read more posts by

Erica

Dealing With Change

And why you have more control than you think.

I believe there is always a bit of good news in the midst of every experience.

And today's tidbit is all about CHANGE!

Because of the undeniable and un-ignorable threat, the Oregon wildfires brought to us these last two weeks...

I had no choice but to change...

And choose something other than what I knew.

Options like:
"the same"
"the safe option"
"the familiar"

Where not up for picking! 

If there's one thing I've learned this season of life (and all of 2020 to be real) it's to *EMBRACE* the unfamiliar.

Not only embrace, but welcome it inward, and roll with it.

A lot has happened in 2020.

Back to the future meme: don't travel to 2020

It's been a wild, wild ride.

And you may have felt stretched thin at times. 

Challenged beyond where you currently are right now.

This can bring up emotions like frustration, the drain of "meh" and exhaustion, or even racing thoughts of panic, sadness, and pain.

It's alright (and normal) to feel these lower emotions and energies. Never see them as "bad", because I promise you they have a purpose.

Also, they aren't something that "needs to be fixed," because nothing about you is broken. xo

As these emotions and energies surface, we have the magical opportunity to identify any destructive narratives we might be living in.

Then, we have the power within us (yes we all do) to replace them with more productive and focused narratives that help you align with where you want to go. Ones that serve us, not destroy us. 

This is so powerful when it comes to working with our horses!

Your body language and emotions change how the horse behaves

Your body language, emotions, energy and perspective have the power to change how the horse behaves

On my journey of becoming the best version of my horsewoman-self I've come to realize it's not about improving my training skills, but much more about understanding my thoughts and emotions and how to build 'mental resilience'. 

Which plays a lead role in how to stay calm when things go sideways, upside down, or flop flat. Or how to work beyond frustration when your horse seems to just "not get it"... or when you catch yourself in a cycle of blaming the horse...and much more.


Here's a story to sum it all together.

Fire + Horses can get a little 'HOT'

The day finally came, when the horses arrived home after nearly 8 days living in an evacuation center due to the imminent danger of the forest fires.

GIF of horse rolling

Libby- upon arrival back home!

To say the least, a mega swirl of emotions and energies consumed me that day. I woke up groggy and sluggish because of my building anxiety from the days leading up.

My job was to greet the horses at our barn, help unload, and make sure everyone was guided back to their correct stall or pasture.

So, a lot of this process up until they got there, was out of my control. I accepted this. But, where I met resistance was when the horses arrived. 

And even in this situation, despite my desire to control...things didn't go according to *my* plan.

P.S. can you relate to my deep desire to control this situation?

But more surprisingly, was the destructive narrative that played out in my head when the woman, who graciously hauled the first trailer, quickly and assertively took the lead rope out of my hands right after I backed the horse out of the trailer. And to top it off, the horse was my horse, Libby.

Want to know what my reactive, "self-talk" was to this situation?

"WTF, she must think I'm not skilled enough to walk this horse into the barn! Crap, do I come across as not capable or weak? Maybe it's because I was telling Libby good girl as she backed down?"

This "self-talk" doesn't sound too glamorous does it?

Yes, I too struggle with the feeling of "not-enoughness" 🙌

This was a situation (it can be any situation) and it doesn't directly create your reaction to that situation...it's the thoughts that do this. When two different people live the same situation, their ability to handle that situation does not come down to the situation itself, it comes down to the thoughts they have in regards to their experience.
- Dr. Shannon Irvine, Neuropsychology 

What's key here to take away is that these thoughts limit my scope of vision. And if I was to stick with it, it would prevent me from acting in a way that's true to who I really, honestly am. 

I genuinely believe that when you are acting in a way that's NOT true to who you are, your horse senses this and this inhibits the depth of your connection to them. 

Connection with a horse is about being vulnerable

Look honestly within at your level of vulnerability... here you'll discover a path to a deeper connection with your horse. 

Author and speaker, Brené Brown shares that the personal (I) belief of; "I am enough" is THE MOST IMPORTANT thought we can think. 

