My Teacher The Milk Bottle

Over the years I have worked with a number of different teachers. There was a time when I tried to be like them; it’s taken a while for me to have some faith in being me and knowing that that is enough. I can still remember the exact moment I had that awareness but it’s taken a while to even begin to believe it.

I am an obsessive learner, always keen to learn something new and upgrade my skills. It seems to me, the more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know.

I aim to choose teachers who are already aligned with what I am doing, who are going to support me with my own choices and not try and change me into someone else, to help me grow and not try to keep me in one place. I aim to teach in the same way.

We are often warned not to work with different teachers as it can be confusing. I think that depends on your choices. Personally I find it helps me to see the same thing from different perspectives. When I am only looking from one direction I can lose my way. I choose teachers who seem to be heading the same way but maybe approaching from a different angle so everything looks new but the similarities outweigh the differences.

The Trust Technique with James French has provided a foundation for me, both as a student and a teacher, of present moment awareness, patient and non-judgemental observation of self and other and building a relationship on shared feeling.

Last year I took a deep dive into Elsa Sinclair’s work where I found my feel, timing, observation and responses could be and continue to be refined with the horses as our teachers.

I have started this year by jumping into Lockie Phillips Emotional Horsemanship, where I have already discovered that I have a more solid foundation than I realised from which to expand further.

Each new teacher provides the opportunity to make that foundation ever stronger in order to support whatever is to follow.

I have also been working with a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner which has opened up a whole new world of communication from my unconscious “lizard” brain in the form of bizarre images which bring something important to my awareness.  And this leads me to the milk bottle….

Grace has a tendency at the moment to get a bit too comfortable in her parasympathetic nervous system where motivation can be low. Yes, I could escalate pressure and she would do as I ask, but that’s not really how I want to be communicating with her these days. I am looking for ways of refining my ask so we can both be on the same page and she feels like doing the same as me.

Grace can appear to be calm on the outside but still be holding some tension in her body which can prevent her from moving freely . Today I was exploring how I could ask for softness and then movement with the most subtle feeling on the halter.  When there is little or no response it’s tempting to get bigger and clearer, but it is also possible to get smaller and softer to find a response. This is the horse teaching us that we don’t need to shout.

I had a picture come into my mind of a plastic milk bottle with some water in it, together with the question, how softly could I touch the bottle to get the water to move just a little bit?

I put that feel into my hand on the noseband of the halter – not trying to make Grace or her head move, or her muscles let go; but just to have the image/feeling of jiggling the molecules inside her body the smallest amount and wait and feel for a change.

When you work at this level of sensitivity you can feel the let go before you can see it.

After a few repetitions, I would move my had towards her and she would let loose and start walking before I had made any physical contact at all – I love it when that happens. The added bonus with working in this way is that a feeling of inner peace and smoothness starts to permeate your own body at the same time – all becomes one for a moment.

Everything we learn or experience in our lifetime is stored somewhere in our unconscious brain. We don’t have to remember it all, just be open enough to allow the right message to surface and be seen, and trust enough to act on it.

Pain

I recently received a message from an old friend – I used to ride her horse for her many years ago – who asked me to share her situation so that people might consider how pain may be affecting their horse.

In summary she is saying, just because they look OK, doesn’t mean they are. We need to remember that as prey animals horses are very good at hiding pain because any weakness that is visible will draw attention to a predator who will see them as easy pickings. Even in a domestic environment this is something that is hard wired into their survival system. This means by the time we can actually visibly see something they are already considerably uncomfortable and they will be compensating in some way and any demands we place on them will soon be causing problems elsewhere. It is very easy to convince ourselves that they are OK if it means we can carry on as we are and we don’t want to stop doing what we’re doing.

If your horse is showing any uncooperative behaviour or reluctance to do what you ask, consider that they might be in pain, or maybe you know they are in pain but are not really acknowledging it and ask yourself if what you are asking of them is helping them to heal or is causing them to compensate and will create further problems down the line.

