Own Your Journey

Dear Friends,

We are already so far into the year, I can’t believe tomorrow is the 1st May! It feels like the trees shook themselves overnight and in a blink spring was here. There is blossom everywhere, dandelions and daisies are scattered all over the place and I know it’s time to try and drag my summer clothes out of hiding.

I feel like in the months since last summer I have made some huge progress, though it may not seem that way from the outside. “Did you pass that test yet?” Is the question I am asked, and the answer is “Not yet, we’re almost there”. Do I have my Level 3 yet? No, I don’t, but does that mean we are still “Stuck” in the same place we have been for years? No. Does it mean I haven’t worked hard enough or put enough time and effort into my horsemanship? No. Does it mean that I’m just not as good as others? Of course it doesn’t. Does it mean that I haven’t improved at all? Absoloutely not!

These are the conversations I have with myself, and every time I catch myself MSU-ing (Making Stuff Up), or doubting myself, I like to think of my knowledge and experience as like a loading bar on a computer. When you are downloading data for example, the screen can reach 99% complete before you see any evidence of the product you are trying to download. Do you get to 99%, close off your computer in frustration and tell yourself you can’t ever download anything, that you’re a failure and this stuff doesn’t work? Of course you don’t, because you know that the 99% is the step right before you get what you want. You know that if you are patient enough, keep doing what you’re doing and just hang in there, you’ll see results pretty quickly.

So why would your experience with horsemanship be any different? Tomorrow I’m preparing to go out and begin playing with my horse again, and start preparation for our second online audition. Those of you who have been following my journey will know that my last submission was unsuccessful, and even though for a little while at first I felt as though I had forgotten everything I’d learned, I soon reminded myself of the HUGE steps we have taken in the last 6 months or so. I am so proud of the try that my horse is offering now, I know that my leadership has, and continues to improve every time I play or ride. I also know where the holes are in the tasks I am working on for my audition, and best of all I know what to do to fix them. Additionally, my confidence in the saddle is SO far improved from where we were. I can canter without any issues, and on its own that is beyond huge. Still I have moments of indecision sometimes when I think about getting in the saddle, but I’m not afraid to admit that because I know that I am only human, and I know that the more knowledge and experience I gain, the more confident I will become, both in my ability to judge the situation and to make the right decisions.

Above all, the biggest improvements I have made as a leader are the following three things:

1) It’s OKAY to make mistakes. In fact, it’s imperative to your journey to screw up occasionally, because those are the moments where you LEARN. And not just in your horsemanship, like most other things, this applies to the rest of your life too.

2) My emotional fitness, and how to put the RELATIONSHIP first. When doing auditions in the past, I found it really hard not to be direct-line and I put my goals in front of my horsemanship. I’ve since learned that your HORSEMANSHIP is what’s being assessed, the tasks are just an excuse to showcase that! Talk about a BFO. The difference was this time, through each audition I set myself and my horse up for success, played to our strengths, and when I play back each video I was laughing the whole way through. I had FUN. I may not have passed the last time, but I did exactly what my horse needed on that day, in that moment, so the scores on the doors don’t matter, in my horses eyes, I WON. That is what will carry me through every audition from now on. I know that every time we play we’re closing the gap between where we are, and where we want to be.

3) OWN where you are. I am no longer going to use where I am to judge myself. It’s so easy as humans to compare ourselves to others (a lot of the time it’s great, that’s how we improve and are inspired), but if you start using your current position as a reason to beat yourself up? Major No No. It won’t help your journey, and it will make you feel like a failure before you begin. You are where you are, and that is EXACTLY where you are meant to be. Others who are on the outside looking in don’t know where you started, how far you have come, or how hard you had to work to be where you are. Look at what you have overcome, look at how you have grown as a person, as partners and be PROUD. The truth is, although we have goals, there really is no End Game. Once I have achieved my Level 3, then I will be in my Level 4 journey, and I will begin all over again in a new chapter. You CAN’T get it wrong, and you’ll never get it DONE!

If you are always waiting to be in a certain place before you feel good, e.g “I won’t be happy until I have achieved this”, or “I won’t be pleased until I have that”, you are postponing your happiness! Always pleased but never satisfied. Don’t forget it’s great to have goals, but although the future is important, life is only really ever about Right Here and Right Now. That’s where you make the future, that’s where your power is.

So I guess my message today is, be PROUD of yourself. You are in a fantastic place, look back at how far you have come and give yourself permission to Feel Good about it! Look at where you’re going and know that you are on your way there, but above all enjoy NOW, enjoy every step of the journey because before you know it, you’ll be on the next step looking back.

I no longer want to look back at my journey and think “Oh I did that, and then I finally achieved that and got this certificate and that string”, I want to look back and think “Boy, didn’t we have FUN that day. Wasn’t it great when we figured that bit out, and solved that puzzle, and made that video”.

The greatest achievements are in the little moments at the end of the day when the sun is setting, you just finished a session teaching your horse something new, they come over to you and rest their head next to yours and you hear as they breathe out “Thank you for doing right by me today”.