She says in her 2011 TED Talk, 

"When we believe, I am enough, we stop screaming and start listening. We are kinder and gentler to the people around us. We are kinder and gentler to ourselves."

Link to her TED Talk "The Power of Vulnerability"

These personal, internal narratives, are a reflection of what you truly believe, and what you ultimately act out...no matter what you say. A script on auto-play loop, becoming embedded beliefs about who we are, our role in the world, and ultimately how we view our capabilities and limitations. 

Our brain tells us these stories, often as a 'safety release' to keep us safe, help us cope with the possibility of failure, or deal with pressures. Hence why they are called "limiting".

But, remember, good news in the midst of this all...

You have the power to rewrite these narratives! Replace them with what you want to believe, what will ultimately serve you, and aligns with where you want to go.

As it is a continuous practice...I've been hard at work rewriting my "not-enoughness" to that of strength, value, confidence and worth.

Try to remember that even when chaos swirls around us...

We can STILL thrive.

We can STILL shine.

We can STILL deeply love; ourselves and others.

After all, that IS where the truth lies at the core of who we are.

Fire + horses + chaos taught me this: 

We are never at the mercy of circumstances because we always have a choice on how we interpret and view everything. (Thoughts about situation) 

Even when things don't go according to plan.

Even when things don't go according to our preference.

So, yeah, 2020 may not have been what any of us would have anticipated, preferred, or planned...

Quote about dealing with change

Now I'd love to hear from you:


1. Did you experience any ‘aha’ moments from this conversation? 

2. Which part of our conversation resonated most and why?

Leave a comment below and let me know. Remember, share as much detail as possible in your reply. Thousands of incredible horse-lovers come here for insight and motivation, and your story may help someone else have a meaningful breakthrough.

Have trust in that my friend.

xo Erica

P.S. Here is a fabulous interview I recommend with Todd Herman and Marie Forleo. You'll discover even more ways we can change in life and the very fascinating, physiologically what's happening during this process. 


Downlowd Everyone's Fave Guide!



"My Top 5 - 5 min. Exercises to Strengthen the Bond With Your Horse"

Discover my top 5 exercises to begin strenghtening the bond with your horse. Short on time? No problem! These only take a few minutes each time, so fit them in as you can. They are straight forward, and effective strategies you can take TODAY to begin improving the bond you have with your horse. 

A Simple Framework That Explains Your Horse Behavior

Discover why your horse does or doesn't do something to understand horse behavior.

Your horse's behavior might seem complicated at times and understanding what causes different behaviors can leave you scratching your head asking "why?". 

But, in horse training, it's important to understand how your horse's behavior works, how they learn a new behavior and whether or not a certain behavior will be repeated in the future. 

Discovering how to motivate your horse to want to participate with you and be willing to perform the different behaviors and skills that we do want to work on in a training setting. 

It boils down to asking these 2 questions:

#1

Is my horse working towards something that she wants or desires? 

#2

Is my horse working to avoid something that she doesn't want? 

With those answers in mind, what I encourage you to understand is that your work with your horses is not just about training behaviors. 

It’s also about the mindset of the trainer, the perspective and emotions you bring to the training. 

And stepping into that role comes with great responsibility…

Because we have the tremendous ability to influence the emotional state and outcome, experienced by the horse being trained.

Your body language and emotions change how the horse behaves

Your body language, emotions, energy and perspective have the power to change how the horse behaves


A simple framework to help you answer why your horse does something

I’ve called it the C-B-O framework Cue - Behavior - Outcome. 

C - CUE

  • A cue is the stepping stone of communication with your horse. 

  • Cues explain to your horse which behaviors you want, when and where

  • This is you “asking” for a behavior that you want

  • A key thing to keep in mind is that cues trigger an emotional response in the horse

  • These cues can be places, objects, sounds, smells, certain situations and other beings like you, me, your dog or the peacock that lives next door.

