Finding Yourself

Finding Yourself

 BrioTara

Wife. Daughter. Sister. Teacher. Friend. These are some of the roles I play in life. They have become what define me. I have discovered the closer I adhere to each role, I lose a bit more of my identity; the “je ne sais quoi” that makes me unique. The mundane sameness of each day has trapped me into playing the roles I wear and forgetting who I really am. Most days I find myself on autopilot just trying to make it to the end of the day.

 

All too often, the roles we claim begin to take ownership of who we are as a person and we lose our sense of unique individuality. Don’t you remember that feeling of knowing exactly who you were? I remember feeling strong, confident and comfortable in my skin. Now I just feel tired most of the time.

 

It’s time for a change. It’s time to take a step back to gain some clarity and fresh perspective. I need to know who I am now and what I want for my life. I don’t know what that may be, but I am pretty excited to find out. I hope you will join me on this journey. It might be a little scary, but Finding Yourself might just be the best thing you ever do.

 

**If you find these things to be true in your own life, and would like to make a change, please follow the link to learn more about our new women’s retreat, Finding Yourself, coming this November**

Finding Grace

 

When I first sat down to write this piece, I had planned to do a piece on forgiveness. I have had several situations lately where forgiveness seemed applicable, even necessary, but I felt myself struggling. I kept circling back around to the thought that I was in the right, they were in the wrong, and it just did not seem fair that I needed to be the one to dig deep and forgive. I was definitely dragging my feet.

As always, I found myself taking notes and learning about the active nature of grace just by watching my horses. Horses exude grace. Their movements are the very definition of grace. They embody the spirit of grace in their willingness to accept us as friends and partners in this journey. The very fact that they, as prey animals, choose to trust humans; predators, defies the natural order of the world and demonstrates the act of grace. We are undeserved of their generous gift of companionship, but can choose to cherish and learn from it.

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Along my way to finding forgiveness, I found myself practicing grace. I learned I did not have to be right, but could extend the hand of friendship and choose not to allow petty grievances to harm a long-time relationship. Doing so would not only harm that friendship, but would also hurt me by allowing bitterness and self-destructive thoughts and patterns to form.

To me, this portrays our relationship with God. By our very nature, humankind are sinners and undeserved of His love and mercy, yet He still bestows upon us this incredible gift of grace. I honestly believe that He gave us animals to act as instructors of grace so that we could become the people He intends us to be. I know I have learned so many unexpected lessons in life from mine. I learned grace is not just a singular act, but a continuous action that must be practiced daily in order to have real impact in life. In finding grace, I have also discovered a way to be closer to God and to accept harsh truths and realities without accruing toxic feelings of bitterness and self-justification. In writing this, I hope that my lesson might help even one person on his own journey.

 

Finding Peace

As I sit here, I can feel all of my fears, anxieties & self-doubt circling, pressing in on me like a predator stalking its prey. I’m swarmed by feelings of shame. I didn’t do ______ well enough, or so & so did it better. So & so always does it better.
 

I’m stampeded by thoughts of blame. “Well, it’s not my fault because….”  “I couldn’t do it because….”
As I’m about to go under, I look across the pasture, lock eyes with my horse & hear the words, “Be Still and know that I am God”.
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Suddenly, I am reminded of just what is important. God is the ONLY one I need to worry about impressing. And, here’s the kicker– God made me. He created me—this worrisome, fallible, imperfect being. Knowing this, aswell as knowing that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, means that he knew exactly what He was doing when He made me the person I am. Who am I to question His work in me? Who are we to doubt God’s judgment in His creation of us; such wonderfully diverse and unique beings, completely individual to ourselves.

 

So, where does that leave me? Well, I may not be able to question His work, but nor am I able to understand it. This leaves me with the thought that I need to find a way to accept myself for who I am.

 

Finding acceptance within ourselves is no easy task. I fully expect each and every one of us to struggle mightily with our preconceived notions of who/how we should be. I also know that trying to be what we think we should be is exhausting. And depressing. After all, who is ever truly satisfied with his/her self?
It’s time to let it go. Let go of the worries, the anxieties, and the fears that you are not who you think you should be; that you are simply not enough. It’s time to trust in God’s work. I honestly believe that finding acceptance will lead to the most vital component in living a healthy life—Finding Peace.

