I have written about Progress before. To see what I previously penned about the subject of growth click here: https://expatequestrian.com/2019/01/02/progress/
I feel like it is time for me to revisit the subject, injecting with it new heart from new experiences.
Change is important to me. It is the process of eliminating from your life those things you don’t want or need and emphasising the good things! God forbid I stagnate and stay the way I am now forever!
The last two years have been enormous for me. The changes that have rocked my world in the last two years, each and every single one of them have been profound and enormous. The changes that have been snowballing over the last two years really began on a quiet, cold and sunny morning, on top of a mountain not far from where I sit now, in January 2016. I made the decision to bring Sanson into my life and with it welcome all the necessary changes that would allow that to happen.
Today, I am still making the changes and adjustments needed to accommodate a horse, a horse training and trimming business into my life and to grow it into something that is sustainable and fulfilling. I have no regrets. It has enriched my life beyond my wildest dreams! To get to this place I was visited by mechanisms of change that at the time were confusing, but in retrospect, I can spot the patterns, and give them names.
Along the way I have learned a few many things about the mechanics of change. I have learned that it doesn’t matter if you are training a horse, learning to drive, moving house, moving countries or changing social circles, the basic rules and mechanics of CHANGE are the same. These three rules I have affectionately given names that describe what they feel like. These rules apply to horse training and to life.
My regular clients and readers have discovered, that Horsemanship and LIFE are very much the same thing. Becoming a Good Horseman requires becoming GOOD WITH YOUR LIFE.
Horse Training is nothing more than assessing a horse, deciding what stays and what needs to go, and then implementing CHANGE for the horse. If you do not have a sound understanding of change yourself, how do you expect to teach it to a 500kg non-ruminant herbivore built for speed?
You cannot teach, what you do not know.
Adrenaline. The ups, the downs! The moment when change and growth has you hanging on by your ankles, seemingly an inch from death, screaming for your life… or your pleasure! It is NOT for the faint hearted!
A horse will test you, push you, often even scare you. So will your life! Shall we then hide away for ever?
They will bring you adrenaline to see what you do with it, can you handle it? The Rollercoaster involves knowing your limits, making sure you are safe FIRST, and then strapping yourself down and breathing through it.
When I was rehabilitating Sanson to the gallop (not the canter- the gallop) he understood gallop as a sort of “let’s get riled up and run plus I am also anxious of being left behind” type of deal. He would gallop, but there was a hint of explosion about it which I felt was not connected to things like balance, power, collection or happiness! He would gallop, but there was a red-flag for me, something felt off.
Of course, rehabbing him to the gallop involved taking away any restrain-by-pain devices like leverage bits or martingales. Then, I had to find some flat sturdy footing and just LET GO. Ask him to GO. GO GO GO! This is The Rollercoaster. There were ups and downs! Sometimes I felt in control, most of the time I did not. I took my safety precautions; made sure he was physically and mentally healthy, ensured he understood very well how to stop and turn in a training environment, rode the gallop track several times first at the walk, trot and canter to know intimately every pothole and ditch, then whacked on my helmet and racing fall vest and off I went. I just held on and let him go. The more I let him go the more his anxiety around speed and gallop dissipated. He learned I would stay neutral as he gallops rather than pump him up further trying to extract an adrenaline high from him. I would not pull him up on a leverage bit to stop him, but merely waited for him to think about stopping first and ask me
‘Can I slow down?’
‘Yes of course, if you like!’
It really was that simple. To go through that process involved some fear and courage on my part, and willingness to be in a scary and fast moving situation where the opportunity for disaster was inches from your grasp and yet you got out the other side with a new awareness of exhilaration!
The Rollercoaster doesn’t want you to meditate on control or peacefulness. The Rollercoaster want’s you to understand that just because you FEEL like you are in danger, does not mean that you ARE in direct danger! Change requires a cleaning out, and to get there sometimes a scary ride is on the menu.
