Horsey Therapist

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lost and found

I am so pleased!

Mark Rashid helped me find a soft place when bridling Sofia. Well, he mostly helped Sofia find a soft place when either of us bridled her. That is the found part -- Found Part, Part 1.

I didn't totally lose what we gained, but it sure got iffy once I got home. A few steps backward compared to bridling during the clinic. That is the Lost Part. I was able to bridle her but it wasn't getting better. Which is better than getting worse, but not as good as getting better.

Ponder, ponder, ponder.

Much more attention and effort on my part regarding me staying soft and me finding within what I can do today, how to stay connected with Sofia and soft even when she was saying 'no, I don't think so' in response to my presentation.

I got quiet. And from that quiet place came creativity to meet our needs. Of course I cannot bridle a horse like Mark does. Of course I cannot help Sofia the way Mark does. But I can draw on that still place inside from whence come all answers. I stayed still and kept finding answers that helped us get better together with the bridling thing. That is the really important found part -- Found Part, Part 2.

I am so pleased!

Friday, May 30, 2008


My waking moments during the night were spent on two topics: 1) upcoming presentation on Treatment Planning for Our Therapy Horses and 2) what was happening with Sofia and I yesterday.

At some point I remembered something of vital importance to my progress with Sofia.

Mark Rashid told us to start with what we want. He uses a 0-10 scale to help us think along a continuum to describe the pressure and energy of what we do. So if we want to be backing a horse with a 0.5-1.0, then that is what we use to request a back up. If the horse doesn't back with that, we do not increase what we are using, but instead bring additional energy some other way.

Yesterday my focus was so much on remaining calm inside myself even if I had to use bigger movements at times to direct a horse, I forgot about the 'start with what you want' message. I was successful with remaining calm, focussed, breathing yesterday but ended the day feeling like I was missing something. I was.

So this morning after feeding hay, I haltered up two of the horses I worked with yesterday and experimented to see if I could get a nice flowing back up without increasing the pressure I was using. I could. I'm very grateful for this. Instead of increasing pressure to get movement, I kept in mind the softness I want, sent that thought out through my hand on the lead rope, and added energy through change of posture and moving my outside hand. All the time I was feeling for the change in thought in the horse, feeling for that opening when they shifted from 'I'm standing here regardless' to 'ah, moving back with you is easy, here we go'.

I'm off teaching today so that is it for my hands on with our horses here at home. I will make a quick walk around the pasture perimeter fencing to see if any posts need replacing. Soon I want to start turning some horses out on grass. I look forward to seeing how the fields respond to the predicted rainfall this weekend. Not "showers", but actual rainfall!

Help with the feel through the reins

Mark Rashid helps any of us with anything we ask for, assuming his assessment is that we (horse and human) are ready for that lesson, that at least some of our foundation pieces are in place.

I've watched him do hands-on demos with the reins to help people develop better hands. I asked him to do this with me.

This picture is when he was helping me feel the difference between the outer part of the reins and the inner part.

Never knew there is an outer and inner part to our reins? Me neither. But I learned there can be. I felt the difference when Mark was on the reins and I was in the role of the horse, then I asked to try it so he could give me feedback if I was able to communicate to him what I could feel him communicating to me. It took a couple of tries, then I could send a message offering softness through the reins without releasing the amount of pressure.

He helped me with the visualization of the reins like a hollow pipe, with the outer part stiff and the inner part fluid. Through the inner fluid part we can send our intention. And to send that message from my core. And keep breathing.

What is amazing about this is that when I was in the role of the horse, I could feel the pressure of the contact, then even though his hand position did not change at all, it felt like I was melting into the contact, that the pressure had changed. But I watched while we did this (with me and at other times with other riders) and there is no discernible change!

Merry Go Round Pen

I will put in a little plug for the wonderful folks who host Mark in Campton, New Hampshire. Tim and Trudy. In the picture of Mark helping me with the reins, we are in one of their Merry Go Round Pens. They are sturdy, attractive covered round pen structures.

Check out their website:

A big thank you to both for your generosity and warmth!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fresh from a clinic

I took Sofia with me to the clinic with Mark Rashid, and am glad I put my courage ahead of my emotions. We both got some wonderful help.

I had had a limited image of what Sofia has to offer, both in terms of readiness to follow my lead, and in terms of life and motion she is ready to offer as well. She is much more than the big drafty looking gal who seems to prefer a full halt to any other activity level.

