Closing the Gap

I have just spent two inspiring days at The Donkey Sanctuary at The Trust Technique’s Practitioner Day followed by their open I Have a Dream Day. I have heard James and Shelley’s message over and over again during the last 2 years, but on each hearing there is a realisation of how much I still fall short of the ideal and the inspiration and motivation to continue to do better for the animals (and people) in my life.

I want to focus on something James said which really struck a chord:

“There is a gap between what we say we feel about our animals and what we actually do.”

Everybody says they love their animals – and they truly do, but do their actions genuinely support their words?

I have been aware of this gap in my interactions with Grace for a long time, but I saw it in a slightly different way – on one side my agenda – what I want from her, and on the other side what she wants from me and how she feels about what I want. I really love this different perspective – on one side what we say and on the other what we do. This has brought to me some clarity about this gap. Like many of my species I am often looking for instant gratification. I jump out of bed in the morning motivated to do better, I work really hard at it,  I don’t see the results I want quickly enough, I get a bit frustrated, maybe even “give up” a little bit and then have to start again.

It’s easy really – all we have to do is listen to our animals – they tell us with their behaviour and their actions everything we need to know to close that gap. But we need to listen, hear it and act on it. Sometimes we listen and we don’t hear. Sometimes we hear and we don’t act. Sometimes we listen and we pretend we haven’t heard because it doesn’t suit us. I’m as guilty of that as the next man.

It’s very easy to watch experts at work and think that Rome can be built in a day. We can then set out on our new journey with some high expectations which are soon disappointed. This is why approaching every session as if you are seeing your animal for the first time and being present and acting in the moment is so important.

Don’t get me wrong some people can get incredibly quick results with the Trust Technique. I have seen changes in an animal with quite extreme issues within the space of a week – “co-incidentally” their humans committed fully to the practice – they really put their animals first and stuck to it.

Like many others, I don’t find it so easy. All sorts of things can slow things down – lack of commitment, lack of trust – in the animal, the technique or yourself, lack of self-belief, impatience, frustration – the list goes on. The animal may be highly sensitive – it is then so much easier to make a mistake as we misread or mishear.  And of course every human is different, every animal is different, every combination is different and every situation is different, so results will vary widely and is no reflection on “how good you are” at this.

Maybe like me you sometimes pretend you don’t hear what you don’t want to hear – so your actions don’t support your good intentions. Then you have robbed something from the relationship bank account which now needs paying back before you can get back in credit.

What I do know is the more time you are in the present moment, the more awareness you develop, the quicker you can get back on track and the more you close the gap.

If the gap is 100 miles wide and you can only close it by a few millimetres at a time – you are still doing better for the animals and people in your life, you are still shaking off the shackles of your conditioned past, the rules and beliefs that you have followed (even if they didn’t really feel right) and moving ever closer to honouring your true self.

What is Graceful Horsemanship?

Of course it is named after my horse Grace, but the word grace has multiple meanings. The obvious ones are clearly appropriate to training a horse towards the ideal, both in terms of our aims for the horse but also the behaviour of the human.

 “Elegance and beauty of movement or expression”

 “A sense of propriety and consideration for others”

 “A disposition to kindness and compassion”

But recently another definition has come to my attention

 “Bring honour to someone by one’s attendance or participation”

I would say that for me without doubt this is the most important of all, and you would be hard pushed to achieve the others without it.

 Does your horse grace you with their presence? Or do they avoid connecting with you through avoidance, distraction or closing down?

Do they honour you with their participation? Or do they comply through coercion and bribery?

Are you focused on the outcomes of your training or the honour of your horse?

Trust

Before you can expect your horse to trust you, first you must trust your horse and even before that trust yourself.

What does this mean?

It means accepting that whatever is happening right here, right now in this present moment is O.K. You don’t have to like it, but no amount of resistance to it or wishing for something else will change anything.

It means looking at your horse and understanding how they are feeling right now and knowing what you can do in this moment to help them feel better.

It is knowing that you can let go of any expectations of yourself or your horse and any “what if”s or “I should”s.

It means neither attaching yourself to or fearing a particular outcome, allowing yourself to be open to the inifinite number of possibilities that could arise in the next moment.

It means not blaming yourself, your horse or anyone else if you make a mistake – it happens!

The only thing you can ever do is your best in any given moment and that is always good enough.

Waiting not Wanting

It was almost 2 years ago that I was listening to “Pause for Thought” on the radio in the car. It was all about WAITING NOT WANTING and I immediately realised that I was hearing an important message. To become more of a human horses needed me to be, I had just started out on the long process of consciously transforming from a “Human Doing” to a “Human Being”. I had been mulling over how I was having a bit of a wobble because I felt like I was not able to do what I WANTED with Grace if I was going to give her the time and space that she needed. This is what I wrote at the time…

WAITING not WANTING has become my mantra. I have too much WANT for outcomes, success, recognition. It is this that has underpinned everything I do. When things are not going well all my fears are around not being good enough, not being successful, how others will view this, fear of not achieving my goals, being afraid to step back and wait because my progress will falter and I will never succeed if I don’t keep working away day after day to solve everything that isn’t right, like an obsession. And it happens straight away,as soon as one tiny thing doesn’t fall into place, as soon as perfection starts to leave me behind. Telling myself none of this matters – it’s just Grace and me,means the nagging voice kicks in and tells me it does matter and feelings of anxiety and even panic start to arise. So now I can catch myself wanting to be somewhere else in my journey, wanting to do something else, wanting to be better, wanting Grace to be better – to satisfy my nagging ego.

Then I remind myself of WAITING not WANTING

I need to re-calibrate my dreams and goals, so that our success is in the beauty of what we do together and not the results for everyone else’s benefit.”

Looking back this has been one of the most important lessons I have learned and is still very relevant today, although by comparison I WANT a lot less and WAIT a lot more. I am much more prepared to work at the horse’s pace even if it means dropping my own agenda.

Horses have no concept of time and our need to get things done yesterday or to boost our ego has no meaning for them, and the energy we project at this time is not appealing to them.

If we can WAIT for them instead of WANT something else our energy is much more attractive to them and they will be far more willing and motivated to join with us in our activities without worry or stress. This is what I practice on a daily basis and how I like to support others who may feel as if their horse does not do or give them what they want.

Happy New Year to all.

Wishing you Peace and Patience in 2019!