Meditation: a clear mind

Elsa Sinclair first said the phrase to me “meditate on your horse”. It has really stuck in my mind, and I’ve found myself coming back to the idea often, to embellish it and build on how that feels for me.

At first it was literal meditation for me, with Lawrence. Being together in peace and harmony and just existing, no thoughts or goals in mind. Lawrence and I really enjoy this kind of meditation together, and he will often quickly say yes if I offer it.

Just watching the world go by…

More recently, meditation has started to seep more into my dominant play time (in this context, any time where I am playing with pressure and leadership). Specifically, in the feeling of being present and focused in the moment.

My life is moving fast at the moment, recently I confess a little faster than I can comfortably keep up with. But growth happens outside our comfort zone, as I keep saying to myself, and anyway, movement is often a good thing.

So my horse time has become a more sacred place for me, somewhere I can return to, unchanging and comforting, somewhere that is a safe space away from whatever else is happening. It’s pretty powerful, and I want to kick open the floodgates of this feeling and really immerse myself in creating that place where my mind is clear and focused.

Because my mind is quite scattered, I have been finding it hard to set down proper goals at the moment. Lawrence is not as physically comfortable in this changeable weather either, which is limiting his yes answers, which is ok, but limits my goal choices too. As it happens, all of the horses I’m hanging out with at the moment have been in different places in their journeys recently too, or needed to slow down for a few days for whatever reason and change their plans. But I have been determined to try anyway, simply because I have needed the escape to that peaceful horse place, and so I have finally broken through the fear of “I don’t know what I’m doing/what the plan is, so maybe it’s better to just leave it”.

I thought I didn’t have any goals because I didn’t have any physical goals, or technique goals, but without even realising I’d given myself the most powerful goal I’ve had in ages: to be PRESENT.

When I am present, let go of all other thoughts and focus solely on my horse and the moment, they show me the rest, and tell my what I need to do, what we are working on today. All I have to do is turn up, and the horse will do the rest. The trick is, I don’t think I ever turned up this much before.

By spending all this energy deciding what I thought needed to be worked on, I blocked out my ability to truly hear the horse, and listen and observe without my own agenda. By turning up with the one pure goal of just BEING THERE and only there, I opened the door for the horse to be there with me.

It’s so simple too, although of course not always easy! Just to clear my mind and reduce my world to living inside my connection to my horse in that moment. And feeling what happens. Even the biggest discussions and problems of the session seem more peaceful this way.

This feels like a wonderful breakthrough. I would encourage everyone to forget their goals for a session or two and just BE. Standing still for a moment to check out your surroundings helps you choose the best path to take next.

As ever, I hope you all enjoy my mad ramblings!

For now, peace out and pony love

Lucy

Post Linda: Day 9

Today was a bit of a pace change. I had big plans to play some more with my sideways and my hindquarter yields over a pole.

But it rained.

I’m no wimp, I’m quite happy out in the rain with my ponio…he is not!

I know as the winter goes on I will need to have times where I play in the rain. In fact the very shower that stopped me yesterday inspired my realisation that with a few alterations I could make a perfect exercise sheet using the rain sheet I had semi discarded earlier in the year because it is not quite waterproof enough for downpours, combined with one of those stretchy surcingle thingys!

Online only of course, but still I think a better fit than all the mainstream ones that come with a convenient hole in the middle for your saddle…not so convenient if you don’t have saddle on of course.

Anyway, for want of keeping my fragile little thoroughbred warm and dry, I put my original plan aside and decided to spend some time with him in the field instead. Parelli would probably call this undemanding time, I also follow Elsa Sinclair’s freedom based training program.

He was quite surprised to see me there with the intention of spending time with him and nothing else. It has been a while, probably too long.

I began as a follower. Just going wherever he goes. He took me to the hay and he stood and slept for a while. I love sleeping with Lawrence. It’s hard to describe, for me it’s like how people describe meditation in a lot of ways. I have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to be. I can just exist in the moment, watching the sky and the birds and the world flick by. Peace.

But only for a few precious moments today! Then some licking and chewing and a lot of focus changes all of a sudden to the hay pile.

Lawrence lives with a truly lovely mare, but she struggles with her personal space. Personal space is a necessity in her life and she teaches this concept very quickly to all members of the herd!

She is strong and feisty and tends to fight rather than flight. Mostly these are things Lawrence is not. And right now she’s at the hay.

I stood with my little softie on the edge of the food area watching as he slowly built up the courage to sneak his way in to have a munch.

After watching the mare, who looked pretty happy with our presence there, I decided to help. Walking forward a few steps I offered my hand out to draw him towards me. I could see his eyes flick from the food to the mare to me. Insecurity rising, he snuck forward cautiously.

Blinking and thinking, he lowered his head.

I took another step and was eyed warily. He decided he could take the risk and stepped forward towards me.

We stood like that for about 60 seconds, completely frozen, before he took two little breaths in and then the biggest breath out I’ve ever heard! Yawning and relaxing, he started to eat, and with that, my job was done.