 

**Do you need help finding peace within yourself? Let the horses help you! Join us this fall for an EAL (Equine Assisted Learning) workshop on Finding Peace**

Banner, my first horse!

Why Horses?

Have you ever felt disconnected from others; even yourself? Have you ever felt judged or misunderstood? Even when you had the best of intentions?

At the age of 10, my family moved to the country and I was finally able to have a horse of my own. I was living most little girls dream. Most days, you would find me brushing, riding, or pretending I was a wild Indian with my pony. Times were great, most of the time.  However, there were times when I would have a bad day with a bully at school, a disagreement with my parents, or even a fight with my best friend, and my horse was the one that was always there for me. 

There is something about grooming and riding a horse that brings you back to the present and compels you to live in the moment.  Maybe it’s their great power that is under such control, or the gentleness behind what seems to be such wisdom in their eyes.  Your raging hormones calm, as well as the racing thoughts and the tightness in your chest.  Perspectives changed as I took a step away from the busy world, buried my face into my horse’s mane as I prayed, and reassessed what was truly important in that exact moment.  I could tell my horse wanted to be with me too, as she patiently waited for me to calm. No matter whether I was feeling misjudged or misunderstood, moments like that made everything seem right again in the world. My horse and my God understood. Since then, I’ve learned this is true for many people. Something about the quiet understanding horses offer has a very definite impact on a person.

As a 10 year old, I didn’t know anything remotely similar to the natural horsemanship skills we teach at Five Horses, LLC. I believe these skills were naturally inherent within me until “life” started happening. Slowly we are taught that being who we are is not “okay”, and we start to mask and hide ourselves.  Horses don’t like these masks.  They are incredibly sensitive to incongruence in your thoughts and feelings. They will not allow you to be a member of their herd with this false self, and will not trust you as a leader.

Now that I’m an adult, I understand more of this powerful presence that horses possess.  They don’t hold grudges against past grievances, and don’t worry about the future.  Horses hold space for us in the present moment, allowing us to pause and recognize our own feelings and thoughts.  I’ve experienced this often and am passionate about helping others have this opportunity too.

Learning natural horsemanship skills at Five Horses, LLC is so much more than riding.  It’s more about quieting yourself so you can connect.  It’s about developing more clear communication skills.  It’s about learning leadership skills for every situation. Allow yourself to remove the mask society insists you wear, and join me in celebrating the freedom of self you find working with these amazing creatures.

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Finding Resolution

I am a goal-oriented, list-making individual. It’s how I’m wired, and it has helped me be productive and successful in many ways. However, being goal-oriented doesn’t always work so well when building relationships. What if the other individual doesn’t have the same goals as you do?

This has been the case many times in my life, and my tendency was to bulldoze over them with my lack of concern for their goals. My goals were better, more thought out, more important, etc. What does that do to this relationship that I valued to work on so much? It completely undermines the whole thing! So, how did I learn to stop this destructive pattern in my relationships? Horses!

How many of you have tried to get an animal that weighs over 1000 pounds to meet your personal goals? It’s not easy. Yes, it is possible to force them to do many things, but can you catch them easily the next day? Do they really want to have a relationship with you after you have met said goals? Mine didn’t. Mine ran away and fought many things I tried to “teach”.

What did it take for me to listen to the horse’s thought on our relationship? An unplanned dismount is the nicest way I’ve heard it phrased. When a horse goes to bucking, it is pretty clear it doesn’t respect your leadership. A wise man once asked me what happened before that buck. I answered, “Lots of little things that I ignored, actually.”

I’m too old to ignore those little signals anymore. It hurts to hit the ground with that kind of force! As I’ve learned to listen to horses better, it has also helped me to listen to people better. Have you ever asked a friend what they want to receive out of the relationship you have? Do they have needs that aren’t being met? If they aren’t treated respectfully and valued, they may not stick around.