Today I rest, re-organize, work, and play, and tomorrow I return for three days of auditing. When I get my clinic notes typed into my clinic notes blog, I will announce it here.

For now, I share this:

Speed, direction, and destination.

We need to provide direction for those three things all the time. When we do not, the horse will make a decision about any one, two, or three of those, and things won't turn out as we want. Mark has talked before about 'be the magic, don't wait for the magic to happen' and this feels like some details along that same message.

Speed, direction, and destination.

I had the good fortune to watch him clarify these in action with my Sofia loose in the round pen. Sofia got feeling better and better as she understood what Mark wanted, and as she relinquished her ideas that she was making the decisions and softened into the energy of clarity and connectedness with Mark. Then I tried it myself and we easily reached the place of being connected throughout the process while I determined our speed, direction, and destination.

Each day brought great changes, as much in how I think (and hence present things) as in what we did together. The "doing together" was the evidence of the changes, and very satisfying. Even as small a thing as approaching her with the thought 'this will be easy' rather than 'I'm not sure I can do this' make a huge impact. Huge!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Creating what I want

This is such a broad topic!

It comes on the heels of a lesson I just co-taught with friend/colleague RW. The student is a delightfully open and ready adult who deals with great love of her horse and great fear of him. Neither horse nor human confidently knows how to behave around the other. We are grateful to be involved with these two, helping them create what they want.

What do most of us want? Safety, clarity about how we stand with others, opportunities to enjoy ourselves, choices, a sense of belonging to and contributing to a greater community, a sense of OK being here wherever that 'here' is.

Some detail of what I want includes just what I was doing today: helping two beings get along better, each in their own skin as well as with each other.

And that is my overriding desire with all that I do with horses and other animals. Wanting to influence in helpful ways so that those beings feel better about the situations in their lives. Not resigned aka feel better, but embracingly feel better. Feel better from a place of understanding and choice.

Choice -- that is so crucial! I am grateful to live in a place and time where many choices are indeed permitted the individual. It has not always been this way.

I think about building a feel good place within a relationship. Not a 'here's a cookie' feel good place. A place that resonates with calm presence deep in every cell. A place I nourish in meditation. A place I have heard called 'softness'.

That feel good place becomes the beckoning harbor light. It becomes trusted and sought. It is missed when one is drawn away with other concerns. It is welcoming any time we slow and find it again.

If I offer that to my students, they may have the basis from where to accomplish anything. What anyone choses to do is personal and there are as many paths through life as there are individuals. But how we do those things, that is what interests me. And I assume that every living being wants the same things -- to survive and to thrive. So that is where we can start, and at any moment.

My regular students know me well. They joke about one of my habits: asking "what do you want?" -- just before they tell what they want! How could I possibly pretend to help someone who has not communicated -- in some fashion -- that they want something and what they want?

Well, I could assume to know and carry on based on my assumptions, but that approach doesn't suit me. I want to enhance your dreams, not mine. Well, truthfully? Enhancing your dreams enhances mine. One of those win-win situations. Which reflects my spiritual nature -- we are all connected and whatever anyone of us does to benefit the deeper Self of 'me' or 'you', of 'us' or 'them', that benefits us all.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Success through softness

I started out the day cranky. I had made a commitment to paint the garage door panels and hence turned down an invitation to ride with a friend who lives about two miles from home.

So there I was dutifully preparing to paint, aware of my busy mind and reluctance to be doing what I was doing. From somewhere came the memory of Mark Rashid saying "you get good at what you practice."

Along with that phrase came other memories, primarily those with a focus on developing softness whatever you are doing. There I was, painting and remembering softness. What a divine opportunity! So I wasn't with my horses on a sunny afternoon, but I was working on the most important things I can ever bring to my horses -- softness, presence, awareness.

The time passed quickly and easily. I tested my balance and strength by painting while standing on one foot, switching feet every minute or so. I did all I could then shifted gears as the paint needed to dry.

Off to the horses and a long trail ride "alone" with my Morgan mare, Kacee, after a brief deliberation about which horse to ride and where.

I had been fantasizing about taking Kacee to the upcoming clinic with Mark. Imagining asking Mark for help to get me from where I am with her, to where I want to be, which is: go out for a trail ride whenever I want to. Several things seemed to have come together for me today. First the practice of softness, then whatever it was that got me ready to just go do it -- just go ride the trail with Kacee!

