How big is your why?

How big is your why?

Slightly odd question, isn’t it?  Someone asked me that recently, when I told them of a plan that is ticking over in the back of my mind.  How big is your why?  Huh?

She explained – let’s say, you are thinking “I want to get fit”.  How big is your why?  Because, next month we are going for a hike in the mountains, and I want to be able to keep up.  Is that a good enough why?  No.  For one, you’re not really invested in it, for two, in a month’s time, after your hike, where is that inspiration going to take you?  Ok, how about, because at the end of the year I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro, and if I’m not fit enough, it’s going to kick my butt.  Again, that’s better, but is it enough?  If you’re anything like me, no, it’s not big enough.  I did this a couple of years ago – I’m going to get fit to climb Kili, and I did….  Ummm….  Zero training.  I just plodded up that hill.  So, my why wasn’t big enough to get me out there to do my fitness training.  I’m going to get fit so I can play soccer with my kids instead of watching from the side-line?  Yes, that could do it.  I’m going to fit to have more energy to run my business and have time family time.  Yup, that could be it too.

Made it up the little hill, but how much fitness work had I done?  Well, not much…
Made it up the little hill, but how much fitness work had I done? Well, not much…

A long, long time ago – well over 20 years – I decided that I wasn’t eating meat.  Now, my three loves in life were steak, Bovril and an African delicacy called Biltong – a dried meat similar to beef jerky.  When I said I was going vegetarian, everyone who knew me laughed, thinking oh yes, this’ll last a week.  And, it has lasted, coming up for 30 years.  Because?  I had an enormous WHY.  I wasn’t going to eat my friends anymore.  Cut and dried.  It was absolutely no effort to stop, and I’ve never been tempted back.  My WHY was more than enough.  For the past 5 years or so, I’ve debated going full on vegan, but….  I just love cheese and chocolate.  Pizza?  How do you say no?  About 3 years ago, I was coughing a cough that just wouldn’t leave.  Doctor after doctor told me that I could try this medicine or that, but nothing worked.  Finally, after three separate people told me that it was dairy, I had a go, and removed all dairy from my diet for a month.  Lo and behold, after about 4 days, I stopped coughing.  Magic.  After the month, I started to reintroduce dairy, and the one thing that would make me cough was – milk in my coffee.  That why was big enough – I haven’t had milk in tea or coffee since then, and magically, I don’t cough.  But I also figured out that I could eat cheese and chocolate….  They both make my throat itch, but I can cope with that….

Mmmmm, the black coffee is a go, but can I give up the cake to go with it?
Mmmmm, the black coffee is a go, but can I give up the cake to go with it?

As a WHY, it isn’t big enough.  Recently, I was staying in an area where there are lots, lot, lots of dairies and dairy cows.  They were well enough looked after, but the sight of them wearing computerised bracelets to tell the farmers of their number, yield and vital statistics was depressing.  And watching the new mum’s bellow for their babies as they were taken away….  I think I may have found a big enough WHY to stop me eating dairy.

A while ago, I went to teach a new client, and as I walked in, this rider said to me – “yes, I know, I’m overweight”.  Well OK, let’s get on with it, we went about our lesson.  He did battle – his joints are under pressure; the doctor is threatening knee surgery and the risk of diabetes.  He’s not fit, and although his very large and up to weight hunter type horse can carry him, it would make both of their lives easier if he lost the weight.  I didn’t mention it though.  Afterwards, his wife, who was watching, commented that I hadn’t said anything about his weight.  I replied, he knows about his weight.  The doctor has told him.  His regular riding instructor has told him.  You have told him.  My telling him wasn’t going to be a big enough WHY.  When he decides, when the weight gets to him and a WHY appears on his radar, he’ll choose to lose the weight and it’ll happen relatively easily.  But until then?  Not happening.

You want to improve your riding?  Why?  To win a ribbon at a show?  Not enough.  Because your yard suggested you came for a lesson?  Not enough.  Because your horse has the beginnings of kissing spines, and your vet has said that if you don’t get organised and ride in balance, you’ll end up putting your horse down?  Yes, that could be a good enough why.

You want to lose weight?  Why?  To feel healthier?  No.  Because your family has booked an epic riding safari and their weight limit is 80kg…  Yup, that could be the why.