Setting goals is still helpful, especially in helping me think of the steps to help myself achieve them. I just want to make sure I am not ruining relationships along the way. So, my goal setting looks different now as I make sure it includes the friends I value the most.

These are a few of my relational goal ideas for the next year. They are all oriented toward preventing those blow ups, like my horse gave me, with one of my friends or husband.

Be a better friend by:

1. Stopping to question myself when feeling annoyed or offended- “Is it really that important?”

2. Plan monthly dates to build relationships.

3. Check in with my friends to find out their needs, before they ask!

4. Be more available by being less BUSY- say no to more things, so I can say yes to important ones.

5. LISTEN better– friends are giving early signs of needs, but we are distracted with our own.

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Focus

It has been a right brain extrovert month in so many ways. Going, going, busy, busy with no focus. And confidence, what’s that? Do you ever feel like you caret finish even one project?

So finally with all of these things that NEED to . done, I put them aside and thought about what I WANTED to do today. Since there was someone around to attach me ride, I decided I WANTED to do that. Which horse? My brain went to which ones NEEDED to be ridden, and I checked my thoughts. NO Which did I want, for whatever selfish shallow reason. Since it has been awhile since I have ridden due to all of these projects and health reasons, I wanted someone safe. Dusty. I always let everyone else ride Dusty, but I LOVE to ride her.  She is energetic, yet smooth. I just needed to feel a horse underneath me.

Before even mounting, she was determined to munch on every green blade of grass. I circled her online, asserting appropriate phases until she trotted without sneaking a bite.  Then I mounted up and headed to another green pasture We walked a bit in new environment, but I had a PLAN of trotting some figure eights.  She had more plans of eating. When I asked her to “go” she said “no” with a little hump of her back, I redirected her rear end in a circle. We continued this little talk, over the next few minutes of her idea • vs • my idea. Instead of focusing strongly on my figure 8 patten, I REDIRECTED her tense thoughts with a sideways movement at walk or trot.  This helped her to relax into my idea instead of being direct line and picking a fight with her.  As soon as she relaxed into trotting MY circle, I relaxed and let her grass then become MY idea.

So now to real world a application…

How do you deal with right brain extrovert people that have different ideas then ou?

The technique I tried for this horse was redirecting with a goal of relaxing, to build he relationship. I wanted my idea to feel go. to her. (confession: I did have to use more rein then I would like during this process. I had to CONTROL her some, to retain my safety.)

So our relationship needs improvement in a couple of areas:

  1. She needs to accept my leadership by respecting/caring about my Ideas.
  2. I need to have ideas that she can respect/care about. (Hmm, which really comes first?)
  3. We need to have better communication about relaxation (that she is safe with me).

Just wondering if these steps on dealing with an unconfident and distracted horse will work with people in my life, too…

Can we communicate our ideas others in a way that shows that we care and respect them but also require that we receive the same respect back? Thoughts?

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The Rest of the Story

If you have read the story of the struggles that I had with Promise, you are somewhat familiar with my feelings towards her dam, Annabelle.  She was frustrating to deal with when I was already tired from dealing with a sick foal.  I blamed her for being such a klutz and stepping on Promise anyway.  So the story of my journey with Annabelle is entangled in Promise’s story, too.

So to tell this story we need to go back to the beginning when I first met this beautiful, black mare.  She was located at a breeding farm that specialized in Western Pleasure horses.  Supposedly Annabelle was going to be trained for the Quarter Horse Congress as a 3 year old, but her trainer just couldn’t get her ready in time.  “Hmmm, how interesting!” I say now that I have more experience with how complex she is to train.  When I rode her the first time in their arena, she was a dream.  I asked her to jog and she maintained a nice even cadence jog, following the rail like a robot.  I asked for a canter and she obliged, with a speed a little faster than would be desired for showing.  I was in love.  I had never owned a horse that had this much training at such a young age.  I spent way more than I ever had on any horse and convinced her owner to throw in a “free” breeding to make it more worth my while.  I would use the breeding the next year since it was so late in the season.

