Category Archives: Horse articles I wrote

The slower you go, the sooner you arrive

We all know that when we work on specific long-term goals with our horses, the best way to reach these goals is by creating many small steps that build slowly towards the bigger goal.

However, we often feel the pressure of deadlines. We push progress because a show coming up, or we believe that a horse having a certain age, should be able to perform specific tasks. Giving into these perceived time pressures, we tend to hurry and push, trying to make the change happen sooner rather than later. This often leads to impatient humans and stressed horses, making the learning less effective.

The secret to progress is to slow down. To most of us, that feels counter-intuitive. In my coaching sessions I often hear, “How can I slow down if I am already behind?” The answer is that if you keep working with your horse in a state of stress, or fear of running out of time, you create an ineffective, slow learning environment. If you slow down, find calmness within yourself, and concentrate on the next step in front of you, you provide a learning environment where you and your horse can connect and communicate clearly with each other.

Here are some tips on how to slow down to arrive sooner:

Set the tone for your time together
Take the time to stand by your horse’s side and breathe together to set the tone for your time together. Let go of the outside, connect and get in sync with your horse. Tune in to your body and find calmness, confidence and focus. Allow this to radiate through you and your horse. This sets the tone for your time together, creating connection and flow right from the beginning.

Focus on present moment
Letting go of the future and focusing on the present moment is one of the most powerful gifts you can bring to your partnership with your horse. It allows both of you to enter with ease into the partnership dance: you ask your horse to do something and your horse gives you an answer. If the answer is not what you want, you keep asking calmly until the magic moment arrives when your horse asks you, “Is this what you want?” and you say, “Yes.”

In a state of stress and pushing, we miss these magic moments and create confusion. The horse keeps trying to answer our request and we keep missing the correct answer, or recognize it too late. The result is irritation or anger in our space and confusion or shutting down in the horse’s space. This makes for really slow learning and is no fun.

Magic happens when we slow down and focus on the present moment, allowing our horse to find the right answer.

Be flexible and creative
When we slow down, we become more flexible and creative. We adjust to the horse’s pace of learning. We don’t mind repeating an old exercise to help the horse prepare for the next step. We step away from our original training plan of the day, if either the horse or  human are not in the frame of mind for the work. There is no push — just flow, calmness, respect and connection.

Bring a flexible, fit, and coordinated body
Our own body is a major player in the communication with our horse. Many times our horse cannot follow our request, because unconsciously we prevent the movement with a stiff body part, don’t have the strength to continue a signal until the horse finds the right answer, or we get out of breath and have to stop an exercise. Going slow here means to take time daily to create a flexible, subtle, and coordinated body. A toned, flexible body can follow the movement of a horse smoothly and communicate signals clearly. It is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our horses and to ourselves.

We dismiss most of these opportunities because we believe that we are behind and don’t have time. However, what we perceive as slowing us down in the moment, is getting us to our goals much sooner in the long term.

This is also true in our daily life. The more we slow down and focus on the task in the present moment, the more clearly we can perceive what is needed, communicate clearly what we want, and find efficient ways to do our tasks. Consider how often in your life you have tried to accomplish tasks by speeding up or multitasking. How often did you make mistakes and had to redo the tasks? How often did you finish them on time, completely exhausted? Why not try something different?  Slow down for a change. Your horse will love it and you might find that you accomplish more in your daily life.

We are all one

Living in unity with all living beings

Is your new year’s wish to see well-being and harmony in the world?

To return well-being for all to this planet, it is key that we humans reconnect to nature and live in unity with all living beings. Horses offer us opportunities to step into this unity consciousness. They are powerful teachers of personal transformation. If we accept the horse as a teacher, we open ourselves to the wisdom that is in us and around us.

Horses can teach us to get in touch with our inner guidance system; our inner compass aligns us with who we really are. When we can distinguish between other people’s opinions and what is truly right for us, we become conscious that our actions impact not only ourselves but every living being on the earth; that we are all one. Making choices from that alignment is not only beneficial for us individually, but naturally beneficial for those around us as well.

The quality of harmony and well-being in the connection you have with your horse limits or expands your horse’s capacity to teach.

Most horse owners love their horses, but that doesn’t mean that they are connected to them. In my coaching sessions with horse people I often see this disconnection. The horse is seen as student, not as teacher. The focus is on training, becoming a better rider, and in some cases, winning competitions. Many so-called horse problems arise because humans don’t fully connect to their horse and are not aware of the immense wisdom horses have to offer.