No one is going to be able to teach you a skill, or help you quit something, or get you into a different mindset unless you decide to go there.  And, why do you want to go there?  Well, you need to figure out your own WHY…

Happy Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentines – which made me think for a moment…  I don’t do the whole “significant other” …  I love my independence and the ability to up and off at a moment’s notice, and having to discuss with a partner about what, where and how is really not my thing.  I even resist going on holidays with a friend, since there is always the, “Well, where would you like to go, and what would you like to eat?” conversation.  But I do have a whole team of “matchmakers” in my life, without whom, what I do would be impossible…

They even ply me with chocolates…
They even ply me with chocolates…

In every city that I go, I have a wonderful lady (I really don’t know why they are all ladies – come on guys, catch up), who organises my life.  They chat to venue owners, they contact riders, they cajole people who they think would be interested in booking a strange lesson with an unknown person, and they “matchmake” all my meetings and lessons.  I believe there have been literal blood, sweat and tears involved…

Sometimes, they get it wrong – oh my, yes.  They’ll arrange a lesson with someone who’s mindset and ethics is a mile off mine, hoping that we may have a meeting of ideas, but the rider is really not ready to discuss a new way of thinking, and it’s that really awkward blind date – especially with the pony being the third wheel and trying to side of the more friendly, relaxed way of working.  But generally, my matchmakers are right on the money.  Once they convince a rider to have one lesson, we usually have a lot more.

Once they are set up with those who all are interested, my amazing helpers then get into hyper organised mode, and fill my dance card…  It’s really no use me trying from the other side of the globe – people contacting me, saying can I have a lesson at this time in venue A, when someone else is an hour later at venue B, and I don’t have a clue where anything is, or the politics of who is welcome to who’s yard….  So, by the time I arrive, there is a colour coded, beautifully efficient list of names, times, locations, and all I have to do is pitch up.  It’s just MAGIC!

And, my wonderful helpers don’t even stop there!  Many welcome me into their homes, they cook vegetarian meals (even if it’s out of their norm), they ply me with chocolate, coffee and wine, they don’t complain about how I am so not a morning person, they fetch and carry, they share their cats, and they’re just awesome.

I get to share their cats!
I get to share their cats!

One of these special people was quizzing me for the dates I’m looking at for their area – I told her some dates, and, the very next day, she tells me that there are over 90 lessons booked – talk about speed dating!

Last week, one amazing organiser, organised a massage, lunch, chocolate, and tourism on the free day – this week, my current spectacular person is sourcing cough sweets, painkillers and “knock it on the head” flu meds.  You see, my life is like Valentines every day!

If you are the kind of person who likes having a “significant other human” in your life – Happy Valentines.  If your S.O., is four legged – well done you, even happier days.  And, if you’re like me – buy yourself that chocolate, it’s all about treating your self right!  Oh, and please buy a carrot for your pony!

Hang on let me ask my app….

I must have an amazing body…  If I haven’t drunk enough water, I feel dehydrated and head achy.  If I have drunk enough, I feel clear and brighter.  If I haven’t eaten enough, I feel hungry, and if I’ve eaten too much, I feel lazy and over full.  If I had a good night sleep, I wake up feeling refreshed and ready for action, and if I slept badly, I struggle to get out of bed and have a slower start.  AND, if I exercise, I sleep better, feel better, and get fitter.  Isn’t that incredible?  Isn’t that such a spectacular thing?  I should thank my body, clearly it’s a bit of a rarity, since so many people seem to need a Fitbit to tell them all of that amazing information. 

Do you know, in USA, they have a thing called Nature deficit disorder.  They say it’s affecting millions of people, mainly kids.  Some schools actually have bootcamp to fix it – they put a class load of kids on a school bus, remove their Fitbit, smart watches, phones, earphones, laptops, and take them out to the wilderness.  Once there, they have them walk across grass, stand in streams, lie on a sunbaked rock, and actually feel, smell, taste, see and hear.  Listen to the birds.  Feel the rough ground.  Taste the clean water.  Smell the wild flowers.  Look at the view.  I think it’s incredibly sad that kids need to be taught to put their technology down and see what a running river looks like.  And imagine the shock – you can walk across a field without posting on social media how many steps your Fitbit said you took.  Shocking – people walk without recording it.  Imagine that.

Alexa – is this a good view?  Should I feel happy?  If I walk across the valley, how many steps will I log?  Will I get to my 10,000 for the day?
Alexa – is this a good view? Should I feel happy? If I walk across the valley, how many steps will I log? Will I get to my 10,000 for the day?

And here is another contradiction – your Fitbit tells you to get up and walk, that you’ve been sitting still for too long.  But…  Your smart home Alexa can turn on the lights and the TV without you having to stand up and walk to the light switch, so allowing you to sit still for longer.  Because heaven help those poor people, who have to stand up and walk to the light switch… 

I break technology – many people who know me know that I am a “slider” – things break.  If I wear watches, they stop and run backwards.  Clocks stop working, anything that is charging when I try to use it either turns off or gives shocks.  Laptops and phones don’t last long, and printers – don’t even go there.  And, it’s something I am incredibly grateful for.  Even if I could wear a Fitbit or have an Alexa, I wouldn’t even if you paid me.  I know many people are excited by technology and the developments, but really, I think the more developments there are, the more disconnected humans become and the less we trust our brains, our bodies, our instincts. 

