Lifestyle

Growing Organically (and I don’t mean food)


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642I know I’m not the only one who struggles with growth–that is, not just doing it, but the way you do it.

When I want to grow in a certain direction, I tend to overthink it. Then I work toward it–but it never seems like it’s happening quickly enough. It might be slow, or disorganized, or not quite in the way or the order that I thought it would happen.

Growth is a funny thing. We can work toward it and wish for it and also make a bullet point list in order of chronological benchmarks, but like anything else in life, it rarely works out exactly accordingly with all those lists or ideas we create.

Instead of making lists and ideas of every component you wish to create, try setting an intention. Decide on a feeling or a quality you want to create. Imagine it–really, imagine what it would be like in real life, with both the good stuff… and the bad stuff (or at least less than ideal stuff) that comes with that.

In mind and movement, find that quality as much as you can. Then start to live and expand in that. Don’t expect yourself to do a certain number of repetitions a day, or complete a certain checklist in any specific time. Just feel your quality or intention, and then learn to live in that quality or intention. You’ll find that what you’re looking for isn’t really out there… somewhere. It’s right here. You just have to water it, plant it in sunlight, love it a lot, throw in some… ahem… fertilizer… and let it grow organically.

Lifestyle

Easter, the little things, and loving the imperfect journey


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Happy Easter everyone!

This morning, my mom and I had a lovely little morning tea time out next to the horses to celebrate Easter. We were sharing thoughts and ideas and talking about what Easter meant to us… kind of like spring’s New Year, and talking about just “being”, and love, and kindness, and the everyday beautiful stuff of life.

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I read a poem that I had written the night before about being fully present and enjoying different little moments of life, and metaphorically planting a path of flowers that led to a secret garden that was no longer secret, where I flung the door open and invited everyone to play or sit in my garden of a little bit of everything. We read one of my favorite childrens’ books–Everyday Angels–about how “angels” are everywhere, in the peaceful moments, in nature, in love, and in little acts of kindness. I lingered on each page long after I had finished reading it to admire the beautiful art, just as I did as a child. We listened to a song called “This Sweet Love” about just being and sweet love… we laughed, and told stories, and sat next to each other while breathing in Heartflow, and fully appreciating the sky, and the beautiful warm breeze, the little spring flowers, and the sweet smell of baby grass and clover, our joyful dogs who were running about and periodically visiting with us, and each others’ company.

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Finale checking in to see what all the Easter stuff is about.

We talked about how grateful we are for our wonderful horses, and admired their beauty. I mentioned that it’s easy, with starting Wellness Based Horsemanship, to have moments of being concerned about what others will think of your horses, your practice, and your training just by looking at pictures or the movement of your horse. We talked about how others probably often feel similarly–and how as we feel self-conscious about ourselves, many of us simultaneously reach out with full encouragement and support to our equally less-than-perfect friends, trainers, and even strangers who share this amazing love of horses.

This Easter, I’d love for you to feel the spring season, and the everyday beautiful things, and love and kindness, and also to reflect on your relationship with your horses and yourself… Despite all of us not being “perfect,” or still not moving “perfectly,” give yourself the gift of the same support and encouragement that you would so readily give to someone else. Our own horses have given us so much knowledge, love, and experience. They have taught me what it means to approach horsemanship and wellness with horses not just from the perspective of wanting to improve performance, but also from the perspective of sincerely wanting to help my friends (both four and two-legged) feel and live better–with more openness, confidence, and joy. The truth is, you never “get there” with your horses… there are always things that can be improved. And what a joy that is–to be on a journey of growth with another beautiful, imperfect partner.

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Wellness with Horses

Horses and Body Listening


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Intro: Reason for Writing this Post

This post is about a specific area of bodywork that I like to call “Body Listening,” or sometimes just “Listening”. This involves gentle touches and listening to the horse’s body, and also encouraging and guiding the horse to listen to his own body and release tension. I use other methods that involve more movement and are more obvious to the observer, as well… but I have found that these less obvious methods can sometimes be the most perplexing to others who are watching, and also sometimes most beneficial to those who are receiving. Because of this, I wanted to explain it in writing.

 

Beginning of the Session

When I’m approaching a horse, I do so in loving-kindness and relaxation. The horse sees and comes to understand that my intention is to help, there is no need to worry, and that they can relax in my presence.