How can I connect more deeply with my horse?

  • Manage your emotions: A first step would be to clear your energy before you enter the stable, showing respect to your horse.
  • Spend more time just being with your horse. Take the time to connect with your horse before you do anything else. Consider playing on the ground with your horse instead of riding. Spend time together in the pasture.
  • Read a book that focuses on the horse as teacher.
  • Watch some YouTube videos that demonstrate equine assisted learning. It will help you understand more fully how horses can enhance your personal development.
  • Attend workshops that focus on horses as teachers for personal development.

    How can the quality of my connection with my horse create well-being and harmony in the world?
    Every person counts. While we are all individuals, we are also part of a collective consciousness. We share thoughts, beliefs and concepts with all of humanity. An individual person can initiate a change in the collective just by creating a new belief or behavior.

    For example, Tom Dorrance watched horses being broken in with brutal strength and it didn’t feel right in his heart. For him, a horse wasn’t an object, but rather a living being that is intelligent, communicates and has feelings. He decided to connect deeply with horses and find a way to partner with them. Acting on his heart-felt alignment, he initiated what is now known as the “modern natural horsemanship movement”.

    Another example of creating new viewpoints is the rider who felt that riding in harmony with her horse was  more aligned than winning ribbons. She still liked the fun of performing in front of an audience. She attended the next horse show in a new way. She enjoyed the performances of the other riders and appreciated her own connection and co-creation with her horse. True to her intention to focus on fun and harmony, she left the show before she received any assessment of her ride. She returned home filled with well-being and new ideas on how to deepen the connection with her horse.

    Every belief we hold has started with one person thinking it and modeling the belief, thereby making it available to everyone. This means we all have the power to change the world. You are not alone in your desire to bring well-being to the world. Many people are waking up to the understanding that We Are All One and taking steps to return well-being to all.

    When I presented at the USLF symposium in 2011, many members told me that their Lipizzans talk to them; that the Lipizzans are highly intelligent and don’t let you get away with anything. If you have a deep desire to live in a world filled with well-being and harmony, then allow these equine teachers to help you align with your inner guidance and live the concept that humans, animals and nature are deeply connected.

    I wish you a 2013 filled with unity, harmony and well-being.
    Freya

How to make powerful decisions for your horse

Do you struggle with difficult decisions when they involve your horse?
Do you feel trapped between expert opinions and your instincts?

Being responsible for the well-being of our horses, we sometimes face uncomfortable decisions. Our habit is to ask our brain to come up with the best choices. The brain is great for processing information and seeing patterns, but it is not necessarily the best decision-making tool. Our brain is easily clouded with worries, beliefs and habits, which is not a powerful platform from which to make decisions.  

The expert decision-maker is actually our heart. It has an inner wisdom which the brain does not. The heart doesn’t drown in worries like our brain tends to do, or becomes influenced by external events, opinions or pressure. The heart is our inner compass to what is true and right for us.

Let’s look at an example. One of my clients participated in a clinic with her stallion. My client was nervous about the event and the unfamiliar environment. People offered to help her with her stallion, touching him and moving him around. In the midst of the commotion she could feel her stallion becoming nervous. She knew internally that it would be good to ask the people to stay away from her stallion. But her brain chimed in with the belief that she would hurt others if she asked them to step away. Letting the brain override her feeling, she stayed silent. The result was that when her stallion reached the tipping point, he demonstrated his upset through a well-aimed kick. Luckily my client came away with a bruise.   

We all have encountered situations like this and have paid for our lessons one way or the other. But the important thing is that we can learn from these situations. My client decided that she wanted to learn how to align with the wisdom of her heart to make better decisions. Here are three steps to get started:

Step 1: Listen to your body
Your body is your early warning signal. It provides you with feelings and emotions that alert you when something is out of balance. In hindsight, my client could feel the tightness in her body when she watched the increasing restlessness of her stallion. Her brain overwrote this tightness, telling her that if she hurts other people’s feelings, she would be more uncomfortable. She suppressed her body’s reaction and paid with a painful bruise.

It takes awareness and practice to listen to our body. Start scanning your body for feelings and emotions before you make simple daily decisions. Soon the body scan becomes a new habit and is available when situations turn stressful.

