When I returned from the Equine Affaire I started playing with horses focusing on bend and the shape they were making around me. I began to really see how their ability to bend integrated into their ability to turn as well as stay mentally with me. Again, many pieces fell together for me. Colleen Kelly talking about keeping the inside ear cocked toward the rider/handler, Jean Luc Cornille highlighting the tilt of the thoracic vertebrae to the inside of the bend, and now Chris Irwin speaking of putting pressure on the rib cage instead of the head and neck. With the right timing in a turn, the rib cage is swinging away from the inside leg and at the exact same time the thoracic vertebrae are tipping towards the direction of bend or travel. I was thinking in terms of the ability of the horse to flip the bend from one side to the other. On the ground this was calming every horse I worked with and in the saddle it was creating an incredible flow of movement. Lazy horses became more forward and tense horses settled and became more trusting. I could feel their immense relief in how I was focusing on their bodies and presenting a platform that made everything easier. It really is true that when a horse realizes you are making it easier for them to move they become willing to do anything they can for you. It is earning their trust and committing to respecting them. It is powerful how sacred this is.
This brings me to the learning curve. I took all of this and began working with Errowood again. He had some time off while I focused on his little sister Cora.
This dear horse has been on my journey responding and guiding every step of the way. I could see very clearly that I had caused a lot of tension and worry in him during our past and found myself one day pretty disappointed that I would be rehabilitating him from methods I had employed without the understanding that helping him, not making him was the key. I really had to step back mentally and reassure myself that I had the time and the willingness to do this and to not judge myself so harshly for it. When a horse responds and I can imagine someone else being too strong sometime in their past it is relatively easy to let it go and be there helping them through it. When they respond because of something I did, it is more challenging. I even despair a little.
Recently I have been watching Karen Rohlf's videos in her video class room and was struck by her saying that people tend to be exploring all the time or being very consistent and staying the same all the time. I was really realizing with Errowood the consequences of my inconsistency and the need for something he could count on within my need to continually learn and grow. The tension he carried around me was the fear of making a mistake when learning something new. I had created that by learning something new and then wanting it to be immediately applied and mastered. Whew! Recommitting to taking all the time it would take to renew our relationship was intimidating to think about. It took me a day to wrap my head around it. Thankfully more resources were on the way.
A dear friend gave me a book called Mindset by Carol S Dweck for Christmas shortly after and I was blown away by the perfection of the timing. From her website:
In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
What this helped me see is that while I am passionate about learning and growing I had also a pretty developed fixed mindset that created in me the need to hide my learning. I wasn't comfortable with people witnessing me not knowing what to do in most cases.
Somewhere along the way I had picked up this idea that I had to already know everything. It was time to let that go. I knew I was attracted to people who shared their process and vulnerability and now I really knew why. I wished to do that as well and knew instinctively that I would have to shift into a growth mindset in order to really let go of judgment and work towards my dreams. I also became aware of how much more effective I could be as a teacher and parent by highlighting the courage and patience it takes to practice something, getting just a little bit better every day. It is empowering to dedicate ourselves to the process and to learning. It is ok to recognize information and soak it up without judgment of the source. This has been immensely relieving to me and all the horses I am working with. I look forward to watching my students grow as well.