Mindfulness

Mindfulness, Wellness with Horses

Love and tumbles with horses. Learning to gather together.


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4/29/20

Today out with Hope and Cherish. The grass was green. The sky was beautiful. Clouds rolled in more as we went along. The day was fairly quiet. There was a glad roaring wind–like a toddler flapping branches, saying, “See mommy! Look how much noise! Flying! We’re flying!” While he runs across the tree tops and stirs the forest to come alive.

It felt like a group day. The last few days I had been focusing on getting the horses more comfortable doing things alone. But today? Today felt like togetherness. The horses felt it, too. And we all breathed a little deeper for it.

We came up to the barn together, a rope looped around Cherish’s neck, Hope’s rope draped with slack. It was nice, the feeling. Like walking hand in hand with someone you’ve known for a long time and care for deeply. We stopped together, turned together, slowed together. Not for technique, but for being together. For helping each other. They forgave my tumbling and lack of coordination–for some day, I felt almost as tumbly as the wind. My hands dropped, my arms missed, I placed halters against eyes and forgot what I was doing. And I laughed. I laughed at myself, my apparent tumbliness for the day, and took a deep breath. So they laughed with me. Or at least… patiently waited.

I groomed them both, Hope first and then Cherish, while they were tied at the barn posts. I paused several times to chat with my mom, or stroke one of them. We were in no rush. I talked with them casually as I un-knotted manes and cleaned dried mud off of legs. And we breathed.

Today, I wasn’t perfect. I woke up feeling the heartache and the beauty and the love of the world, all together. I had a tension in my stomach that made me not want to eat. My hands and arms were as tumbly as the wind. But the horses didn’t mind, I imagine because I have been soft and kind with them, and even among my lapses, I was here. With them. Together. It wasn’t just tumbles and tension I felt. Those feelings lived along with an embracing feeling of love. For them. For those I love. For the world.

I tacked Cherish up slowly. I let her smell the bareback pad. I waited for her to shift her weight toward me and soften and breathe. Just stood. I put it on her gently, tenderly. The same way I would put a sock on an infant. With a lot of love. I fumbled with her bitless bridle. Hope waited patiently, watching us (until Finale left–honestly, she was a bit worried, so I stopped to speak with her and touch her gently, stroking her down her neck until she settled and realized she was not alone, and she was not being left). And when I brought them together, I gathered them and their ropes slowly, with thought and care. We had practiced this many times now in the last few months, just walking with each other, back and forth to different places, and then while we were working on different things. They knew to wait. I like to think we’re all learning to enjoy waiting.

And so, we went. Together, the three of us. We fumbled in slow motion with our setup at the mounting block. Everyone was calm. I didn’t mind gathering together slowly. We turned, lined up, I called Hope to turn and stand with us when she got a bit ahead. I even got on awkwardly. I laughed at myself, lightly–sometimes you have to. Cherish breathed out. We paused, all standing together. We gathered. I breathed. And we went.

We walked. We trotted–what great fun! We turned softly. We paused. We walked some more. But mostly, we gathered. In each moment, we gathered, leaving slowlness, leaving space, having time to transition, to change. I started the feelings in my body. I opened my heart, for me, and around them. And we gathered. Together. Like a happy little slow motion tumbly family.

Not every moment was perfect. Today I was not stellar with coordination. The rope got under Cherish’s tail at one point, and she clamped it, starting a slow-motion spin that stopped when I soothed her, stroking her deeply. Hope snatched grass at one point and the motion tugged at my arm awkwardly. But there was no harshness here. No quickness, no corrections, no chiding. But I loved my horses. I stroked them, I stopped with them, we watched things together, I brought them together, they touched each other, Hope touched me on the leg, I touched them each on the neck. We took time. But I shared joy with them. I laughed with them. I talked with them. I praised them, I giggled with them. I smiled with them. I didn’t pay mind to what didn’t matter. And we gathered. So the rest–the imperfect stuff–it didn’t matter.

Isn’t that why we join with them in the first place–to be together (to-gether=to-gather)? To feel love? To feel joy?