I hung around to make sure it stuck for another minute or two, and then left him to munch.

We spend so much of our time asking horses to do things that are important to us, and it’s not only so powerful when we step into their world and help them with their problems, it also feels amazing.

By listening to the horse’s needs and being prepared to be there for them when they need a leader in their personal life, when we come to ask things of them as a leader we can know that we have earned what we ask. And we will get the answers we are looking for, because we gave the answers they were looking for to them.

For me this is a huge part of non-direct line thinking. To focus on the relationship first and forget our own personal goals will get us so much further towards them than 1000 drills of the same exercise together.

I often come away feeling my best after a Lawrence based session. Today I felt centred, relaxed, calm and rewarded.

What an important session for us both. Maybe the rain will be a blessing in disguise this year….!

Elsa 2018 – Update

Having struggled to write the remaining days chronologically as a result of having too much to say, I have decided to change tactics, and write about topics separately.

For now: Supportive Leadership…

Supportive leadership for me is all about making strategic choices.

Any time I’m with a horse, of course I’m always trying to make good choices.

When I’m in passive leadership, particularly towards the beginning of a session or with a new horse, it’s inevitable that when being experimental; asking questions about the feel of different areas around the horse, I will at some point make a decision that might not be the worst, but isn’t quite the best either.

I might stay too long somewhere, leave not quite at the best moment, or pick a new place to be that doesn’t work for my horse.

And this is ok, all of these situations can be resolved or improved upon, usually by returning to that conversation with the intention of a more positive feeling or association for the horse. This is where I see supportive leadership coming in.

Rather than simply reacting to the movements and decisions of my horse, I transition into actively choosing my decisions with an outcome in mind. I am supporting my horse and his actions by choosing to put myself in a position that might influence him to make a positive decision or a decision I might like him to make. Not quite assertive, still only affecting my own body, but strategic.

I had definitely missed the subtlety of supportive leadership at last year’s clinics, so I was keen to incorporate it this time!

On day 2 of Elsa’s 2nd clinic, I headed out to the round pen and after warming both myself and Lawrence both up with some passive leadership and lots of flow I started to focus on distance.

Longer distance is an area that is less comfortable for us both, so I began to incorporate supportive leadership into our session. When he was frozen on one focus I would increase the distance, when he made focus changes quickly or ones I liked I would decrease the distance. It was a little less linear than that, sometimes I got my timing wrong and would need to take it slow and try again, sometimes it’s good to mix it up, especially after a good feeling, and do something enjoyable, or just stop strategising and go back to passive.

As I worked on this, the amount of time I was able to be at a further distance for longer and return on a good feeling.

What a monumental shift.

It has taken me longer than I had anticipated to post this, I do apologise,

As always,

Peace out and pony love,

Lucy

Elsa 2018 – Day 2

Is it getting worse or is it getting better?

Seems like a pretty simple concept, but learning to read the movements, signs and signals that allow you to have the best timing and keep the progression going is something that is individual to every horse and human partnership I think.

This year I really took a lot of inspiration from watching people who haven’t worked on the passive side of the spectrum or used FBT before.

Each participant picks up on different pieces of communication first. Some notice every ear flick, some react to the slightest eye movement, some are perfect mirrors for their horses legs.

Some move more, others move less. Everyone is different, and everyone sees each horse individually. Comparing what I was seeing to what each rider was reacting to was so fascinating, learning to see what they saw at the start of their journey gave me a whole new layer of perception.

The more horses think, the better they feel, and by the end of the first day, every horse had had their needs fulfilled, their minds engaged and had begun to associate their human with comfort, good memories and an actively positive partnership through moving on on the best feeling possible, leaving when the situation was getting worse, and matching the horses in flow and harmony.

This was a lot to sleep on! And come the morning, everyone was brimming with questions, ready to advance and expand their understanding.

Our first topic of discussion was dominant behaviour. I have never been drawn to dominant horses, I freely admit that I struggle the most to be a good horseman when faced with behaviours that make me want to be dominant back. I like to hope it’s partly to do with age, and that as I grow up, it will become easier to be mellow and patient and I will find my own stubborn dominance rising less. But in reality I also realise that this is not a problem that will magically disappear…

But once again, what was cloudy became clearer after a fascinating discussion about the causes of dominant behaviour and tools to react to this passively.

Dominant behaviour is in horses similar to that in humans in that dominant horses become dominant because they are insecure…

Finally, an emotion I can relate to (!)

Connecting dominance with a lack of confidence was key for me, and understanding that you can deal with aggressive behaviour passively by not engaging (walking away/changing direction) nor rewarding with flow or harmony was pivotal. I’m so excited to put this into practice and see the results of such a big mindset change!

The focus for the riders on their final day was the stages of acceptance (to be used for assertive leadership – when you ask for something) and the brilliant analogy of the bank account of the relationship. I love a good analogy, and this one is perfect, simple to understand, and works consistently the deeper you dive.