B - BEHAVIOR

  • The behavior that we see after the cue is given

  • This is often what we are wanting the horse to “do” or "not do"

  • For example: backing up, standing at the gate, pawing, standing at the block

O - OUTCOME

  • The outcome is what happens directly after the behavior

  • Also know as the "consequence"

  • This is either a “feels good” or “feels bad” experience 

  • That produced either something she wanted or something she didn’t want as the “result of” her behavior

  • Outcome/Consequences can be either reinforcement or punishment

But first it’s important to realize how emotions drive your horse’s behavior and why training from this perspective, changes everything. 

Emotion plays a key role in why a horse does or doesn’t do something.

The brain is continuously learning to help the horse survive and thrive. 

So, the brain is guiding the horse to become really good at paying attention to all the cues (stimulus) and signals around them. 

This is giving the brain information as to how it should behave.  

What's key here is this:

The brain is working to predict the emotional feeling and result this cue will have towards the horse. 

Simply put, the brain is trying to answer:  will this cue lead to good feelings or bad feelings?

Ultimately trying to determine; will this help me survive or might it harm me?

Something I want to feel again OR something I’ll make sure to avoid in the future

This is Emotional Learning at the heart of it.

Each time the horse hears, sees, or experiences a certain cue, the brain has learned to predict a linked feeling of a reward (something she wants) or a punishment (something she does not want) 

The more and more the horse experiences this cue, each and every time the behavior is repeated in association to the cue... and the outcome has the same emotional experience linked to it...the stronger the pathway becomes in the brain.

This neural-pathway will become automatic over time.

This is learning. 

Why a horse wont go into a trailer, explaining horses how wont load into a trailer

A great example of this is a horse who works extremely hard to avoid getting into the trailer. Likely, in the past the brain has learned and linked, the behavior of getting in the trailer will result in a “feels bad” emotional experience and the outcome was undesirable...so it’s on the ‘do not do list’. The horse’s motivation is simple, avoid the unpleasant, fearful, even possibly painful outcome that they’ve associated with the behavior of getting into the trailer. 


Now to circle back and bring this all together...


If you are trying to answer why your horse does or doesn’t do something... 


Whether it’s something you do want to see or an unwanted behavior you’d like to eliminate…


Your steps are to break down that specific C-B-O Sequence:


1

Identify the cue that triggers it all

2

Define the specific, single behavior 

3

Determine the outcome from the horse's point of view

Here is where you’ll be able to identify exactly, what is the underlining motivation for that behavior...

Because the horses behavior is driven by either:

Looking for a reward - activating the “feels good” regions in the brain

OR 

Avoiding punishers or discomforts to minimize negative impact and activation of the “feels bad” regions of the brain.

Whew! I know that’s a little intense.. But it’s so powerful

The more you can understand how a behavior works, where it originates in the horse and what the horse feels in response...and the more you can help your horse understand what you’d like them to do. 

And the more you can actually understand yourself too, and how you can become an amazing part to this partnership.

Downlowd Everyone's Fave Guide!



"My Top 5 - 5 min. Exercises to Strengthen the Bond With Your Horse"

Discover my top 5 exercises to begin strenghtening the bond with your horse. Short on time? No problem! These only take a few minutes each time, so fit them in as you can. They are straight forward, and effective strategies you can take TODAY to begin improving the bond you have with your horse. 

Gaining Your Horse’s Trust Using 3 Simple Strategies

Discover how to build your horse's trust.

If you are anything like me, you got into the horse lifestyle because you love them, love the time spent together, and love all the memories made. 

 

But, like any relationship, it’s important that it is joyful, based on genuine trust and mutual connection — not a fight, a dread, worrisome, overwhelming, fear-based, or lacking trust. 

“Building a connection and trust-based bond with horses is the foundation to everything you want to do and achieve.” 

To build that foundation and gain your horse’s respect, in a fear-free way, focus on the big things first— the core elements that make your horse function. 

Only then can you step into that conversation and start to build a deep bond, mutual connection, and clear communication path that will last a lifetime.