 

https://www.stufftoblowyourmind.com/podcasts/watch-stoppers.htm

I have a phone, a laptop, a kindle and an ipod.  And that is about it.  And, that is the way it’s staying.

Does this affect the horse industry?  Yes.  With people needing to be told if they had a bad night’s sleep, they are becoming more and more disconnected from their bodies.  You ask some one to feel their body or their horse’s movement and they look blankly at you as if you are asking them to fly to the moon.  And no, they can’t consult their computer about whether or not their horse is moving well.  If you cannot trust yourself to know if you had walked far enough today, how are you going to instinctively know if your horse is active enough?  We need to dump our dependency on the technology, get back to be fully functioning human beings and start using our inbuilt apps – the noticing ones that we were actually born with…    

Wealth

OK, I’m going to go on a rant.  Apologies in advance.  People complain about horses being used for work.  Real, hard work, where they are having to earn a living for their owners.  This year, an awful lot of people have told me that they are really very poor.  They can’t afford to replace their car, or buy a new laptop, or join one of our yoga retreats.  They have a roof over their head, they have food in their belly, they have a phone and / or a computer, they have clothes on their back, they have a bank account, even if it is empty, or almost so.  Just this – food, a bed, dry clothes to change into, puts you in the world’s wealthiest 8%.  Think about that – the number of people sleeping on the street, or without means to buy dinner tonight.  And yet, they can’t see the fact that many people would trade places with them in an instant.   

Travel is, in my opinion, the ultimate eye opener.  When you see actual poverty, you start to change how you see things.  I will always remember going to Cambodia and visiting the boat people there.  We were told that many of them earn less that US$500 a year.  They have no electricity, they have no running water, no sanitation.  Maybe one change of clothes, so they can wash and wear.  And, they wash those clothes in the river where they also fish farm, commute between boats, bath, and drink.  And all of this, with me sitting there with a US$500 camera around my neck.  Still think you’re poor? 

Think about this…

  • This morning, if you woke up healthy, then you are happier than the 1 million people that will not survive next week.
  • If you never suffered a war, the loneliness of the jail cell, the agony of torture, or hunger, you are happier than 500 million people in the world.
  • If you can enter into a church (mosque) without fear of jail or death, you are happier than 3 million people in the world.
  • If there is a food in your fridge, you have shoes and clothes, you have bed and a roof, you are richer then 75% of the people in the world.
  • If you have a bank account, money in your wallet and some coins in the money-box, you belong to the 8% of the people on the world, who are well-to-do.

In many of these cases, the people involved are still able to be very happy – they are often more connected to their family, their home, their culture / beliefs / roots, because they are not distracted by smart phone notifications beeping away, endless adverts to buy bigger and better, and the pressure to buy branded shoes.  And, there is generally a real pride in what they have and what they do. 

While in Kenya, two things stuck me, yet again.  The first was pride.  Many of the local Kenyan’s don’t have running water in their houses.  Or electricity.  Most don’t have access to cars and have to leave their homes at silly o’clock in the morning to stand in long queues at dangerous emergency taxi stands, before travelling many miles, working long hours and repeating this at night, for low pay.  They leave in the dark, return in the dark, and yet they are turned out immaculately.  Just how do you get your white work / school shirt gleaming white, your whole outfit beautifully and crisply ironed and your shoes gleaming, in the dark without running water or power?  I couldn’t…  And yet, they are so proud of their uniforms, what they have and what they do for a job.  The other thing that stuck me, was just how poor the country is, and how many men are pulling carts around themselves, never mind using a horse, just to earn a few shillings for their family. 

And yet, people still complain about how poor people expect their horses to work.  If you had to put food on your table, and could get some money by working with a horse, wouldn’t you do it?  And, if you had to choose between paying your child’s school fees and buying a new set of brushing boot for your narrow pony who was whacking his fetlocks, what would you choose? 

The entire world was born on a horse’s back.  We wouldn’t have the development that we do now, if horses hadn’t helped us along the way.  The first world counties benefitted all along, from the horses who worked – and look at how many we killed in war?  How can we, the first world, say that horses cannot be used in the developing world?  We do need to help, absolutely.  Just because a horse is a working animal doesn’t in any way mean he should suffer or be denied access to feed, water, rest, companionship, farriers, vet care and well fitted harness, but should we try to prevent them doing a reasonable amount of work.  No. 