Assertive leadership for me sits on a fine balance. I always feel like I need to check myself and make sure I am where I really think I am; have I gone further into insistence or dominance

– not that there is anything wrong with dominant leadership but it can be easy to think you’re being assertive when you aren’t –

or have I been inconsistent and slipped into a state of passive leadership where I’m not really making good decisions anymore…

Watching each rider build on their passive observations from the first day and use their knowledge of their horse’s likes and dislikes to make good decisions was a much more variable experience than I had anticipated.

Asking for a focus change or supporting the horse into a focus change by coming out of harmony and waiting for the horse to decide to change something to make themselves feel better looked so different in every partnership.

Some horses loved closeness, so supportive or assertive leadership often meant distance for these partnerships.

Some liked to stand in one spot, so a human moving was enough to cause that thinking moment.

Others prefer their human far away, and the closer the two became, the more the change was influenced. The same reaction but with such divergent conversations was exceptionally helpful to watch.

And of course, as with every Organised Equestrian clinic, it’s always a pleasure to be surrounded by such great horsemanship. Timing for the horses was brilliant from all; moving when they moved, choosing the perfect focus changes to choose an easy or enjoyable spot of activity to reinforce the positive association, and balancing the exact timing to move just as the good moment would reach its peak.

As the day came to a close, the foundations had been set, and most of the riders were now heading home.

I couldn’t wait for morning. To get right back into the proverbial saddle, to test everything I had learnt so far, to expand and explore and make leaps and bounds and have the opportunity to once again be in harmony with Lawrence in this very special environment.

Suffice to say I slept like a log, and arrived for Day 1 of clinic 2 bright eyed and bushy tailed! Little did I know my well laid plans were about to be broken down!

(TO BE CONTINUED…)

So, I hope you are all enjoying the next update! If you have anything you’d like me to talk about in the next post, anywhere you disagree with me or anything you’d love to discuss, please don’t hesitate: I am ready to connect!

But for now, peace out and pony love!

Lucy

Elsa 2018 – Day 1

So amazing to be back in the incredible environment Elsa always creates at her clinics!

When I’m playing with Lawrence, especially when I’m playing with Freedom Based Training, or feeling for his body and releasing tension in the pasture, I have the best sessions when I can really focus my mind and get into an almost meditative state. I find myself totally in the moment, and time goes so fast when I’m in that place. Sometimes it is hard work to focus my mind. As a loud and proud extrovert, often it can be difficult to quiet my mind and engage in the moment.

From the moment Elsa arrived, I found myself back in that mindset. Effortlessly.

The theory session was fascinating. I’m always amazed by how each year of this clinic, the discussion is so different. How each year’s participants interpret the concepts in a new way. And of course, every year Elsa comes back to us with more and more to add and build on.

This year, the conversation was all about the spectrum of leadership.

One of my most significant notes on this was how as you move down the scale from dominant to passive leadership, the discomfort of the horse decreases, and vice versa. Huh.

It seems blindingly obvious now that I know this, and I think I did know it before, but I never really quite understood how this concept explains why Freedom Based Training and passive leadership is so important, and so successful.

The more comfort you can offer your horse, the more you fulfill their needs, the more positively they feel and think about you, the more time they want to spend with you naturally and the more they trust you as a leader and a partner.

Huh.

The next piece of the puzzle for me came as the group discussed the different types of stress. I have heard many trainers talk about good and bad stress before. Maybe I just wasn’t ready to hear it yet, or maybe Elsa’s explanation was just right for me, but this is a piece I have been missing for a long time I think!

We usually categorise stress in 3 ways: FIGHT, FLIGHT and FREEZE, but there is so much more to it than this!

Elsa asked the room what the positive version of the fight stress would be. There was a pause while we all mulled this, before the realisation that PLAY (grooming, playfighting etc.) is the good side of the FIGHT instinct.

Freedom Based Training is the foundation for turning stress into fun. Negative into positive excluding as many external factors as possible, just stripping the relationship right down to what’s between you and the horse.

The minute details of refinement, training yourself to become fluent in the language of the horse. To read every ear flick, every tail swish, every blink and every step and all the things you haven’t even noticed you don’t notice yet.

And in the process, create a partnership where your horse yields to you, plays with you and is keen and engaged with you because they want to. Because it’s enjoyable for them.

I always find it interesting how it seems the further into refinement I go, the more I seem to go back to the foundation, with every horseman I study with…

Elsa set the riders off with this final phrase in mind. This sentence is one that has stuck with me like a compass for the last 12 months as Lawrence and I have grown and developed and begun our journey towards health and happiness:

IS IT GETTING BETTER OR IS IT GETTING WORSE?

(…TO BE CONTINUED…)

I can’t believe how much I have to say! This feels like a good place to stop, as I’m writing this it is the end of the first 2 day clinic. Tomorrow is my first day with Lawrence as a participant, and it has taken me this long to digest enough to write this one!

What an incredible weekend. I hope you all enjoy this first instalment and are ready to come along with me on this journey!

For now, peace out and pony love!

Lucy