Things went fine for awhile, until I decided to start asking her to extend her trot.  She had been asked for so long to be slower and slower that this just blew her mind.  Asking her to learn something new made her shut down.  The harder I pushed her the more she resisted me and would just stop.  I had no idea how to handle this.  My knowledge of training was to just get a bigger stick.  This wouldn’t work on a horse like this.  She was too smart and too unmotivated.  Thank goodness I found Parelli soon after this.  I followed the Parelli program and quit riding for awhile.  I worked on ground work, getting respect and communication.  We finally advanced to riding, but I still didn’t have the savvy to motivate her in an arena.  Trail rides were fun as she liked going somewhere, especially with other horses.   During this time, I was finally able to get her pregnant.  So I then quit riding during the last few months of her pregnancy.

So after weaning Promise, I started working with Annabelle again.   She became my Parelli levels horse kinda by default, as 3 of my other favorite mares were pregnant at this time.  It was just a timing thing that she was the horse that I started taking to Parelli clinics.  I thought she would be a good one to take, though, because she was my most challenging.  My other horses seemed to accept me as their leader.  Annabelle was constantly trying to take over that leadership.  As I went to each of the Harmony clinics, my leadership skills improved.  I was still easily frustrated by her, though.  I knew this was my fault.  I thought I needed better strategies.  I got these strategies through Parelli.  Strong leadership and having a plan really did help a lot.  However, we had a big break through at our Refinement 4 clinic.  Promise had just been put to sleep and I was still very upset and sad as I went to the clinic the next week.  It was time to let go of the pain and frustration of the last two years.  Maybe the pain ending for Promise and my not having to see that pain everyday was able to let me start to think about forgiving Annabelle.  I know she is just a horse and didn’t hurt Promise on purpose.  There was more to it than that.  Anyone that was around knows how horrible Annabelle acts in a stall.  She poops in her water and on the walls.  She chews.  She paces with no regard to where obstacles, even her own foal, are located.  She has done this even when riding, being a klutz when stepping over obstacles.  She hasn’t acted like a partner to me in ANY way.  That is finally changing now, and it didn’t start with her.  I had to see things from her perspective.  My wonderful instructor Kerri Joosten helped me to see that.  Annabelle never asked to even have a foal.  She sure didn’t know how to deal with all of the commotion of taking that newborn to an unfamiliar stall at the vet.  She despises stalls and I totally don’t blame her for not wanting to be locked in a small area for 3 months.  Her early training was not natural horsemanship.  I doubt her feelings were ever considered.   I thought that I had changed and was considerate of my horses feelings, but I was still making the same mistakes.  I was still trying to force behavior with her.  Yes, maybe I was releasing and rewarding, but I was really still MAKING her do things.  For example, she was still having unconfidence problems with trailer loading.  I was telling her, “You can do it.  It’s not that scary.”  Instead of just waiting and saying, “I understand, it’s really scary.  I know.  Good girl for trying.  You are so brave.”  I was always pushing and asking for more instead of accepting what she offered.   I guess I didn’t want to understand her before.  She frustrated me.  She was stubborn.  She didn’t respect me.    I was still seeing all of the negative characteristics, not acknowledging that these were just areas where I lacked leadership.

Leadership isn’t about being a tyrant though.  It takes many different forms.  What I needed to do was understand her and wait.  This has made a world of difference.   This may seem so simple, but I had put her in a box and defined her as confident and introverted.  However, in learning situations she really does go quite unconfident.  Her lack of confidence just goes internal and quiet.  You can totally miss this if you are too goal oriented and push too hard.  This is what I did for too long.  No more!  I can recognize that subtle wrinkle of her eyelids now.  She’s saying, “I can’t.”  not “I won’t”.  How did I miss this before?  I was able to work with my other right brain introvert with no problems, but I couldn’t seem to adjust my thinking when Annabelle was concerned.  The blinders of unforgiveness are off now!

You should be able to tell a difference in our relationship now.  You won’t hear anything negative about Annabelle anymore.  If something is going wrong, it is definitely because I am communicating it wrong.  We still have much to learn but we will be learning it together on this wonderful journey.  She is my perfect partner.

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