I have always felt that learning is like a wave. Learning is a form of change. Those whom are good learners are those whom are at peace during times of change.
Essentially, the wave comes in and goes back out again. The waves can be small and innocuous, or they can be tempestuous and devastating.
Have you ever learned something new which totally and utterly destroyed your world view? It is like a wave, a Tsunami… first you see it coming, then it comes, then it crashes over you and leaves you in the debris of its wake, having created an utterly new world around you.
New information can be like that. Think of the time you called your vet out to invest a slight lameness issue, you saw it coming. The vet after inspection orders further tests, their brow furrowed, it comes. The results are back and your vet diagnoses a career ending injury or illness, it crashes over you. The vet leaves you sometimes with a care program that is helpful, sometimes not. You are left to sift among the pieces of your horse life, trying to piece everything back together with this new state of being.
The wave can also be beautiful. When new information is trying to come into a horses muscle memory sometimes the horse will do it beautifully one minute and absolutely forget it the next. Do not worry. All is not lost! Learning requires things to come in and go back out again. It is not linear. It is a wave. The new information comes and goes because it is new and has not been fully committed to memory yet. Waves can also bring with it a tide. A tide is a more permanent and lasting change. The wave is like the every day happenstances, the ripples through your week that bring with it small changes, new information, new abilities. Before very long, you have a totally new paradigm and it took no more than time and patience to allow the waves of change to bring it in.
The best waves are the ones that allow you to ride them! With enough practise, you can learn how to surf on those waves of change, and make change look good and FEEL good in the process!
THE STORM AND THE SILENCE
These two come together. The silence refers to both the eye of the storm and the after storm peace. Sometimes change is just messy. It is uncomfortable. It is inconvenient. Often, Murphies Law applies: everything that can go wrong WILL go wrong.
Last week several things happened at once. I came down with a summer flu, my car broke down, and Sanson’s digestion became bad again. All three things in the same day. Can I fix all three at once? No. Are all three easy to overcome. No. Can I get through it? Yes yes yes. Yes I can. When the storm comes the only thing you can do is to batten down the hatches, hole yourself up and wait for it to pass. Because it will pass! All things pass, especially the storms.
Sanson’s digestion will clear up, both short term once I put him on this new food designed to help him, and long term, as his body adjusts again to the microbiology of this place and climate.
The car will get fixed. It will cost me, but it will be fixed. If I find a problem that is too expensive to fix, I will let it go and acquire a new vehicle. I have zero personal attachment to that car or giving it a second, third or fourth lease on life. I will get over the flu. In fact I am already over it. I must be willing to sacrifice some time to my healing but it is possible to do. How lucky I am to have a safe and comfortable home to get better in, and an immune system capable of fighting it off- there are plenty in this world whom are not so lucky and a flu is not a simple thing for them to overcome.
Once you are past the storm there is a moment of silence. In that silence your job is to do NOTHING. Breathe. Reboot. Try again. Rebuild. Everything might be different now, for better or worse.
The Storm is here to teach us something about chaos, but also to remove us from the picture while dramatic changes take place. The Silence is here to allow us to observe the changes.
When you introduce a horse to a new herd, a new home, at some point you need to open the fence and step back. Here comes then the storm. Anyone who has watched a new horse enter an established herd will know how chaotic it can be. Trust the horses. Most horses do not like stress and fighting and will find homeostasis pretty soon. Your interference would be akin to walking out into a serious storm and trying to make it stop… you cannot. It would be dangerous. At some point, you need to open the gate and step back.
The same with training. You need to set the horse up for change, apply the information, the cue, the aid, and then step back. Allow the horse to access the information and go through the storm. When the horse receives the information it may not always be clean, beautiful or sensible to observe… it can be messy and awkward, but it is important that you can be a place to allow that to happen.
After, when the storm of new information has passed the horse will look at you. It is then that you step back and do NOTHING. Breathe. Reboot. Try again. Everything might be different now.