place caused by her growing legs adjusting to fit in the saddle, instead of adjusting the saddle to fit her.

All the excitement of “hope” that this would be the cure-all for the problems found in the last few weeks since her previous lesson, showing in her face after the adjustments were completed. She proceeded to walk through the simple warm-ups she has been learning, to see if the little mare was following her feel. Listening, turning and moving together easily and smoother than minutes before.

Smiling from ear to ear she moved into the trot… for it all to seem to come apart. The horse dropping in to turn, the small hands trying to compensate with all of the thoughts running through her mind of “what it was she thought she understood she was trying to do”. By the third attempt all of the tears, frustration and indignation surfaced from all the time her mother said she had been working on it at home. They came boiling to the surface in the tirade that ended in the needed to be answered question.

I let the tirade run its course. Looked at her and asked “Why do you think I am still out here with you?”

She reached down petting her horse and apologizing to her for being so darn stupid and mad. Then looking at me, took her hand made it into the letter L (I use here to symbolize learning) held it at the front of her head and said “Because you love helping us to learn! You care about having fun. Fun for me, my horse, for you and that we are comfortable, confident and safe!”

And… I queried? “Baby steps!” Suddenly her face lit up as she remembered, “Ms Cat this is what practice is for, so I can learn it slowly, for it to become easy for me and her. I don’t have to get it perfect, just improve a teeny, tiny, bit, have fun, be safe and breathe!”

I then asked her “What do you think is wrong?” As she sat there thinking for her answer. I watched as the tension was released in first her fingers, then her body as she became more relaxed in the saddle. The mare’s head dipped, the reins became soft, with a cocked her hind foot as calmness returned.

“I don’t know… can you explain it to me better?” I thought about the maneuvers she was making and where I saw the improvement might be made, and then I asked her to explain what she thought she was trying to do. Listening as I heard her explanation, aware of her understanding what she thought I was saying, verses what I was intending for her to do. Aware of the discrepancy in words, I immediately switching to my physical mode of teaching, by allowing her to see and really “feel” the movement of the horse step by step in the best position for this mare’s physique and her young rider. Mimicking with my body the movement of the horse in the correct position with hindquarters engaged and the frustrating feel of the horse when dropping to turn, causing the hind legs stepping out, with no collection. To have the thrill of within just a few simple, really slow steps, she was getting her body in sync with the little mare at a walk, then an extended walk, to finally one simple circled trot to the right, then to the left with both moving together, upright and connected, all smiles and scratches for her mare.

The Wayne Dyer’s quote “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change!” came up a lot this last week. Reading questions and concerns on a few horse sites I belong to from so many owners and riders who in learning new ways are having the same disconnection of words to physical action seen with this student earlier. When she allowed her emotions to come boiling up, and thankfully flowing out of her body for relief. Instead of the learned habit many experience in “feeling not good, pretty, successful, happy, rich etc… enough”. Many asking for help… to find tons of advice and suggestions. Not aware of how much their “not enough” feelings about what they are attempting are the limiting factor. The negative self talk, then internalizing the feelings into walls of doubt that seem impossible to overcome. Aware also of how many words there are out there to describe a movement, a place, a desire, a need… the words are only as capable as the feeling of possible or not possible as the understanding behind them.

In assisting my clients and their animals I’ve learned to listen to the question asked and the feeling accompanying it is. Slowing things down, hearing what they think, how they feel and what is the thing inside so tangled as to be creating this confusion of “I need the whole thing now!” Not the fun and joy of feeling the music in learning and creating their own dance. Teaching for me is awareness, breathing, learning and fun along with others on this journey!