Money buys choices.  What shall I have for dinner?  If I have money in my pocket, I can choose.  Do I give my horse tomorrow off?  If I’m not relying on his earnings, I have the choice.  Should I buy a new bridle for my horse?  If I have the cash, I can go and get one. 

What do you think?  How wealthy are you, and what are you doing to help the 92% of the world who have less than you?

Have you heard of Body World?

Dr Gunther Von Hagens and Dr Angelina Whalley developed this incredible exhibition and opened it to the public in 1995.  Since then, it has travelled to over 130 cities, and been seen by more than 47 million people.  So, it’s a little bit popular then!

https://bodyworlds.com/

It is designed for (mainly) non-medical people, to teach them more about the human body, how different systems (skeletal, muscular, circulatory, respiratory etc) work together, and essentially how fragile and yet amazing it all is.  Their main reason for being is preventative health care.  Each exhibition is focused on something slightly different – stress, movement or bad diet choices etc.

So, um, how do they do it then?

All of the exhibits are real human bodies.  While alive, the owners of these bodies choose to donate their remains to science, for the good of our knowledge.  The Institute for Plastination where the work is done is in Germany, and the bulk of the remains used are German citizens.  On their death, the remains are sent to the institute.  Formaldehyde is pumped through the arteries to kill bacteria.    The body is then dissected to show what ever it is that the scientists feel it should be used for, possibly a diseased area, a pinned limb or a replaced hip etc, which can take up to 1,000 hours.  They are then placed in a bath of liquid polymer which, over a couple of weeks, impregnates every single cell.  Positioning is next, and, when you go to the exhibition, you will see a massive variety of poses, from dancers, musicians, athletes, chess players etc.    Finally, the remains are set, or hardened into this position.  The whole process takes about a year. 

So, why am I talking about it?  Well, I think its an awesome teaching tool.  I went to see it a couple of years ago in Johannesburg, and again last month in London, which is why it’s on my mind.  The first time, the biggest impact for me, was the strength of our hip flexors, and the massive dome of our diaphragm.  No wonder we battle with our knees drawing upwards while riding, or about the effect of our breathing.  This time, the thing that most impressed me, was how none of the remains where symmetrical.  All could be seen to be more developed through one side of their back more that the other, or one more developed arm or leg.  And we wonder why we ride in a one-sided way?

The other incredible thing to see at the current London exhibition is an actual horse, who was fully dissected, with an equally dissected human rider.  The horse can be seen to have suffered a tendon injury.

Body World Exhibition
Body World Exhibition

Yes, some people will find it morally wrong or offensive.  Some people will be squeamish about going.  But I highly recommend anyone who is interested in riding or teaching better, to keep an eye open for it to visit your country and go and have a wander around.  It really is quite extraordinary! 

 

Mirrors

There is an old story about two dogs who walk into a room….  The first one enters, and comes out wagging his tail, wearing a big sloppy grin on his face from what he has seen in the room.  The second dog enters, starts to growl, snarl and bare his teeth.  He comes out of the door angry and snappy.  What was in the room that provoked such a huge difference in these two dog’s reactions?  

Mirrors.  The first dog entered the room with a smile, saw a smiling dog who wagged their tail at him, and he was wagging his tail right back…  The second dog entered growling, and surprise surprise, the dog he met was growling too.

Larry would generally see the happy dog in the mirror!
Larry would generally see the happy dog in the mirror!

This story always sticks in my mind – what you think, expect, anticipate, you’re going to get back, double time.  

I spend a lot of time in airports and generally the poor staff there are harassed and complained at by irritated, tired travellers.  They are often defensive, and if you go in angry and defensive, guess what you get back?  If you go in laughing, happy, joking, it is generally what you get in return…

Why am I thinking about this now?  A while ago, I was working a horse.  I knew, well, not a lot about this horse.  He was about 10,  middle-aged, had done a fair amount, needed some work.  So, I worked with him.  Afterwards, I was chatting to the instructor who generally worked with the horse.  

“He’s a sweet little guy, isn’t he?”  I asked.  Stood while I got organised, went off when I said go, gave me exactly what I asked for at each moment, tried hard to understand and please, made some nice changes in the way he was carrying himself.  I was happy with the session; he and I left the arena both smiling.

I’m pleased to meet you – are you pleased to meet me?
I’m pleased to meet you – are you pleased to meet me?

“No”, the instructor replied, he’s difficult.  He’s stubborn, mean and has a nasty buck.  He doesn’t offer anything unless you push, and even then he is sulky and difficult…..  He’s a bully who needs bullying.