I have been practicing breathing consciously while I groom, and then again in the ring, breathing long and slow and deliberately while trotting, trotting, trotting. It carried into my trail ride. Perhaps that is the foundation of my success today, side by side with softness. I breathed. I focussed. I directed Kacee and I kept experimenting with how to direct her so that she was comfortable accepting my direction.

I came home and told RNB: I'm so proud of myself!

On some level it seems like such a small thing -- to go for a trail ride on my Kacee. Ha! Nothing small about that at all! But maybe in a week or two, all history of dramatic trail rides will dissolve into a pleasant present.

So who will I take to the clinic now that I already succeeded with my trail riding goal for Kacee???

Critical terminology

Way too often for my liking I find myself saying things like "I'm not focused or disciplined enough".


If I step back a step, even right now I am criticizing myself for being critical.


I do get critical in my thoughts when I compare myself. It can be a comparison to others and what they are accomplishing. It can be a comparison to myself and my plans, my ideals. In either case, I fall short -- my assessment leaves me 'less than' something or someone else. Then phlopp -- I come down on myself with these critical phrases, with a discouraging attitude.

What is my truth is something different from how I think and express at times. My truth is about being present, aware, responsive, creative... These are qualities I value and have pursued improving for decades. They do not fit smoothly with the paradigm that judges discipline and completing tasks and reaching goals.

In fact I do complete tasks and reach goals, but not consistently in a way that is visible such as keeping a list and checking off items as I complete them.

I consistently complete tasks of connecting with each of our horses. (Connecting and completing a task -- sounds almost oxymoron-ish.) I regularly move ahead with my goals around clarity and honoring the choices of my horses and finding ways to communicate with more and more subtlety and understanding, less and less pressure of any sort.

So I need a little brain wash!

I can use water at a comfortable degree of warmth so my inner self feels soothed and relaxed and open to this cleansing.

I can add a bit of organic soap, lightly scented with Breath of Horse to support my feeling surrounded by loved ones, safe and whole as I prepare to say good bye to old familiar ways.

I will rub gently, inviting the old ways to loosen and let go.

I will rinse with sparkling spring water, and rinse some more, allowing the cool flow to carry away whatever is loosened, whatever I am ready to release.

That done, I will breathe deeply -- head high, heart confident, eyes open and receptive -- and walk out into whatever comes next.

That is my strength -- going with the flow, directing the energy that presents itself, guiding toward a pleasing togetherness.

I am ready to embrace who I am, to let slide those descriptors that do not suit me. I need not fear -- they are there should I choose another time to use them again.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

First spring ride on Rusty

I did it. I rode Rusty today. It went fine.

It went fine because I did my homework. I have done some ground work with him now and then over the past few weeks, and today I was ready to saddle him in case everything went well, leading me to choose to ride.

He listened well enough, bridled well enough, connected with me well enough that I felt safe to mount.

If I were not still cautious with my Aikido-injured shoulder, I might not take all the precautions I did. But I am. Although I can do most things normally and without pain, there are a few weight-bearing moves that hurt, and I have absolutely zero interest in aggravating that injury or adding new injury. So the formerly fearless rider proceeds with one ear to her fear, and one ear to her thoughtful horsemanship abilities.

Good idea at that!

So, building on small steps of progress, I mounted and rode some circles at the walk, halted, backed, and dismounted. More ground work, more attunement, more unbridling and bridling, and another mount and ride. Bigger circles, checking in on Rusty's responsiveness, breathing, breathing, breathing, and dismounting.

I'm done. Ending on a good note. No, I'm not done. I open the arena gate and mount again, and ride him back to the barn.

Then I'm done. Short and sweet. I'll build on that.

I am learning once again the value of doing little things day after day to build some good understanding. I'm glad I rode Rusty. It's been close to six months. He's a lot of fun once we get reconnected!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Close call

Driving home from dance class Monday evening, something large came out of the woods from the left. As I slammed on the brakes, I thought: big, four legs... moose? as I registered roan coloring, mane, not moose ... horse! as a big roan horse calmly walked across the road as if we weren't there with headlights coming to a sudden stop just feet from his body.

Adrenaline was coursing through my body!

Bad enough a close call with a moose. But a horse? I was horrified as I realized a horse has no more 'vehicle savvy' than a deer or moose or squirrel.

I parked the car and knocked on the nearest door, reported what I'd seen and asked them to call the neighbors they identified as likely owners of the horse.

I have more empathy for all those kind neighbors who knock on our door when the cows are out or the sheep have wandered to a field across the road. And gratitude!