Step 2: Stop and take a breath
When you feel your body signaling discomfort in any form, take a breath and check in. Identify where the fear or worry sits and acknowledge it. Acknowledging your body’s reaction is a huge step forward in making powerful decisions.

Step 3: Think with your heart
When we feel uncomfortable, we tend to make decisions that ease the current situation but often are not beneficial in the long-term. Don’t make a decision when you perceive uncomfortable signals. Ask for one minute, 3 minutes, or a day, to make the decision. Then find a place where you can sit quietly, turn inside, check where the fear sits in your body and ask what your heart knows about the situation. Don’t let fear drive the decision.

Alignment with your heart takes courage and a willingness to stand in for your truth. Your horse depends on you to make decisions that are right in the long-term, even if they are uncomfortable in the moment.

A while ago I made the commitment to align fully with my heart. It took courage and finding the right words to express my heart’s wisdom in difficult situations. However, following the wisdom of my heart changed my life dramatically; I feel empowered and make decisions that are right for the long-term.

My desire for you (and your horse) is to experience this powerful way of life. Horses depend on our willingness to think with our hearts. I am not talking about pouring love on them and hoping for the best, but taking responsibility to make the best decisions for them. We often think (brain) that money, people, and/or circumstances dictate our choices. But ask your heart – it will tell you the truth; then act accordingly. Your horse’s well-being depends on your capability to make powerful decisions.

I wish you fun exploring how to think with your heart. If you have questions or would like support, I would love to be part of your journey.

Invitation to dance with a horse

When I coach riders, one of the major topics we address is how to understand and connect more deeply with your horse.
A fun way to understand your horse and connect more deeply is dancing with your horse on the ground. I am not talking about longeing, but rather communicating with your freely-moving horse in the round pen.
I had seen videos and read books about this kind of ground work but hadn’t experienced it myself. James Sturgeon, in Center Point, Iowa, (www.willowspringsriding.com) is offering this kind of horse experience. I signed up for a session with him.

Levi, one of his horses volunteered, and after connecting to him through grooming, Levi and I entered the playground. James drew an orange mark on Levi’s hip, shoulder and side of his nose and the fun began. We used the orange marks to help me to focus my energy on specific body parts. When you observe horses in a herd, you can see how a look from one horse is often enough to move another. There is a lot of energy in a focused look.
Being new to this game, I found that my dance partner, Levi, ignored my looks. James showed me how to enhance my energy using my whole body. A stiff rope coiled in my hands created even more energy and soon Levi was moving. It was exhilarating to converse in equine language (energy) and observe the results.  

I learned how to bring up more energy in my body and enhance the energy through the help of tools in my hand (rope, stick…). In the beginning I would grossly overdo it, but after some time I started to slowly bring up the energy, step by step, in a smoother way. At this point the dance became more harmonious and more fun.  
Laughter started to bubble up in my body because I was conversing in a language Levi could understand and it was a joy to see him so attentive and sensitive. The moment I was congruent in my body and gestures, it didn’t take much energy to ask him to move. While I was still a bit clumsy and often needed more energy to convince Levi to move, James was fully attuned to this dance and hardly needed to lift a finger.

 

Besides creating a deep connection with our horse, this simple interaction in the round pen can provide us with important life lessons:

  • Just waving a stick or rope around doesn’t produce much energy. It has to be supported with certainty and focus from our body. In our daily life we often just wildly wave our arms or ask others to do certain things without standing fully behind them. The result is that others ignore us. Confidence and certainty have to come from the inside.

  •  When we feel stuck, we don’t need to push through a situation but can step back, realign and approach it from a different angle. James gave me a stick as a tool to create more energy (not to touch the horse). It felt very awkward in my hands and I was distracted when I asked Levi to move. Sure enough he got confused and presented me with his rump. My old habit wanted me to push through the situation no matter what. At the same time I was afraid that he might kick me. I was hesitant, meaning incongruent, and that confused Levi. I stopped pushing him and turned away to rethink the situation and find alignment within myself. I decided to go back using the rope, a tool I was comfortable with, and ask him to move, which he gladly did. Next I practiced with the stick away from Levi to get a better feel for this tool. Then when I used the stick I was more congruent with the tool and my intention, and Levi understood better what I wanted. 
    This is a typical situation we encounter in our daily life. Situations often escalate or get messy because we keep pushing instead of stepping back and aligning ourselves.