I clarified, had I worked the right horse?  The big grey in the paddock at the back?  Well yes, that horse.  The difficult one.  No, I corrected, the big grey, the easy one…

What happened?  Well, I believe that we were the two dogs entering the room.  I think she found the gelding that her boss had bought and assigned to her to bring on when she was already too busy, with too much on her plate.  I think she approached the horse with that attitude, so he responded in kind.  Oh horse, I hate riding you…  Oh human, I hate carrying you too…  And then, I walked in, with no pressure, no time constraints, no boss, no agenda, and said ooooh a horse…  A new friend…  Hello Pretty Horse, will you be my friend, will you carry me, will you play and dance with me?  And, the horse again responded in kind…..  Ohhh, hello human, yes, let’s explore, let’s play, what shall we offer each other….

Horses are a mirror to us – walk into their stable with what you expect and 99% of the time, they’ll prove you right…  

How will you approach your horse today?

Compensation – moving the pain

At the moment, I’m walking around with a knee brace on.  Long story short, I’ve upset the ligaments, tendons and cartilage in my knee, and the best way forward seems to be wearing a big black metal brace, with hinges that allow it to bend, and elastic bands built into it, creating a resistance to make me work harder.  My knee’s habit of wobbling alarmingly from side to side, or giving way entirely has now been stopped all together.  Which is awesome, in theory.  However…  There must be a downside, right?  There so often is…  Because my knee is now tracking forward and backward without rotation, the joints above and below – hip and ankle – are now under unusual use and are in a fair amount of pain.  Which impacts my back, because for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If one thing can’t do its usual practice, often it affects something else.

Which leads me to think about both horses and riders.

Horses compensate in, mainly, two ways.  The part that most of us (hopefully) know, understand and accept, is that they will move out of the way of pain.  A horse pulls off his front shoe.  Because he now draws his weight up, off, back, behind the nude hoof, he gets sore in the shoulder / long back muscle on the same side as the hoof that lost the shoe.  If this is more on going (a hoof abscess, punctured sole etc), he can get sore in the opposite hind quarter, because it transfers away, across the diagonal.  If he is sore in his mouth, he may raise his head higher when ridden, so dropping down in his back, so ending up with back pain, from a sore tooth.  You get the idea.  I remember a horse a long time ago who was put down for suspected kissing spines. In post mortem, they discovered the issue was a tooth abscess.  He was so sore in his mouth that he hollowed his back and went in a kissing spine kind of way.  The horse could have been saved if they’d delved a little deeper into his secrets.

Ummmm, what does a chicken have to do with compensation in all this then? Keep reading – see why he could wear side reins!
Ummmm, what does a chicken have to do with compensation in all this then? Keep reading – see why he could wear side reins!

The other way that a horse will compensate is, possibly, less obvious, but I think, even more important to understand.  If water is flowing down a river, and the river is blocked, or dammed up, the water will find a new route – maybe it will flood low lying ground or find a new route for the river to flow.  Water wants to move, so will find a new way.

How does this apply to our horse?  I am going to direct this towards lunging, but it applies in all work.  I hate lunging with any form of gadget or rein (other than the lunge rein).  Horses are designed to move their heads while they walk.  When you, as a human, walk along, you swing your arms, yes?  Your right arm swings forwards with your left leg and vice versa.  That is why, if you have to walk with a crutch or walking stick, you hold it in the opposite hand.  Why do we do this?  It keeps us balanced – as mammals who are vertical, we swing our arms forward and back to help with our vertical balance.  Now a horse, who is a more horizontal mammal, can’t use his arms to swing, since he doesn’t have any…  So, he nods his head forward and back, so that his long neck can help to stabilise his length.  People who watch a lot of racing may have heard the expression that a horse won on the nod – meaning that as his head nodded forwards, it took his nose a fraction out in front of the second placed horse.

So, lets take this horse, who is meant to move his head, and tie his head in one place, because that is what we are told to do, right?  We put him into side reins, or German reins, or a Market Harborough, or a bungee or whatever you use / call it, that holds his head in one place. And now, he must run around like that, often on a circle, which isn’t that normal for a horse in the first place. And, we wonder why it goes wrong… Let me tie your hands to your sides and make you run fast around in circles…  You want the water (horse) to move, but you create a blockage in the movement, so, the water (horse) finds another way.

Apparently – clever people have worked it out – a horse has 17 different routes of evading a pair of side reins on a lunge circle.  I have never tried to work them out, or count, but off the top of my head – swing quarters in, swing quarters out, drop shoulder in, drop shoulder out.  Lean on the rein, tuck behind the rein.  Tip to the right, tip to the left.  Stop tracking the inside hind through, stop tracking the outside hind through.  Rotate the withers in or out.  Its like my knee brace – stop the wiggle somewhere, another joint has to move differently.