Before I get started, I often stand near the horse in silence. I am grounding myself, relaxing more deeply, and softly noticing the horse and his reactions. I then encourage the horse to mirror me–to relax with me, to join me in deeper breathing. Sometimes I am touching at this point, and sometimes I am just taking more of a step toward the horse or offering a hand, somehow making it clear that I am trying to communicate and connect with him.

Regardless of what the horse does, I do not get offended or worried. I just stay quiet and loving and patient, an open pool of relaxation. I do not push past his boundaries. If the horse doesn’t want to be touched, I don’t touch him.

I then begin either with touching the horse, or facing my palm toward the horse’s body but some distance from his skin. I am noticing any sensations I have in my body and any reactions that the horse is having. At the very least, I am asking the horse for permission. If he gives it to me, I am then asking him if he can notice anything about this area of his body.

In some instances, I might “scan”, slowly moving my hand over his skin or next to his body some distance away, looking for when he responds. I then wait there, and relax deeply, asking him again if he can relax with me and follow my breath.

I find deeper relaxation in myself, continuing to notice myself and the horse. I encourage and praise as the horse finds deeper relaxation, letting him know that he’s on the right track.

The horse is coming more into the parasympathetic nervous system at this point, finding a state of calm, a state that he can heal in and release in. The further he comes into this state, the more attentive he is to me and my movements, and the more he can think about releasing tension.

 

Continuing the Session in Listening

I can continue in this pattern, scanning or pointing out different areas, and then melting into relaxation with the horse. I encourage the horse to let go. I treat him kindly, like he is the most special individual I have ever met. He becomes more open and willing to try to connect with me.

Through this connection and through gradually showing him that he can release, he begins to learn for himself how to release his tension. The horse learns through feel and through the pattern how to release with me.

 

Sometimes there’s more to it.

This is not always all that I am doing though. Sometimes I am softly feeling the pulsing rhythms in his body, noticing and adjusting for them as they change. I feel the quality of the tissue, and also the movement of it, often following the movement of the tissue and encouraging it to soften as it releases through the motion of my hand. I often slightly pulse into the tissue, or I’ll place two hands on different parts of the body and pulse in toward the other hand, or toward a meeting point. I feel for the tissue as I pulse, and follow its movement here as well. Sometimes I move the tissue into the easiest position or movement for it and wait for it to release itself. Sometimes I softly expand into an easy or difficult direction, and softly expand back toward neutral. Sometimes I shorten muscles and fascia, allowing them space to relax and soften. Sometimes I touch multiple areas in a sequence, and then pick one or two of them to leave my hand on, occasionally highlighting the others, so that the horse pays attention to and releases a pattern together. Sometimes I rock my weight into the horse, causing them to shift their weight and find a different position. Sometimes I ask the horse to move, sometimes showing me the way they want to move, and sometimes me asking them to move in a certain way that encourages a release, while touching an area on their body and feeling for some of these things, or simply asking them to notice and release.

Any more technical maneuvers like this are matched with the continuing connection with the horse, the mirroring of relaxation and deepening into the parasympathetic nervous system state. I encourage, thank, and praise the horse as they release further.

 

It’s Simple, Really…

Through these patterns of touching, feeling, following, connecting, and gradually releasing together, the horse learns to connect and to release, often with some help from me with very subtle movement of the tissue or of a body part. It is really as simple as connecting and learning, as complicated as you want to make it, and maybe sometimes, it can be seen as pretty magical because it’s truly a beautiful thing to watch and experience.

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

Lifestyle

Moving Forward, New Beginnings


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My mom and I are beginning to shift the direction of Wellness Based Horsemanship… It’s no longer just a personal journey. It’s starting to evolve into something more.

We’re in the process of developing a business that supports riders to develop wellness for themselves and their horses through the integration of wellness based horsemanship and holistic wellness practices.

For the time being we’ll begin sharing our ideas and some of our sneak-peak material for future programs and learning material. I’ll be available to support riders and their horses through bodywork sessions and by teaching riders simple bodywork and body releasing methods they can use themselves.

If you aren’t following the blog, I would encourage you to follow it now! There will be lots of new things coming up in the coming months, and we’re excited and ready to share them with you!

With love,

Kara

Wellness with Horses

The Intention of Softness


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Last night I went to enjoy time with Hope. I had gone back and read my notes from Aimee Brimhall-McCord clinics, and had a few ideas (which I had mostly forgotten) along for the ride.

Fast forward so I don’t have to bore you with the details of our loving grooming or the time I took while putting the surcingle on for her to feel okay and calm with it…. and to the main point here.