Enjoy your horses. Forgive yourself for your tumbles. Give yourself time. Trust me, they do not mind. They will learn to wait for you. And in learning to wait for each other, you will begin to receive the gift of being together.

Bodywork, Mindfulness, Wellness with Horses

Unwinding Tension and Fear Together, for you and your horse.


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4/26/20

Hope was a bit nervous today. It was chilly, windy, grey, and sprinkling off and on. I thought the weather was beautiful. She thought it was a bit cold. I talked to her softly while we went to put her blanket on. Once clothed, she was able to breathe much more deeply.

There were other distractions, too, and she was a bit worried. I smiled while we walked together, her head low, her stride matching mine, long slow walk steps with an occasional stop to look at something or have a quiet snort to herself. This way of being worried, where she could reassure herself and gain reassurance from me is a new normal for us. Many moons ago I would have been flying a runaway kite (or being ski-dragged by a runaway boat-horse). Now, here she was, softly walking with me, gently closing her eyes and leaning in ever so slightly each time I stroked her.

When we wandered far from the other horses she got more nervous–a bit high-headed and looky. I asked her to trot at one point and she snorted, head and flag raising. I breathed out a low “whoaaa” and she stopped gently beside me, but her head was still high and she was still looking, eyes wide.

I asked her to walk and slowly helped her find the rhythms in her body so she could come back to slowness and peace. I gently pressed my fingers around the rope more, allowing my elbow to swing slightly with it, each time her head swayed toward me. I walked in sync with her front legs step for step. I turned my shoulders so she could wrap around me in a gentle arc. I placed my hand on different spots of her neck and gently pressed as she swung outwards. As we went in circles like this, I remembered to breathe. She remembered to breathe with me. I never told her to lower her head, never told her to relax, never told her to look toward me or cuve around me–she did these things because it felt good, because I encouraged her, because I reminded her that she could find calm.

She stopped and I stopped with her. I stroked her nose very lightly when she turned to me. She blinked her eyes–and then a gate clanged. Her head shot up again, looking wildly, worrying her friends were leaving her for good. I started tapping her on her body, gently. My words started off as soft whispers, and surprised me a bit as they came out of my mouth. “Even though you’re worried and scared, I still believe in you,” and, “Even though you’re worried, I deeply love and accept you,” were repeated many times as I slowly tapped all over her body. Cha-cha–cha-cha-cha. Cha-cha–cha-cha-cha. Slow drum beats of love. Over and over. Slow reminders. She was okay. I believed in her. I believed in myself. I loved her. I loved myself. I accepted her. I accepted myself. Nothing was needed from either of us. Everything, right here, no matter what, was good.

She had huge yawns, unwinding all that internal pressure and fear as I unwound my own version that I hadn’t realized I was holding until it began to let go.

I started whispering to her and myself “Big breath of love in… big breath of love out.” As I did this I slowly, ever so gently stroked, first up and then down her nostrils, then up and then down the side of her face, then up and then down her neck, multiple times, until I reached her chest, where I placed my hand on her heart and felt deep love and gratitude for her. For everything about her. Even for the sensitivity, the fear, the worry. And again, she released a lot of internal tension. Blinking, chewing, yawning, lengthening… and I found the little knotted spirals unwinding in myself all the same.

As we walked back toward the other horses, she began to quicken her pace. So I wondered, “what would child me do?” I smiled and created a silly game. I stopped her gently. Then I took one ridiculously large and slow step forward, and plopped my foot on the ground. She took one unsure step forward and stopped. I doted on her, gently but joyfully. And another silly large and slow step. And she took one step and looked at me. And an exaggerated amount of emphatic praise and love and strokes and glee. And another step. Soon I was giggling, and she was taking slow tender steps with soft eyes and loose, slowly moving lips.

And we danced, like two slow goobers across an entire field. It was love at first sight, and for every sight after…

but only recently has it become fun.

I’m the one who changed.

She was more than ready to adjust with me. 

Thank you, love, and all the other ever-patient equids who so graciously agree to be with and teach us. 

May I never give you reason to feel afraid

or impatient,

and if I do,

please forgive me, 

and I will try again.