The only animal designed to keep its head still, is a chicken…  Pick up a chicken (a live one, not one about to go into a roasting tray…)  and notice that he keeps his head straight out in front of him.  Tilt his body to the right or to the left, and notice that he keeps his beak level, and eyes straight in front.  This chicken, he would be great in a pair of side reins, but a horse, not so much.  We lunge in side reins because for so many years, we have focused on getting his head down, but fortunately now, more and more people are realising that we should be working on getting the back UP.  All that lunging on a small circle with side reins does, is, wears out his joints, places strains on his tendons and ligaments, gets him fitter and fitter (for those who lunge their horse to get rid of excess energy – he’ll get more and more of that excess energy!) and reconfirms his favourite method of evasion… He compensates for having his head tied down, but letting the movement wiggle out somewhere else.

Long reining – me with a knee brace, compensating, him not having to worry about compensating at all!
Long reining – me with a knee brace, compensating, him not having to worry about compensating at all!

What do we do instead?  Preferably – lunge with a rope halter and lunge rein or learn to long rein with two reins.  Both take more skill than traditional lunging, but both offer so much more in the results that can be achieved…  You can send the horse in straight lines, curved lines, big circles, some small turns, and can alter where you ASK his head to go, rather than forcing one position.

What do you do with your horse that he is possibly avoiding or compensating for? How can you help rather than hinder him? So, in my example, will give up the side reins and take on a better way to do things?

Joy

In one of the places where I stay, there is about a 5-minute walk to the nearest supermarket, and so, I do it often.  Chocolate and coffee, you know, vital daily necessities…

And, at one point, you walk along side a row of houses, where, midway down, lives a lovely little tabby cat.  That is all I know about her – which is the house she lives in.  And, that she is my friend.  As other people walk past, and ignore her, she sits on the little brick pillar at the end of her footpath, and watches the world go by.  And then, when she sees me coming and I talk to her, she is all mewing and purring, standing with all four feet tucked into the little bit of space, and we greet with head bumps and rubs and purrs.  It’s purely a happy greeting – I don’t have food or anything for her, she has nothing for me, but we chat for a few minutes and it leaves both of us with a smile.  A very simple interaction, with no real point other than to make us happy.

Under cat - definitely one of my joy places...
Under cat – definitely one of my joy places…

A while ago, I was in Singapore, leaving a shopping centre, where the pavement passes the bus stop.  It was 6pm and crowded with people leaving work, coming into the shopping centre, finding hawker centres for food, just the hustle bustle of a city evening.  And there was a little girl, standing on the edge of the bus stop.  She must have been about 3 or 4, and was there with her Mom or Nanny, and she was waiting for a bus to arrive.  But, clearly, she wasn’t waiting for the bus, but for who was on it.  She was so excited, going from foot to foot, knees pumping up and down as she bounced.   Every few seconds she would turn and look at her Mom or Nanny, grin, even squeal, with joy, and then go back to looking ahead and bouncing from foot to foot.   I slowed down, even more than the crowds made me, to watch and see what would happen…  The next bus pulled in, and as the crowd all came out, there was a man, looking for her.  “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy”, she shouted, so excited that she literally couldn’t contain herself, wriggling with happiness.  This was clearly a ritual that was quite common for both.

Daddy crouched down, open armed, picked her up, swung her around, all the time she was bouncing with joy.  There is simply no other word for it.  And, everyone around them started to smile to – how can you not?

How often are we stressed, or rushing, running from point A to point B and not taking the time to stop and smell the coffee?  Recently I met up with a pony who I hadn’t seen for a very long time. I sat on the poles closing him inside his pen and we had a good chat for a while, him lipping at my hair and hands, checking my pockets for carrots, nothing pushy or bolshie, just a friend who was happy to see me and saying his hellos the best way that he could. Horses greet each other through touch – we humans may be happy with a smile or inclination of the head, but ponies need an actual physical contact.  After a couple of minutes, I went to stand up, and he snaked his neck around me, effectively pinning me to the poles of his door.  He was enjoying having contact with a friend and wasn’t ready to stop just yet.

Kids still play hopscotch on the street! Certainly makes me happy!
Kids still play hopscotch on the street! Certainly makes me happy!

How often do we just hurry through our days and through our lives and forget that a lot of this life is meant to be finding happiness?  And, we are in a hurry to work harder to buy a fancier horse / house / car / watch because it is this that will make us happy, when in reality there are so many little pleasures around us much of the time, if we were just to take the time to sit and enjoy them…  So, have you hugged your horse today?

