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Enlightened Horsemanship Through Touch’s Favorite February, 2010 Posts

icalsmall I miss a few of my longtime readers and commenters. I suspect I know the reason for your recent absence, and I do not blame you one little bit. EHTT is NOT a “cause” blog. EHTT is an exploration blog. A thinking blog. A wondering blog.

One of the best things about blogging is the community of friends and mutual commenters we have going. It’s the only way to see what’s going on out there other than random clicking, and who has time for that? If you went away because you were tired of being clobbered over the head with a recent cause, It’s OVER. Come back. I’ve missed you. That’s not to say that I don’t already adore my new readers. I do. Adore you. Welcome. Speak out when it moves you.

This has been a busy month at Tellington TTouch, and so there has been little time to write and learn on my own. In March, look for more on oxytocin, the horsmone that governs touch and social bonding between horses and humans, and at also, the debut of Tuesday’s Touch.

A recap of thoughts this month.

The Hormone Oxytocin and Touch published on February 7 in Horses, Touch, and Science.

Affirmations For Horsepeople: Live in the Present Moment published on February 9 in Affirmations of Awareness, Mindfulness, Horses, and Horsemanship.

Multitasking Is Not Your Friend published on February 18 in Buddhism, Equine Intellect & Behavior, Mindfulness and Science.

If you were reading last month and had a favorite I didn’t list here, please let me know. For that matter, if you think these posts were no good at all and you’d rather see others (or none at all) in a month-end summary, say that, too!

If it pleases you, I’d like to see a link to your favorite posts from your own blogs, if you write them. Spread the love!

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Affirmations for Horsepeople: Live In The Present Moment & Stay Out of Your Horse’s Way

Affirmations for Horsepeople: Live In The Present Moment & Stay Out of Your Horse’s Way

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

— Buddha

It has long been known that living in the present moment is the key to contentment. It is more than that, more than a way to live life to its fullest. It is an opportunity to participate directly in reality as it is created.

Often we bumble through it. We think we are paying attention, but really we are not.

I can’t tell you how many times I would lose focus simply trying to execute a simple 20 meter circle or serpentine. Or to get over a series of low jumps in a straight line.

“No Kim–were you paying attention? You lost it in the same spot as last time! Try it again!”
My horse was on point. No loss of attention there, because animals don’t indulge in that inner dialog that distracts us from participation in the present moment. I was intent on not making the same mistake I made last time. Like not thinking of the elephant in the room, we think of the elephant in the room. The mistake we made last time is in the consciousness if we are trying to avoid it. Better to eliminate it from the mind and focus only on current reality. Right now, it’s not there. Even better, holding the intention that things will go well increases the chances that they will.

But planning for the future, even a second or two into it, has its own disadvantages, as riders know. Your body does what your mind tells it, sometimes without your permission or knowledge. Better not to anticipate.

We hear it all the time, no matter the discipline: “Stay out of your horse’s way.” It’s hard to stay out of the horse’s way if you are a novice, and sometimes hard to do it as an advanced rider, too, if you are accustomed to over riding. For human beings, each stimulus prompts its own cascade of inner dialog or opportunity for spacing out. Like the half halt or the rein back, staying present is a skill that must be practiced. The key as both novices and advanced riders to staying out of the horse’s way and maintaining focus is living in the present moment.

As in riding, so in life. Or vice versa: stay out of life’s way. Don’t over-live and don’t go through blindly. Most folks move back and forth between these two modes automatically, moment by moment, without awareness of it. Can we take hold of the reins and greet each new stimulus as it comes? Not as easy as it sounds.

I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for mental presence and focus as you ride.

Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.

–Thich Nhat Hanh

Many thanks to Beliefnet for the idea for this series of posts and for the quotes used in it. Interpretations are mine.

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Affirmations of Awareness for Horsepeople: What's In the Mirror?

Affirmations of Awareness for Horsepeople: What's In the Mirror?

I’ve written before about mirror neurons and how they may help horses reveal to humans what’s going on inside us, good or bad.

According to Wyatt Webb, the horse “will serve as a mirror to your energy system-what you think, what you feel, and every move your body does or doesn’t make.”

After even starting to think, “It’s the horse’s fault,” the mindful rider knows intuitively he’s made a mistake. It’s almost never the horse’s fault. But it’s not a simple matter of blame-shifting. Often we fail to take responsibility for for things in our lives that have nothing to do with what happens in the ring.

horse in the mirror

Horses can reflect areas in our lives where we have patterns of conflict with ourselves or others.

The next time I think it’s the horse’s fault, I’m going to think instead about opportunities for change in the way I relate to everyone, two legged or four.

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

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Affirmations of Awareness for Horsepeople: On Perception

Affirmations of Awareness for Horsepeople: On Perception

I strive to ensure that my perception and my horse’s perception of what I am asking are the same.
From my post on demanding the horse’s attention and many valuable sources, we know that horses perceive the world in a much different way than we do.

Does your horse see the same thing you do?

Does your horse see the same thing you do?

When it comes to working with horses, I’ve found this awareness of perception to be especially important. Over the years, I’ve repeatedly seen that a horse’s perception of us and of what we are asking from it can be so far from what we really want or need that trouble is bound to occur from time to time.

–Mark Rashid

Given the fact that our sensory systems are so different, how can we expect our horses to have an accurate perception of every single thing that we ask of them?

Truly mindful horse trainers and riders carefully examine the undesirable behaviors of their horses. They know that when a horse is having trouble learning something, that it’s not that the horse doesn’t want to learn. Most horses have more than enough “try.”