Mindfulness

The Path of Confidence: Feeling the Role You Want


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The path of confidence is a funny one. I can’t say that it’s been straight, or easy. I wish I had some grand secret to share with all of you, a piece I’ve learned that trumps all others and fixes everything.

The truth is, I don’t.

For those of you experiencing anxiety, I get it. I’ve been there.

My own path of confidence has been closely intertwined with horses. Every step of the way, the horses have helped me in some way or another. Sometimes it has been to nurture me, to show me that I am safe. Other times it is to push me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes it is seeing the reality versus the dream, and knowing that a large part of what is standing in the way is my own confidence. (more…)

Mindfulness

Take a Breath: Connection through Breathing


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After our post and exercise about allowing yourself to breathe through releasing the ribcage somatically the other day, I’d like to add another layer.

Taking a breath is both physically and emotionally and mentally restorative. We give ourselves a break for a moment. We relax a little deeper. Each time we breathe deeply, we change the stress (or threat) response to one of a relaxation or perhaps a challenge response. We prepare ourselves to cope and to enjoy.

Taking a breath can also give us a moment. It can give us a moment to reflect, or to shift our perspective, or to shift something else. It can give us a moment to smile, or to think before we speak. It can give us a moment to soften. (more…)

Mindfulness

Search… and REALLY ENJOY.


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Karen Rohlf has a concept called “Search and Enjoy”.

The idea is that you search… search… search… and then enjoy. When you’re enjoying, you’re doing just that. You’re not telling your horse anything. You’re just enjoying the feeling that you’ve found together.

In the beginning, you can search for a while… but as you go along, your time searching should become shorter and shorter, and your time enjoying should become longer.

I’ve been focusing on this a lot recently. I’ve found that in the past, I’ve often been okay with searching for far too long… or not searching skillfully (i.e., floundering instead of searching)… or not enjoying it once I do find it. I also realized that I almost expect to end on a good note… but also to find that good note just before I end the session. I don’t spend time enjoying that good note. Most of my session with my horse is okay, and the last couple of minutes are really what I wanted the whole ride to feel like. Why wasn’t I spending more of the session or ride there?

I also brought into this layer the intention of enjoying the searching process. So, search and enjoy doesn’t just mean that you’re miserable while searching and you enjoy once you find it… it means you enjoy the search process, and then you REALLY take time to enjoy the enjoying.

I found that my horses were much happier this way, and that we had so much more fun! I enjoyed the session more, the searching was done with clear intentions to search skillfully and then find a space where we could enjoy. If I realized I was asking for more than they could realistically find to enjoy, I lowered or changed my expectations. This created a lot more enjoyment and a lot more clarity in my sessions… my horses were definitely thankful.

Again, just a little something to play with…

Mindfulness

Do what you love and you will be what you love.


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Do what you love and you will be what you love.

In this picture, I see two beings doing what they love.

I see a beautifully imperfect girl and her beautifully imperfect horse.

In this photo, I was tight. I had to bend my knees to touch my toes.

In this photo, Hope was tight. Her body is not perfect. Neither is mine.

In this photo, we were learning a new way to be together.

In this photo, I was taking care of myself so I could offer her the space she needed to love and be loved.

In this photo, we were blossoming.

In this photo, we are beautiful.

Often times when we see photos, whether of others or ourselves, our initial reaction is to judge. We see what isn’t perfect. What isn’t good enough. What doesn’t look like enough healthy movement, or enough of a smile, or a weird angle.

We often categorize our life in moments, judgments, tests, measures, and comparisons. We look for whether or not we’ve “made it”. Whether or not we’re “there yet”. Whether we’re “being who we want to be”.

If we’re doing what we love every day, aren’t we being that person? Aren’t we being our most authentic selves? If we’re loving openly every day, aren’t we? If we’re doing something, even a little something… aren’t we? If we’re at least taking a moment to take care of ourselves… aren’t we? Even if it’s not every day but on average… aren’t we?

Do what you love and you will be what you love.

My friends… you are that person. You are where you need to be. You are the person you want to be. And your horse is right there with you… The two of you, together, to help and support and do and be along the way. Loving and expressing the ups and downs… being what you love.