  • Consistency is important. There were times during the session that I would raise my rope to increase energy, but Levi wouldn’t answer the request with increased speed. He was asking me: “Are you really sure you want me to increase my speed?” Many times I would not follow through by increasing the energy but rather let him walk at the same speed. For Levi this was an inconsistent message and created confusion. Next time he probably will require even more energy. Where in our daily life do we make requests without following through?

The round pen is a wonderful playground to become fluent in the language of your horse and deeply connect. The knowledge and new skills gained translate into more fun and ease in the saddle and your daily life.

At the end of our dance, Levi and I stood in the center, relaxed and deeply connected, enjoying each other’s presence. Thank you Levi and James for an insightful, deeply touching, and fun dance. 

Communicate more clearly with your horse

Horses are herd animals that communicate through their bodies. They sense the moods (emotional and mental state) and body language of a person on the ground or on their back and react accordingly.

For example, if you are afraid of jumping a specific obstacle the fear inside your body says stop, while your physical signals, e.g. pressure of the legs, tell your horse to move forward. These two signals can be confusing to your horse and might result in a refusal.

Most training for riders concentrates on developing your riding abilities and show you how to teach the horse new skills. Rarely does the training help you to release your unwanted emotions and unhelpful beliefs to eliminate confusing signals for your horse.

Motivational coaching provides you with simple and effective mind-body balancing techniques that help you:

1. Quiet your mind to communicate clearly. Have you ever thought of a change in tempo and your horse initiated the change before you gave physical signals? When your mind is quiet and you focus fully on the task ahead, your horse can read your mental image and intention.

2. Enhance your body awareness. Remember the last time you felt nervous trying something new and your trainer told you to just relax? What happened? Most likely you went into your head and said: “Relax, relax, just relax.” The solution to relax your body cannot be found in your mind. The solution to relax is in your body. Becoming aware of how your body feels, where tension is located and how to release the tension helps you (and your horse) to relax and stay calm in challenging situations.

3. Create powerful, supportive beliefs. What are those beliefs that keep you stuck: I am not good enough, I am not smart enough, I don’t have enough talent, I don’t know how…? Those beliefs undermine your confidence and hold you back from reaching the next level. Coaching empowers you to explore your inner strengths and replace unhelpful beliefs.

4. Release disturbing emotions. Do you try to suppress certain emotions? Pushing away fear or anger doesn’t really make it go away. It stays in your body’s energy system and your horse still feels the emotion and reacts to it. There are simple, yet powerful mind-body balancing techniques that can help you identify and release your unwanted emotions so that you can ride in harmony with your horse.

If you want to communicate more clearly with your horse, consider enhancing your inner strength, mental clarity and body awareness through motivational coaching. You can email or call me if you have questions. I would love talking to you.

The importance of grounding

“Awesome,” a workshop participant wrote. “When I used the grounding technique with my flightiest horse, she immediately started to relax and I could feel the energy leaving her body through all four of her feet.” When you ground yourself before or during riding, you might see a dramatic change in your horse too.

What is grounding?
Grounding, in a nutshell, means creating an outlet for excessive energy in one’s body. When an electrical instrument is not grounded, the electricity bounces all over the inside of the instrument, with the result often being a short-circuiting and breakdown of the instrument.

Energy also runs through human and animal bodies.  If this energy cannot flow through you and then out, you might find yourself reacting to this excess energy with overexcitement, anxiety or exhaustion. Horses sense this bouncing of energy and often reflect it through nervousness, anxiety or similar reactions. An ungrounded rider is even more worrisome for the horse than a person on the ground, because the horse cannot distance itself from this energy field.

How do I ground myself?
The first time you go through this exercise it might help to close your eyes. Sit in a chair or stand up. Breathe calmly in and out. Direct your attention to your sitting bone and envision a line dropping into the earth. This line can have the form of a rope, a light, roots, or whatever image comes up for you. Anchor this line solidly and deeply into the earth.

Imagine that negative emotions or thoughts flow down this line, into the center of the earth. Grounded energy flows back from the earth through your feet into your body. Feel the peace that comes with the transformation of this energy.

The impact of grounding
Grounding can help you to release stress, calm down, regain your balance, and get in touch with your inner self. It is as if you find your balanced core, the center of your body, and move with certainty from there.

Horses communicate through energy. When you ground yourself, you reduce energetic noise and are able to communicate more clearly with your horse.