 

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F&%# Off Button

“My F&%# off button is broken”, my friend would complain. It was a game we would play, walking through town… You know all of those fund raisers, marketers, “please try my test product” people? Do you seem to attract them, or do they ignore you? My friend and I would try to keep them away, and it’s generally done with your &%$@ off button… You just walk along, and without saying anything or doing anything, they step back… Know what I mean? We’d walk along and check that they didn’t approach. But, sometimes they do. It did frustrate me, she was much better at playing the game than I was…

As you walk through a paddock of horses, are they drawn to you or pushed away?
As you walk through a paddock of horses, are they drawn to you or pushed away?

It always fascinates me, watching how people react to each other. Those fundraiser people, and marketers, they are so good at reading people. If someone walks past looking ahead, striding along, with a purpose, often they don’t bother them – the target has their F&%# off button firmly engaged. Sometimes it is when you put on your sunglasses and earphones, and they see that you have blinds up, not talking. Those who walk past looking less secure in their own skin, hesitant in where they are or where they are going, almost apologetic in being, and the marketers will get them… And those people are most likely to give them money too, since often they can’t say no.

I’m at my worst getting onto a plane. My flying time is my time, it’s where I switch off from the world. I get in my seat, next to the window, and don’t talk to me. I used to do it with props, by opening my book, putting on ear phones and leaning against the wall… Now though, I can do it without aids – I get in my seat and there are walls between me and my neighbours. Please, please, don’t be the seat neighbour who tries to talk to me – because I just won’t.

Why am I thinking about this now? I had lunch with a friend recently and we were discussing teaching and lessons, and how I read people. How do you do that, she asked? Do what, I replied? Well, just know stuff… A large part, I think, is reading what they are saying with their body.

Is electricity real? Uhh, yes. Can you see it? No. So, you must believe its there. We have the same forces within us – an electricity or a current, an energy and boundaries, unseen but (hopefully) felt / experienced / adhered to by other people.

There was a study done over a few years – I think, actually, it is still ongoing – about footballers and what makes the brilliant ones brilliant. Someone is running towards you, kicking the ball along in front of them. Are they going to send the ball to your right or to your left? There is a slight dodge, wobble, look to where they are going to go, maybe a flicker in their eye. The kids who go on to become elite footballers are the ones who can read it, and the really elite players just can’t get it wrong – as the player is running towards them with the ball, they can predict the movement.

When walking through town with my mom, she is forever complaining that when I walk, or when my brothers walk, people move out of our way, while she spends her life dodging. Just walk straight, I tell her – they’ll move. And, they do. For me. And for my brother’s. They end up walking into her. What’s the difference? Playing chicken? It’s intention – I’m just walking, and people believe that as I am walking, I won’t move, but they don’t believe her (warning – don’t try this with anyone pushing a pushchair / pram… They are a little insane, rules don’t apply…) How does this work? We do read each other, we know what people are thinking or how they are going to react, without registering or acknowledging it.

We project energy around us. Your friend walks in looking tired. How do you know? You just do. The footballer knows the ball is going right. Because, how? It just is. Maybe there was an eye flicker, maybe they are projecting energy in that direction. When someone is walking towards you down the footpath, they are going to move or not… How do you know? You just do. Think of that very charismatic, magnetic person…. They are charming, they are liked, good things just happen to them. How are they like that? They project positive, interested, interactive, high vibration energy. They attract people. Think about that slightly apologetic, world weary person. You can see them coming too.
Can I teach this? How to read this? I’m not convinced that I can. Thinking back to the conversation with my friend – how do you just know. Well, I do. When some one walks into the arena with their horse, I always spend 5 minutes or so just chatting to them. Letting them settle into their own skin, into their horse’s skin, into the space they are in. You can see it when they find their way to a good spot… They move in an easier way, they breathe. How can you not see it, I ask people?

Can horses teach this? Oh yes. You watch a horse being lunged. A novice is trying, the horse won’t go forwards, he spins around to go the other way, or he turns into the middle and stops. The poor person has no hope. The instructor walks in and the horse obediently trots along at the end of the line. The instructor didn’t appear to do anything different, and yet the horse just behaves. So, why did the horse behave? Simply, because he believes the trainer. In the way that the elite footballer knows the ball is going right or left, the horse knows whether or not to take the lunger seriously. In the same way the marketer knows if your %&$@ off button is working or not, your horse knows. He knows if you are sending him out, or drawing him in… How seriously does your horse take you?

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Is BUSY a four-letter word?

Could you get lost in this view?

I met with a friend for dinner last month – it had taken a long time and lots of back and forth messages to organise a time that suited both of us.  When we finally got together, she said – this whole – “I’m just so BUSY, when did we start saying this as a good thing?” When you meet up with someone, or ask a friend how they are, how often is the answer, OK, busy, all OK…?