We went out to the pasture side by side. My intention was togetherness, softness, and encouraging healthy body movement through creating an example of softness in balance in my own mind and body. I breathed deeply and mindfully. I smelled the smells and watched the grass. We paused for a moment.

In movement, I fiddled and foddled until I found some good flow in my own body and mind. She patiently went along with me… But regardless of the little details and pieces of what I was doing, the most important thing was the intention of softness.

She melted with it, joining me in that softness, breathing deeply, curving her body around me, listening for what I had to whisper, and checked in regularly. She would come up softly, and out my palm would go, a soft cup, as if I were going to receive a gift of water. And each time, she placed her whole muzzle in my hand, quivering her lips a bit, and then relaxing them… resting her weight in my palm.

Hope has given me both the experience of the softest horse I’ve ever seen and the most fear-driven and explosive horse I’ve ever seen.

It’s like a painting… Sometimes the most important things are not the things in the painting, or the paint you use, or the brushes you use, or even the canvas or lack thereof, but the color and the way you stroke your brush and the feeling you have behind it.

Regardless of all those little details, I believe the intention of softness and loving-kindness is most important. At least, that’s what the horses keep telling me.

Wellness with Horses

Honesty and Softness in Communication


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Today, I was playing with both Cherish and Hope free in the pasture. I had a lightweight bamboo stick with me, about 5 1/2 feet long.

I used the stick very little. I encourage my horses to communicate with me honestly–I don’t pressure them to stay with me during this type of work, or to be right or perform in a certain way. I try not to correct or punish or add negative pressure. I just encourage and allow honest feedback.

In allowing honesty I found that there still needed to be less stick, even though I was using the stick as a very soft guide/aid (helper/explainer). And the more I played, I found that each movement, each specific, tiny movement of the horse–whether that be flexing the poll toward me, and to what degree, or bringing the hind leg under, or bringing the shoulder toward me or away from me–all of these could be guided through the dynamic movement and functioning of my body, my intention, my energy, and my connection to the horse. There really was no need for the stick.

And still, I occasionally used my crutch, mostly not to make things clear to the horse, but to make things clear to myself, because the horses already understand and know how, if only we can figure out how to explain it well.

 

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In revisiting this blog post, this is really also about understanding and being aware of our bodies and our movement and learning how to express what we want through body language that conveys the intention, energy, the elusive “feel”.

Wellness with Horses

Love, Openness, Seeking, and Enjoying


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Today, I went for a run with Cherish. During the run, I was playing with how I was moving my body, my balance, etc. I found a way of moving that was really balanced and engaged, and really allowed me to “float” across the ground without much effort. I felt like I could stay at that steady pace for forever. When I found that way of moving, Cherish immediately mirrored it, engaging her hind end, lifting her back, and finding a bouncy, springy, floaty trot.

After our run I played with Hope, who found really happy, soft, relaxed, stretchy walk and trot, and was having fun with some “dancing with poles” in which I asked her to have fun being precise.

Cherish was asking to play, so I played with her some more. I took her halter off and we played at liberty, running around and having fun.

At the end, she showed me all her itchy spots. After that I hung my arm over her back, leaned into her, and laid my head on her back. She turned her head around and rested her head on my hip. We stayed like that for a while. She was breathing really deeply, almost as if she was going to fall asleep.

Very cool stuff! I love my horses.

Wellness with Horses

Horse Hiking


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Monday my mom and I took the girls hiking.

We decided ahead of time that we would set it up for calmness and take it slow getting prepared and getting the horses ready. When we brought the horses out of the trailer, we had hang out time.

We brushed them, petted and scratched them, did breathing exercises, some massage/bodywork, let them meet some people who asked if their kids could pet them, and just enjoyed ourselves.

The hike was wonderful. Both Cherish and Hope were super calm. As we went along, my mom and I were letting them sniff things, stop to check things out, and stop to paw things if they wanted to. They were so happy to have that extra room to just be horses and check everything out.

I hopped on both Cherish and Hope with the bareback pad and my helmet a few times, and my mom hopped on Cherish once. Hope was completely sound the whole time, and as I rode Cherish behind her I noticed HOW MUCH Hope’s back and hind end were moving and swinging, and how even the movement was. I was really happy with this. When I rode Hope, she was connected and happy and calm. She felt really in her body and balanced and happy.

It was a wonderful day!

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.