Mindfulness

Simplifying Choices with Heartspace


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An initiation of change from a decision. A decision that has rippled out to affect my entire life. Thanks to my mom for capturing this photo and Aimee Brimhall-McCord for creating the space for others to realize their change.

Love is gentle. Love is kind. Love involves fluctuation, adaptation, give and take. Love is a choice.

I’ve been thinking a lot about choices recently–the choice to wake up early, the choice to be productive, the choice to simplify things so that it’s easier to do everything that’s most important.

I’ve also been thinking about how we make choices. I often make choices through logical explanation, reasoning, and a lot of overthinking and circling around, a lot of stress, and a lot of indecision… and finally, at the last moment (essentially when I have to), a choice.

This causes me a lot of grief, a lot of hours, and a lot of frustration. How not fun is that?

Recently I’ve been playing with the concept of simplifying, and adding in some flow and some heartspace. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these concepts, I’ve written the general idea below.

Heartspace: Feel the area around your heart. Feel love, compassion, kindness, or another positive emotion that you can access. Breathe into that emotion. Imagine a time where you felt that very vibrantly. Bring it into this moment. Allow yourself the space to share that with yourself and others into this moment.

Flow: Letting loose, softening, not being so mechanical… feeling. Moving. Not getting stuck.

So I’ve been applying these concepts to the idea of making decisions. I’ve been timing myself–giving myself five minutes, let’s say. I wasn’t open to this idea at first, but decided to try it anyway. I got to a point where I was desperate to not be drawn out into a long and dramatic epic of decision making. Then I breathe into my heart. I bring up that positive, loving feeling–whatever flavor it takes on today. I bring up the opportunity, the decision, the question. I sit on the options. Feel into them. Feel how my heart, my self, my emotions respond. I honor that. I notice. I might ask another question, or I might just feel into it more. Often though, I get a simple answer.

I might also take a few minutes (also timed) to make a chart, to appeal to my inner logic referee.

(Chart example)

I do this to soothe my worries… but then, at the end of the time, I make a decision. I always take both into account… but honestly, my heartspace hasn’t lied yet. It’s usually what I want, what I need, what makes sense… And even when it hasn’t been the easiest or the most logical decision with the information I have at the moment, it’s usually clear a few weeks or months down the road how that decision carved an important path into my life.

So… try it. Try simplifying your choices and decisions.

First, set the intention: I’m going to actually MAKE one. Not flounder. Require that it be simple. Clear.

Then, timer. Heartspace.

If you need to, time again. Create a rational chart. Keep it simple.

Now, decide. Jump to it. Dive in. 100%.

And accept… whatever you decide, if you really don’t like it… Life is always changing. You have more choices to come. If you don’t like it, make another choice. To change.

Thanks to Aimee Brimhall-McCord for being open to us using her word “Heartspace” in our language

.

Mindfulness

Slowly Developing Consistency and Finding Meaning in Patterns


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Consistency has been a theme that has continued to come up for me recently, with instructors, horses, bodywork clients, and in my personal life.

Consistency is not just something I didn’t have, it’s something that I was actively fighting for a long time. When I had to enroll in a program that was largely based in or required a lot of consistency, I balked, and tried to put in as much variety as possible.

Recently I’m finding value in consistency–for growth, stability, balance, wellness, efficiency, and for patterns.

Patterns are developed for a reason. Methods of bodywork, horsemanship, or riding often use patterns for teaching, developing, or balancing. They are crafted over time for a specific purpose. Somewhere along the way I became quite convinced that everyone’s method (even those I highly respected) absolutely needed to be changed. While I still believe that everything can be improved upon, I was often challenging and fighting against fundamental patterns which worked really well.

I’m especially thinking of my somatics (human and equine) practice here. Thomas and Eleanor Hanna didn’t just randomly decide to put a bunch of movements together in a random way or random order. I’m just starting to get an inkling of understanding of how each movement pattern is truly meant to balance and release someone from a mental-emotional-physical reflex response… and how useful the sequence truly is. It balances the opposing movements in the body, and essentially frees the whole person. I feel like I have a lot of apologies to extend to my Hanna Somatics instructors (or really any instructors)…. Oh what grief I must cause. Or perhaps they just go “silly Kara, she’ll figure it out on her own eventually…” and doodle about their day.