This is what she wrote:

“I just wanted to ask you to pass something on to your other Facebook and Messenger friends really. I am now 68 and to look at, make up, nails, nice frock, hairdo, going to dances, beaming smile, etc etc you would not think that there was anything wrong with me. I am extremely happy with my life and have lots of fun. However, I have major problems with my spine, arthritis, scoliosis, osteoporosis, herniated discs and the worst of all, 4 nerves trapped inside one vertebrae where the bone has diminished the aperture by about 60%. Surgery (very risky surgery) is planned for Spring to free the four nerves which helpfully drive my bladder, legs, bowel etc. You may remember a similar problem with my neck in 2008 when you kindly rode Daisy a couple of times per week for me. I constantly have to consider how to move, literally cannot stand for more than a few minutes and if no chair, staddle stone, picnic bench, or doorstep is available to rest on, my only option is to crouch to stop the pain! People must think I am quite mad! Walking is ever more difficult and slow and each and every time I reach for a painkiller I think about older horses. I dread to think that Daisy ultimately felt like this and could do nothing about it and would hate to think that any horse, let alone lots of them find as I do that the pain killer is only so good and every now and then you move a certain way and unbearable intense pain is instant. I know you often post about handling horses so please could you circulate for me to remind people that not all pain and discomfort is obvious.”

Picture of Daisy 2008

Returning to Yourself

A client after their first session said: “It sounds like I need to change into a completely different person.”

Me: “There is no need to change into someone else, it’s more about returning to who you really are.”

Client: “Thank you for putting it like that, it feels much better”.

Becoming “better” with animals, building or developing a relationship of trust and confidence is a process of stripping back.

It’s not about changing into a different type of person, someone you don’t really want to be.

It’s about undoing all the years of social and cultural conditioning and the walls you have built around yourself in order to feel safe and protected from whatever life has thrown at you, that have caused you to lose sight of yourself.

Once you are able to return to who you truly are, your animals can connect with you in a different space.

Once you start to let go of everything that is holding you back, there is only trust.

Interview with MysticMag

I recently did an interview for MysticMag. My first reaction was that I’m not really a mystic or psychic, but these words can have varying meanings and some of them are not completely inappropriate to my work as a Trust Technique Practitioner. There is a spiritual element to my work and for those who don’t consider themselves at all spiritual, well you can simply call it Peace of Mind and we could all do with some of that.

 I am grateful for their interest and they asked some thought provoking questions. Here’s the link if you would like to read it.

https://www.mysticmag.com/psychic-reading/interview-sally-utton/

Starting Again – Again

It is only after I started writing this that I realised I’m talking about starting over at the beginning of a new year.

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions, if you need to start something new, why wait?

I’m starting over again with Grace – again. Sometimes things get a bit stuck and we feel like the only way to get back in the flow is to start again, to go back to the beginning.

This can feel like we’re forever going backwards and never moving forwards. But the truth is we never go back to where we were before – we can’t, because we’ve moved on, we’ve changed, we’ve had new experiences, we can’t go back, we can only start afresh with a new perspective from where we already are.

The feeling of needing to go back comes from the realisation that we didn’t attend to something that needed attending to.

We can’t go back to where we were before; we can only attend to it from where we are right now.

We might be repeating actions that we’ve done before, but they will be viewed from a different perspective, and we will therefore do them differently and when we move forward it will be on a slightly different route, even if our destination hasn’t changed.

So when you feel like you’re going back to the beginning – again, remember you’re not, because you can’t.

When we come back again and again to the present moment we remember there is no before or after, there is only now.

Relationship

As a Trust Technique Practitioner I work with all kinds of animals, not just horses.

This week I worked with a couple and their 3 dogs. They had asked for my help with the newest member of the household who was unexpectedly and randomly launching at house guests. Strongheart had already experienced many traumatic events in his short life and household guests were just about the last straw.

The Trust Technique is about building trust and confidence through relationship by working at the emotional level with everyone involved. It turned out that Strongheart, the new dog hadn’t really been welcomed into the home by Empress, one of the other two dogs. The third dog, Alaska, was generally highly sensitive and was sceptical with even  this gentle approach.

In a household of more than one individual, in this case 2 adults and 3 dogs there is a relationship between each individual and each one of the others, that adds up to quite a few relationships!

 A relationship is the way two or more individuals are connected, or the way they behave toward each other.

When even one of those relationships is less than harmonious it puts the whole household dynamic out of balance. With this undercurrent of anxiety, new individuals (guests) entering the house can be the tipping point.

So we made a start on helping the dogs find peace with each other. We worked with Strongheart and Empress on the leash and Alaska was able to take part at his choosing- which he did and he also benefitted.

Because Amy and Ken live on the other side of the world from me, this was all done over a Zoom call. They have already laid some good foundations with the Trust Technique, so this wasn’t starting from scratch, but moving on to the next phase in strengthening their relationships and building trust with and between their dogs.