Just By Saying Yes to Me…

Today has been an adventure in saying yes to me. Starting with a perfectly executed surprise attack from KC…yep forgot the water bottle and she is so good at keeping me on my toes, and aware. Except for the stinging mark on my shin, I still had a wonderful shower, amazed at not being as tired as I had expected to be. After I had seemed to be up, on and off all night long after the awesome feeling of truly stepping out for me as a purposeful writer yesterday by stating so to the Universe at large. In so doing got incredibly inspired to write until I called it quits about 11ish last night.
Went to work in a interested in what life will bring me mood. Feeling the cold, especially in my hands, as the little bus took its time warming up. Spent the first half of the route, at each stop I came to. Trying to figure out what was first causing the alert to come on my phone, which then blocked my ability to play my stored music choices. When I finally did get the music to play, it was barely legible, so more fiddling, a few more buttons, a better understanding of my phone, and presto wonderful Abraham to relax, sift and sort through.
Dropped off the students at their various schools and as I headed back to the bus barn for the monthly mandatory meeting, I heard and felt the thought “You can have it all”. I paused, just letting those words wrap around me. This then caused several easy, powerful, visualizations of me succeeding at each of the current goals I am pursuing. Feeling balanced, warmed, and hungry, wandered into the meeting where there were the apples and banana’s I had missed and inquired about at our last month’s meeting. I was so jazzed, I had asked, felt how good they would taste, forgot about it, and bingo the Universe fulfilled my request. Talk about feeling like I was in the perfect, feeling place as the meeting ended.
I knew driving home it was too wet to ride, and definitely the dampness made the cool, windy weather, something I had no trouble by passing. To instead stay inside and add to my growing list of characters, before I went further with the story. I fed, hayed, watered, re-setting up everything for this evening’s feedings. Went inside full of the tale I had been putting together in my mind of KC, with a quick dash of dish washing, deciding on suppers menu and more coffee. I sat down to add my minds creation to the screen before me. As I was writing and thinking, the phone went off. One of my client’s was sending someone over to get her horse two days early. She was calling to make sure it was okay with me, telling me how the two men, Mike( the current in training horse handler) and Larry ( my recent dating lesson) were picking up some cows at the vet, then headed to my place. Not really sure who was going where since they left together. My mind’s first thought was…I know which one will show up. Probably the man who we parted company over his not being exactly on the same page as me in our techniques of horse handling at my place. He had the book learning down perfect. He had an idea how a woman should treat a man, his view of her giving in to authority. So comfortably, easily we parted ways. And then the dogs announced someone’s arrival, yep Larry. I met him cordially,had the feed left bagged up and in the truck. Grabbed a halter, and got out the little girl.
His first comment on how much taller she had gotten in the last two months. I agreed, stating how much difference an adjustment and lots of riding can do for a horse. Headed toward the truck and trailer, past the door he left open, swinging wildly in the breeze. I was so proud of all of my work with this young two year old mustang filly. She trusted me, she followed me, she knew all the commotion going on was okay, cause I was okay. Walking past the barking dogs, toward the trailer I knew she had come over in, but now the front end contained a brahma cow and her calf. I ignored their bawling, stepped up and walked in, while he positioned himself out kind of wide with the trailer door.
She walked up, pawed the floor twice, took a tentative step in, then out. Sniffed around, stepped in almost up to me, and out she stepped, he moved the door and himself away, to give her room, with a “come on sweetie, up you go” all the while looking uncomfortable in his position. I asked her again, up she stepped all the way, he slowly, carefully, so as not to spook her eased up the door toward her. Yet the moment she stepped backward, he twice as quickly swung the door wide and back. “Sheesh” I thought to myself, he keeps taking away any idea of pressure, and this little mare is smart. She could feel his uncertainty, so we did this a few more times, before I was definitely getting colder, and the expression on her face was “what a cool game”.
So I backed her up, handed him the lead, went and got some hay, a longer lead, a rope to hold the door in position, and the lunge whip. Came back repositioned him, changed ropes, fixed the door in place, gave him the whip and told him to tap her lightly when I asked. Next thing I know he is so lightly tapping, sweet talking, and babying her to the point she is loving it and getting more set by the moment. Especially when she discovered if she took any step or motion backwards…he moved. Five minutes of this and asking him to increase the pressure, which was like asking a fly to move over, I had enough. Tied her to the inside trailer door, as she was standing there right up next to the opening. Walked past her, took the whip from him, set myself, tapped her once and said “up” in went a front foot. As she started to bring it back down, I just kept up the tapping, she relaxed so did I. I asked “up” again, in went the other foot, she paused, I paused. She started to come back, I started up the tapping, then said “up” again, and in she walked. Closed the door with just enough space to slip back in, change halters, tie her right, gather up my stuff, thank him and send them on their way.
All the while congratulating myself on staying professional, taking over when I knew I and the filly were the ones in charge, got the task done, and re-confirmed my original impression about him and his way of handling horses. He has all the tools, but most of them seem to come from books he’s read, and he isn’t comfortable or confident in what he does do…and the horses know it. The old adage you can lead a horse to water but not make it drink. Equals you can’t teach someone if they don’t ask, they’re not ready to hear, and you’re wasting your breath. But that’s okay, he found a job working cattle, something I learned from listening to him he truly enjoys. So it always works out. I still own the ground I walk on and will share it with those who are the of the same line of thinking. I so love my life, I thought to myself as I went back to continue building the cast of players…in my training life tale.
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