Practice the grounding several times for two or three days so that you can do it with ease and without closing your eyes. Then, when you visit your horse, ground yourself before you enter the stable.

Before you get into the saddle, stand beside your horse and ground yourself again. You might already feel a change in your horse while you are still on the ground. You can also ground yourself while in the saddle. Energy moves through physical form, solid objects such as horse, saddle, or chairs. It moves right through your horse, and into the earth. Observe your horse. It might sigh, yawn, or become more alert; all signs that energy is moving.

Grounding is also important in everyday life. If we are ungrounded, we can be easily “pushed over” by anyone. We often feel insecure, uncertain, scattered, or fatigued. You might find that grounding helps you to feel more certain, capable, present and focused; a powerful state to be in; when engaging in difficult discussions, or making important decisions.

Play with this new tool and observe how humans and animals react differently towards you. Grounding is a simple yet powerful tool to balance mind-body-emotions.

Let me know how grounding works for you. I would love to hear from you. Enjoy being more balanced and focused!

New Years Resolution: A deeper connection with my horse

What do I want for my relationship with my horse this year? And how do I get there?” are questions we ask with the beginning of this new year.

One of the most desired goals for riders is to find unity with their horse; that deep connection that allows you to dance in harmony together. How do you get there?

  1. When you create a goal you want to get clear about what you really want. For example, I want to understand my horse better, I want to be more deeply connected with my horse, I want to create a partnership where my horse can read my thoughts.
  2. How would reaching your goal look and feel like? The better you can see and feel your goal (unity/connection) the better you can find ways to reach it.
  3. Next you want to ask yourself: What concrete steps do I need to take to reach this goal.

For example if your goal is to create a deeper connection with your horse you want to look at the different components that are involved in this relationship:

The partnership between you and your horse has three components: your horse, you and the two of you together. All parts need to come into balance to create unity.

The horse: In general we ask our horse to listen to us. We request the horse to do certain things and expect the horse to perform perfectly every time. The horse is in general a willing partner and loves to be in unity too. It does its best to find the right answers to our requests.

If we want to be more connected with our horse we need to make sure that this partnership is not one-sided and that we also listen to our horse. When we listen deeply and patiently we can identify the moment the horse offers the right answer and reward the horse.

Horses naturally look for leadership.  Your horse is willing to trust and follow you if you prove yourself as a calm, patient, confident, consistent, non-confrontational leader. The horse gives you an opportunity to explore your inner strengths and be authentic. This is the gift of personal growth your horse offers to you.

The rider and horse handler: When we think of what the rider has to bring to the partnership we often focus on refining our physical abilities such as riding aids, seat… But if we want to create unity with our horse there is more we need to bring to this partnership. Unity is developed from the inside out and requires personal growth from us.

Horses are prey animals whose survival depends on reading the emotional and mental state of all the beings in its environment. Your horse reads your emotional and mental state all the time. Thus, clearing your emotional and mental body is essential to reduce the background noise in your communication and prevent confusion for the horse.

Enhanced body awareness helps you to provide your horse with clear body language. Learning to scan your body for tension will help you to relax and open yourself to the flow of the horse’s movements so that you can dance together.

The leadership qualities of confidence, patience, consistency, clarity and non-confrontational behavior develop naturally when you engage in personal growth and understand who you really are. Understanding your personal strengths helps you to increase your self-confidence and be authentic. Authenticity is the key foundation for trustworthy leadership.

Looking through the eyes of our horse is another important quality we can bring to this partnership. Horses function und think very differently than humans. When we can view the world through our horse’s eyes we can find solutions that are beneficial for both of us.

The partnership: Most horses are ready for the deep connection we are looking for. They are just waiting for us to get out of our own way. When we bring body awareness, emotional and mental clarity and leadership qualities to our horses, we lay the foundation to a synergistic partnership where 1 + 1 = 3, meaning that the partnership is more powerful than the single components (horse, rider) going into it.

When you are willing to engage in personal growth you gain a lot more than deepen your relationship with your horse. Personal qualities such as mental and emotional clarity, body awareness, leadership skills and empower you in your daily life. You will make better decisions and overcome obstacles with more ease. So when you contemplate your goals for your horse this year, consider your own personal growth.

What personal growth areas would you like to strengthen to bring your relationship with your horse to the next level? Motivational coaching can help you enhance your personal growth to experience a deeper partnership with your horse and live an empowered life.

Email or call me if you have questions. I would love talking to you.