As a part of this affirmation, it’s a good idea to remember that, evolutionarily, horses are cooperative animals. That’s herd instinct. That’s how they have survived as a species. They want to cooperate. But they may often perceive the request and the surrounding situation differently and believe that the trainer or rider is asking for something different. The rider or trainer may also mistakenly perceive their misunderstanding as aggression or disrespect. This is where heart coherence, clarity, gentleness and consistency come in.

Heart Coherence* The state in which your heart and your head come together in a unified field. Horses are by their very nature heart coherent. Humans, unfortunately, often feel one way and behave another. Horses are pretty savvy at sussing out when there is incoherence in a human.
• Clarity Making your cues clear and unambiguous.
Gentleness No need for excessive force. Use the lightest cue necessary to get the desired response.
Consistency Be consistent in your cues, your level of gentleness, and maintain your heart coherence at all times with a horse.

From Mark Rashid again:

I truly believe that if we can look at the things that our horses do or that we do with our horses with just a little different perspective, it will allow us to find ways to get along with them that don’t always initially mean having to exert dominance over them. That opens the door for them to begin to see us as a true leader … someone who can be depended upon to make the right decisions for them most of the time.

* Heart Coherence “When you have a coherent heart, you are at your best. If you are accustomed to being appreciative, caring, compassionate, etc., all of which lead to a coherent heart, the favorable heart-rhythm patterns your heart sends to the brain trigger responses to these feelings that you’ve had in the past: Say, for example, that generally, when you sense certain situations could benefit from a caring attitude, you routinely respond in a caring way, perhaps uttering a kind word, giving a simple nod of support, maybe even tendering a gentle and loving reprimand. Your heart processes your caring attitude and responses into coherent rhythm patterns and these are sent to the brain, which in turn triggers remembered responses appropriate to or learned from previous similar situations.” From The HeartMath Institute

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Affirmations of Awareness for Horsepeople: Chaos Theory

Affirmations of Awareness for Horsepeople: Chaos Theory

Out of clutter find simplicity;
From discord find harmony;
In the middle of difficulty
lies opportunity.

–Albert Einstein


No matter how much is happening at a given moment, or how many things are going wrong, I can choose to concentrate fully and with an open heart on a single unifying opportunity.

A conversation with gin at High Mountain Musing produced the above quote, from one of her quote-a-day calendars. Calendars are rife with chaos. At least mine are. I have several, and all have conflicting appointments, to do lists, phone calls, and much more that, mostly, I don’t get done on time. But that’s not what this affirmation is about.

There are days when you take your horse into the round pen, or mount for a riding session, and it seems that everything is thrown at you at once. You HAD a plan (or maybe you didn’t, *tsk, tsk*), but the universe has another one that naturally supersedes yours. And it’s chock-a-block full of stuff you don’t want to deal with.

Normally I do the thinking and writing on the affirmations. But you guys did such a great job on my last post that I’d like to invite you to offer examples of this affirmation and how it has played out in your lives.

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

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Affirmations of Awareness for Horsepeople: Accepting the Teaching That Is Offered

Affirmations of Awareness for Horsepeople: Accepting the Teaching That Is Offered

I Accept the Teaching That Is Offered

In my early days as a developing rider, I’d get my horse in the grooming stall to prepare for a lesson only to find that there were issues to be dealt with even before I mounted. There were times when I never even got on the horse.

Other times, a lesson was planned on X, but we ended up working on Y for an hour instead. Why? Because my trainer felt very strongly that you worked on whatever came up. This was a hard lesson for someone as goal-oriented as I.

For months, even years, I felt I was making no progress. “I’ve been riding for months and I still don’t know how to (insert skill here)!” What I didn’t realize was that I was learning the foundations of horsemanship in a very elemental way.

Accepting with the teaching that is offered, rather than the teaching you hope to receive, is a matter of relinquishing your ego’s white-knuckled grip on its expectations.

image courtesy Sergei Rubenshtein,

image courtesy Sergei Rubenshtein,

Many people assert, right here in this blog’s comments and in their own, that horses are our best teachers. I wonder if they really are open to all the teachings their horses offer moment by moment. True mindfulness demands that we not only be aware of what is being offered to us but also that we accept it with an open heart.

This means setting aside feelings of frustration when reaching our goal is stymied. Allowing the horse to teach us works on several levels:

• We accept the horse as an equal partner in the endeavor.

• We set aside our need to achieve the goal of the day and the endgame, whatever it may be. For example, if my goal in a given lesson is to trot softly and easily over ground poles, with good transitions to the walk afterwards, I have to be willing to give that goal up in the face of a few bucks and the refusal to transition neatly into the trot. Why? Because there is something else going on, and as my horse’s partner, I owe him the honor of finding out what it is and working through it. In that way, that little horse taught me not only how to deal with whatever comes up, but also how to deal with the specifics of the issue.

In those early years, particularly with this trainer, I would end my lessons sitting in the tack room in tears. “This is not fun,” I would say, “I’m not learning anything at all.”

I felt I would never learn to ride. Indeed, that horse and I were not a good match. But the lessons he taught me have stayed with me. They form the foundation of everything I am able to do with horses to this day. He didn’t only teach me about horses, riding and horsemanship. He taught me about patience, acceptance, love in the face of adversity, loyalty, facing fear, and calculating acceptable risks.

I regret that I was not able to accept those lessons at the time. Had I been more mindful, more awake, more aware, I’d have grown as a person, as a rider, far more than I expected.

Are you able to accept the lessons offered to you by your horse?

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch

If you like what you have been reading, please subscribe to the RSS Feed, and visit Bloggers Choice Awards to vote for Enlightened Horsemanship Through Touch.

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