These elements are eternal, profound, and universal amongst horses. 

Instead of rattling off a list of dos and don’ts, I’m going to share the underlying secrets behind strengthening the bond with your horse.

Put these secrets into place, and you’ll be rewarded with the lasting connection, genuine trust, and energizing willingness both you and your horse crave.

you can build your horse's trust using obstacles and unique objects

How does a horse define trust? It's based on their history of positive outcomes either with the object, situation or even the human they are with. Consistently, the horse knows their safety will remain intact, therefore they can now trust.

Understanding Horse Trust

There’s something that tends to come up a lot in life with horses, no matter the stage you are in. So, let’s talk about it, shall we

TRUST.

Most of the time, my inner conversations circle around… “Can I trust this?” 

“This” usually refers to a situation, human, or horse.

Your horse is no different. They are also constantly asking themselves…”Can I trust this?”

A horse who lacks trust will often be harder to train, unmotivated, unwilling, or will have many “issues” or “problems”

Other signs that your horse is untrusting may be running away from you, not standing when you go to mount, uncertainty when presented with new things, and herd-bound/buddy-sour behaviors. 

A trusting horse, on the other hand, will follow you anywhere and hardly flinch at something new.

A trusting horse will be willing to work because she knows you have her best interest in mind.

A trusting horse will be willing to work because she knows you have her best interest in mind.

These horses are attentive, motivated, and quick learners. 

When you build a foundation based on trust, it’s a lot like having a piggy-bank you can constantly pull from in the future. 

Each time you make a “deposit” that bank is getting bigger and bigger. So in training or a sticky situation you have that “currency” to go back and withdraw from.

Theres no such thing as failure when you are building a bond and connection with a horse

3 Secrets for Gaining Trust

Now that you understand why it’s so important to gain your horse’s trust and respect, let’s talk about how to actually do it. Here are the three secrets that will set you on the right path.

Be Predictable

The number one trust builder is to be predictable by being consistent!

Be a Good Listener

Your horse views this very different than you might think. Take some extra time & care here.

Ditch Your Expectiations & Allow Choices

How long is your list of expectations for your horse?

#1

Be Predictable

Be consistent with your energy level, emotions, and how you show up around your horse.

Stay consistent with your communication, always sending and receiving messages in the same way — a way that both you and your horse clearly understand. 

Example: If you step into your horse’s space UNPREDICTABLY, it doesn’t matter WHO your horse is or WHAT you want to happen. You’re setting yourself and your horse up for an un-trustworthy situation. 

This 100% goes both ways.

I’ll bet you’re a bit like me, and what creates a feeling of distrust, is a simple fact that I don’t know what my horse will do next.

I cannot predict her next move…

This is no different from your horse’s point of view. Predictability is comforting for both of you.

Connection and confidence with your horse to go out and ride on the trail

A trusting equine partner is worth more than anything words or numbers can descirbe

#2

Be a Good Listener

Being a good listener is a bit different from your horse’s perspective than you might think.

If I stop all my talking and simply listen to my horse, see, hear and understand what she’s saying… magic happens. 

Humans are verbal communicators.

Talking our natural go-to.

But, not so with horses. They communicate primarily through body language and eye, ear, and muzzle expression. This subtle language can be overlooked if you aren’t paying close attention. 

When you slow down your talking and simply allow the horse to “speak,” you’ll begin to see a shift in her demeanor.

Quickly, your horse will notice that you are understanding them, tuning in to what they are saying, and respecting set boundaries.

It can be as simple as showing your horse, “Hey, I see that you’re nervous. Let’s pause and take the time you need to feel safe and confident again.”  

Increase your awareness of your horse’s language, how she thinks, reacts, learns — and what motivates her to act.

#3

Ditch Your Expectations & Allow Choices

I know this seems a little “out there,” but hang in there with me. 

We often show up around our horses, both with our actions and emotional intent, with a laundry list of “expectations” for how, when, where the horse should act, be, and do.