I got this wonderful feedback shortly after the session:

“Wow, what an awesome session we had with the dogs this morning.  You are so talented, so peaceful and so clear.  I am so grateful.  I now understand on a deep level how much un-peace the original dogs (Empress and Alaska) experience.  This summer with the arrival of Strongheart I came to understand much un-peace I carried around, and just how much “work” I needed to do on myself before I was going to be able to have enough peace to give to the animals.  

After this session I went from intellectually understanding how much non-peace Alaska and Empress have to knowing in my heart how much non-peace they experience.  If I let myself think too much it is overwhelming how much non-peace we have to move out of here. I mean, all the animals are suffering, but, today also reaffirmed to me that we can do it.  We can do this.  We can give the animals the great home I thought I had been providing but wasn’t.”

How Long Will it Take?

When people want help to change an animal’s behaviour they will often ask “How long will it take?”

Of course it depends on so many factors but I would also like to say that it’s best to let go of that thought.

 I’ve heard it said that the space between where we are now and where we want to be is called stress, and that also goes for our relationships with our animals, especially when challenging behaviours are involved.

When we become fixated on a specific outcome we are no longer present. When we reject where we are now, it creates either a closed or a stressed feeling which we share with our animal partners. Our animals find it difficult to connect with us because we are not peaceful with the current situation. The choices we make in the present moment are the ones which create that future outcome that we so desire; wishing we were already there is creating the closed feeling which halts progress.  So it helps to stay focused on where we are and what is needed in this moment, not where we would rather be.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have a clear intention about what we are going to do next – that is the next small step towards the future, but it’s only one step and it may not go in the direction we were expecting, so it’s important to remain flexible and open to where it may take us. This way we don’t limit our experiences and our progress.

When we can accept that where we are is where we are meant to be and can fully engage ourselves in the process and take the time our animals need us to take – we soften a little and the feeling we share creates space for trust and confidence to build.

Change rarely occurs in one jump – it happens gradually over time and at varying rates. Sometimes there is clear movement and sometimes it feels like nothing is happening, and then 6 months later you see that you are in a different place, but the increments were so small they were imperceptible.

The principles of the Trust Technique are Peace, Patience, Persistence and Purpose

Peace – of Mind

Patience – work at the animal’s pace

Persistence – keep being peaceful and patient

Purpose – remember why you’re doing this.

Do You See Your Horse?

Horses have so much pressure put on them these days and a lot of people aren’t aware of it.

Do you pause to notice how your horse responds when you enter their space, when you pick up a halter, when you touch them, when you ask them something, or are you too busy getting the job done?

Are your interactions all pushing and pulling, kicking and smacking or do you interact with lightness, ease and grace?

Do you manhandle your horse or do they respond to your intention and energy?

Do you drag each other around or do you move together in a light connection?

What language do you use when you talk about them?

If they could hear your words how would they feel about what you say?

When we act, speak or even think, we put out a feeling and they can read us like a book.

When we slow down, pay attention and observe we can read them too.

What is getting in the way?

What is getting in the way of enjoying the time spent with your animals? Those things that we call problems, which when we spend our time and energy trying to “fix” them, wear us down and create conflict.

What if we could find peace with these difficult situations, let go of the emotional baggage that gets in the way of creating change?

When we can stop trying to fix our animals and look beyond the problem, understand that their behaviour is an expression of how they feel; become aware that we can take responsibility for the shared feeling, by recognising our own part in all of this, then we can see it all from a different perspective.

We can see that by helping the animal feel safe and secure, and find peace with challenging situations, that “unwanted” behaviours are no longer required.

When you are experiencing problems with your animals, how does it make you feel?  This is the awareness that creates change.

Notice the First Signs of Tension

The problems we experience with our animals, whether while handling or riding or with general behaviour, all result from tension or pain, whether that is physical or emotional.

This can come from association with past experiences or it can start building up from the moment we meet then on any given day.

Tension can start building way before the problem occurs – if you can notice the first signs of discomfort and help to disperse them before moving on to the next thing, it doesn’t need to accumulate in this way.

For example – how does your horse respond when they first see you, when you halter them, when you walk together, when you tack up, when you get on?

If tension is building up through any of these activities by the time you are asking them for something significant you have a very tense horse, and then it’s very likely that things won’t go too well!

It really makes a difference to take a little more time to observe how your animals respond to you in every interaction, and how  you respond or react in return – where are your problems coming from?