It’s refreshing to find that all the things I’ve learned have meaning.

As I’m attempting to bring more consistency into my life (and sometimes doing a better job than other times) I find that my horses and I are starting to breathe more. We can count on something. I can expect certain things to happen in my day and not be exhausted by constant decision making. I also find that in consistency, things are being built on–they’re developing and improving. My yoga is getting better, my somatics is getting better, my bodywork practice is improving, and my horses are getting a little more clear on some of those things I’ve jumped around with.

I have not at all mastered consistency, or patterns. I have a long way to go. I’m just starting to realize their value and truly appreciate the wisdom others have shared with me for what it is.

 

For this post, I’d like to extend a special thanks to Carol and to Jillian Kreinbring (who turned my lesson into what I needed–consistency and a dash of humility–instead of what I wanted), and a warm appreciation to all of my instructors–thank you all for your patience with all of us students.

Mindfulness

Shine Your Light


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We’ve been working on a lot of things here at Wellness Based Horsemanship. It’s been fun, it’s been awesome… but it seems like we’re getting into a bit of a (maybe not so great) pattern.

It’s been over two months since I shared the idea of my mom and I partnering to create Wellness Based Horsemanship. It’s been two months since I let everyone know that the website would be a place where we would share what we learned as we grow, learn, and explore.

We’ve been doing so much, but we’ve been trying so hard to be “perfect” that we haven’t shared anything.

While doing yoga and moving this morning, I found myself reflecting on how much I want to be able to inspire and support riders, to allow and guide shifts in others’ lives, wellness, and in the horse community. I want to provide information that I know so many people are looking for… but I want so badly to provide it in the “right” way. We’ve been working so hard to make things “perfect” before we can share anything that we’re doing.

It’s amusing to find myself in this place, because that’s not my belief system. I believe that we all grow the best and the brightest when we support and share with each other what we’re learning. And I thought to myself… you know, I bet other people find themselves feeling this way too–that we have to be the perfect riding instructor, the perfect bodyworker, the perfect counselor, or teacher, or yogi, or mom, or rider, or whatever it is that you love to do.

Imagine the amount of stress we carry trying to be perfect.

To all of you out there who get stuck in the circle of re-crafting and perfecting and worrying and re-worrying… Know that there are people out there who need your light to shine on their life. There are people out there who would love to hear your words, and receive your guidance. What you have learned or are learning, you continue because you love doing it, you love others, you love horses. We all love our horses, and we all want to see them and each other happy and well. And guess what? We each have at least one thing that just might be what another person needs to grow, to help themselves, to help others, or to help their horse.

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Breathing in love & heart-flow with Cherish.

Be and share what you wish to find. You are the teacher you seek! Even when you learn from others, or your horse, they “speak” but you are the one who listens and molds it with everything else you know, do, and love. Allow yourself to be that teacher. Do things the way you wish they would be done. Inspire others the way you wish they could be inspired.

In that, you can do no wrong. Share freely, my friends! You’ve all got something gloriously beautiful, no need to tuck it up your sleeve for fear of what the world may think.

The WHOLE world will never LOVE what you do. But someone will.

 

In light of that, I choose to share more love, more inspiration, more thoughts, and more things that we’re exploring. I look forward to sharing more, and I thank all of the beautiful horse people and horses I’ve met who have shared their own “lights” with me.

 

The original note in my journal that inspired this blog post:

Inspire note

Mindfulness

The Gift of Love


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I played with Cherish today. I gave her full and unconditional love… and of course, as the session went on, it was returned. Soon enough we were happily gallivanting happily around with each other and softly loving on each other, her nuzzling and snuggling in close, and me rubbing and cradling her face. We walked up to my mom, me with a giant smile on my face and her with bright, happy, and peaceful eyes, ears, and lips, and I said “This is better than any extended trot she could ever give me.” and we hung out there like that, together for a while, me cuddling and loving on and hugging her, and for once, her actually, truly enjoying it, and giving in return.

The horse is your mirror.