Now, I’m not saying ditch everything on your agenda. There are important do’s and don’ts your horse must follow to ensure safety.

What I am saying, however, is that we humans tend to be “control freaks” around our horses.

We constantly tell horses what to do and expect a perfect reaction. 

In a sense, it’s a “destination addiction” — we feel like we must arrive at a specific destination each time we work with our horses.

What I’m suggesting is allowing the horse freedom of choice.

A choice to say “no.”

A choice to walk fast or slow when worked at liberty (i.e. loose) in the arena.

Offer a suggestion as to what you’d like them to do, but let them ultimately choose how they respond. 

learn how to do liberty groundwork with your horse

Trust is built in these moments spent with no expectations and freedom of choice.

You as the human have to trust the horse to make a decision and allow her to own that choice and the impacts of that choice.

The horse begins to see trust in you because she is given a sense of empowerment. It builds confidence, and she is more invested in the activity because she chose to engage or participate.

There's is no set value that can accurately measure 'success' when it comes to horse + human interaction

Downlowd Everyone's Fave Guide!


"My Top 5 - 5 min. Exercises to Strengthen the Bond With Your Horse"

Discover my top 5 exercises to begin strenghtening the bond with your horse. Short on time? No problem! These only take a few minutes each time, so fit them in as you can. They are straight forward, and effective strategies you can take TODAY to begin improving the bond you have with your horse. 

The Secret to Building (& Keeping) Progress With Your Horse

In 2016 I worked with horses in a very clear pattern of start-stop – start-stop (oh hey, confused horse.) I had no clear progress towards my horse specific training goals.

It all balanced out in the end (with plenty of great lessons), but it was exhausting and a bit too hype-y for my taste.

While free-lunging my mare Tilly the other day I had a *mega* Ah-Ha moment that helped me understand what I was doing all those years ago – helping me see why it is SO important to just slow down and keep movin’.

Basically, slow it way on down and get my turtle race on. Leaving the hare in the dust.

Spoiler Alert: run the turtle race because that guy wins!

If you’ve had a hard time keeping steady with your horse lately, you’re gonna like this one.

In this blog, you’ll learn:

  • How achieving the goals with your horse is like being a loose horse in the arena- fresh out of the stall
  • What I did to get my productive mojo back after numerous “stops” along the way
  • How to come to terms with your own seasons of life (without losing progress with your horse)
  • That our horses always look the happiest when they are able to be free and buck as they please

Click below to watch (or take a listen):

To Unsaddle this lesson:

There’s no denying it: Progress feels GOOD. Momentum feels GOOD

When we don’t take steps forward toward something we want- we deflate.

We feel directionless and disoriented because we ARE directionless.

When we pause and remind ourselves where we’re headed (i.e. look forward!), it’s SO much easier to keep moving forward.

If you’ve lost your momentum ( & that progress-productive feelin’), on your horse training goals…

Here’s how to get back in the saddle and on the track runnin’

  1. Choose ONE task you’d like to complete (or one goal you’d like to meet) in the next week (or month)
  2. Break that DOWN into teeny-bite-sized action items (steps). We’re talkin’ tiny steps, like little ears on a baby mini tiny!
  3. Commit to doing at least ONE of those items/steps the next time you see your horse. (And have the list ready of next steps in case you’re on a roll.)

Example: In the video above, I share how hard it was (mentally, physically and spiritually) to get back into a productive mojo with my horses after taking so much time away. I challenged myself to spend time with each horse every day for 10 days. I didn’t start with tacking up and riding. Literally- day one all I did was walk into the space of each horse, said “Hi”, and offered some scratches. BOOM.

Get the point here, friend?

THIS is being the turtle. And the turtle WINS.

Stick your head out of the shell.

Start. Walk, run (or trot!) your race.

Stay focused. You’ve got this.

Your Barn-Homework

I’d love for you to share:

1. What is ONE totally achievable tiny-step you will take next with your horse to start (or keep) building progress & momentum?

 

 

Here’s to productive turtles.

Erica