Ollie is busily being a stable cat…
Ollie is busily being a stable cat…

Part of the reason that this is on my mind again, is reading an article in an equine magazine last week, about making our working hours closer to 9 to 5.    They say farriers, vets, instructors shouldn’t be expected to answer their phones or messages outside working hours.  On one hand, yes, I can see where they are coming from.  You cannot be working 24 hours a day.  However, for an awful lot of people, horses are their hobby, their down time, their relaxation.  And so, as with any leisure or hospitality industry, your working hours are during what most people consider their leisure hours.  A lot of yards or instructors take Monday as their day off, because they are working all weekend when clients have time for lessons.  And there are even some yards who close on Monday, the horses just getting their basic care.  So, if you only answer your phone, emails or work in mainstream working hours, you miss out on a lot of work.

I know that I am dreadful at not being “at work”.  Recently, I decided to take a DAY OFF.  An entire day, of not doing anything related to working, writing, researching etc.  I lasted until about 11am.  Because I have clients all over the world, no matter what time it is where I am sitting, someone somewhere is telling me about their ride, asking me about their bit, chatting about where we are organising our next yoga retreat, or asking advice about an issue.  The number of times I’m sitting up at midnight chatting to a client who is another part of the world, or at a family function but on my phone at the same time…

Another friend who I was chatting to a while ago had, sadly, just lost her horse to colic.  She was saying one of the things that had really surprised her was the amount of free time she had – not just the actual time she would have been spending at the yard, but time planning what schooling sessions she would be doing, looking into different feeds, checking that she had booked her farrier at the right time, reading about new bits and wondering if she needed to change what she was using. And because she was working full time and juggling her horse around work, and juggling booking her farrier around that, she would sometimes be messaging him at 8 at night.

Is being too busy different when it’s your hobby?  Does it make it better when you work your hours and then you’re “being Busy” is your hobby time?  It’s all a careful balance I think…

And then, a couple of days ago, I was walking from the house where I was staying, down to their yard.  It’s 660 steps – I know because I counted – and I think it’s a lovely amble.  For me, that is my down time.  I don’t have internet connection when I am outside the house or yard, so for those 5 minutes I am not online.  And, the view, the flowers, the ponies grazing in the paddock, they all make you go hmmmm…  And on one of those walks last week, there, sitting on a bench on the common was an elderly lady, very quietly, very still, gazing down the valley.  She didn’t move, didn’t react, was completely lost in just looking out over the fields and hills.  That, I thought, that is switching off and not being at work. Maybe, instead of trying to stick to office hours, or stick to taking a day off, maybe we should just make sure we have time everyday to sit and stare at the view, to make room in our heads for nothing but the feel of the warming sun, the smells of the spring flowers, the sound of the birds in the hedges

Could you get lost in this view?
Could you get lost in this view?

And, what about our horses?  So many horses live in very busy yards.  They have grooms in and out of their boxes, mucking out, feeding, grooming, tacking up, and different riders coming in, collecting different horses at different times for different lessons.  Maybe those horses go out for a couple of lessons a day.  And even those in the paddock, cars will be driving past, pulling into the car park.  Planes fly overhead, things are always happening.  I do think horses get stressed by being a part of our “busy”. On this day, when I was watching the lady sitting staring down the valley, I also watched the horses in the paddock in her line of sight.  One was standing, hind leg rested, head lowered, ears hanging out to the side and lower lip flopping.  The other two horses were lying flat out on the grass, sunbathing and totally switched off. These, I thought were horses who really were busy doing nothing.  And that is so important in their lives, they need to horse, they need time to relax muscles and they need time to process.

Does your horse get a summer holiday?
Does your horse get a summer holiday?

 

When I was first learning about horses, first taking professional exams, one of the subjects that we spent a lot of time on was roughing off (preparing a horse for his summer holidays by gradually reducing his work, his hard feed, his rugs) and then getting him fit again, ready for his busy season.  For at least a month, he would be turned out, checked once a day but otherwise left alone.  How many people now a days have no idea how or why roughing off is done? How many horses never actually get to have a holiday?  So many people have horses who they ride 6 days a week, every week and when they, the humans, go away on holidays, they make sure to hire someone else to come in and ride their horses 6 days a week.

in a busy yard, where people are in and out all day, how “busy” are horses?  Do they feel they can fully relax
In a busy yard, where people are in and out all day, how “busy” are horses?  Do they feel they can fully relax

 

We humans are complaining about being busy, about how we need holidays, about how we need to switch off, and if you are a farrier, to stop answering your phone. But how often do you put your horse’s holidays aside because he must keep working? When was the last time that your horse had a few weeks holiday?

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