Your journey belongs to you, be proud of where you are, and OWN it.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. And as always thank you for following my journey and for being a part of it.

Love to you all.

Sarah x

P.s. I would just like to add that the support of Parelli instructors for me has been incredible. You have all helped me SO much, each and every one of you is amazing and you are all so valuable to me and Dillon, and to our journey. There are too many to name all of you, but you know who you are and you are all a huge part of my learning, and a part of my life as you each inspire me in your own ways. Thank you xx

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Horseman’s Series Freestyle

Dear friends,
It’s been so long since my last blog! A lot of things have happened in the meantime; I completed the first half of my degree and got my diploma in French, got engaged, and most recently started a business! Life has so many twists and turns, and takes you in many different directions, but still – three years down the line from my fast track I found myself coming back again to my horsemanship.

I was lucky enough to get to meet Ryan and Hillary Rose during my fast track and when I heard they were running a course on my home soil I knew I had to be there. I had no money or ideas of how it was going to happen, but at the last minute the universe worked it’s magic and life coordinated itself to give me the opportunity to attend.

Those of you who know me well will know that I am not always the most focussed person and a great procrastinator ! Not long before my course I took a long hard look at myself, and I knew I was making excuses. Excuses for why I wasn’t cantering, excuses for why I didn’t already have my Level 3, reasons why I was still not “good enough” to aim for instructorship. In other words, “making stuff up”!

I could go on for hours about the thresholds we have broken through and individual things I’ve learned, but I think the main lesson for me this week has been that by day 2, I was already cantering around and I didn’t just feel good, I felt confident!

It’s interesting that the comment I had after my fast track was “have more confidence in yourself and your abilities”. Recently I had the chance to look through my old school reports, from when I was about 5 up until the age of 10, and almost every report said exactly the same thing. Hmmmm…how interesting! As a RBE, I look back and I think it’s likely that for whatever reason I have had this belief from being very young – I may even have been scolded for being over confident once, or most likely for making a mistake.

The interesting thing is, I said at the start of the course that I needed to be pushed. On second thoughts, I think perhaps all I needed was for someone to have belief and faith in me that I already had the capability and to give me the opportunity. I already knew I could, but I was waiting for a second opinion to be certain. This is something I am really going to ponder, and be aware of in the future the next time I have a “can I” moment.

For now, I’m going to savour the amazing energy of being here and success of things we’ve already achieved, and the realisation that it doesn’t have to take years to make changes, it can happen in a heartbeat. And I’m definitely in the right place for that!

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll keep you posted on next week.:)
Love you all, keep it natural!
Sarah x

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My Horse Showed Up Today (In The Arms Of An Angel)

This afternoon was hot, sticky, full of horseflies…yet incredibly, unbelievably and amazingly beautiful.

The sun was still shining as we rode through the long grass, following the white rump of George who plodded happily along in front as introverts do, Dillon occasionally stopping to take a few mouthfuls to keep him going. George who was online, was coaxed up a 2 foot cross country jump into the next field; I hesitated, thinking about the easy way round…which unfortunately meant leaving the track and taking rather a cumbersome detour – but after all, this was our first time riding this fast array of fields, freestyle in only a hackamore and besides, we’d never jumped before! Although by the time all this had crossed my mind, Dillon was already headed for the jump with his ears pricked forwards and a confident stride. This new, brave, self-confident horse was there – and I looked at all the breakthroughs we’ve experienced only in the last few weeks. He was saying “We’re ready.” And for once, I listened. He took the jump in a single stride and trotted happily into the open fields, and my heart exploded.

And what an incredible last few months it has been, following the Savvy Conference the horsemanship interest in our area has exploded… June saw the creation of yet another Savvy Sister group – The Yorkshire Savvy Sisters! Which after being on Facebook for only a week or two, has already reached 45 members and counting! Fun Days, demonstrations and clinics in and around Yorkshire and Lancashire are being organised left, right and centre, and thanks to Parelli Connect people are slowly but surely finding other local people, inspiring one another and making connections.

But perhaps the most amazing, and for myself also very personal event that happened this June began when I was invited to present some Parelli Spotlights at a local Equine Charity. HAPPA (which stands for Horses And Ponies Protection Association http://www.happa.org.uk/) were holding an Open Day at their centre, they’d heard about me following a small seminar I gave to a few interested people on our yard (who I am proud to say are now also “converts!”) and wondered if I could possibly organise a presentation of Parelli Natural Horsemanship at their event.

Naturally I immediately went crazy (I am a right-brained extrovert!) and said “Yes!!” But once I’d done a few laps of the house and came down off the adrenaline, I really had to think about how I was going to do this. To start with I’d never done a Natural Horsemanship presentation of any kind – let alone whether anything I could do would inspire people. “I mean, am I even good enough yet?” I thought to myself.

Luckily everything came together amazingly quickly! Parelli Professionals Niki Hardwick and Tasha Cottam offered to help in any way they could, and alongside fellow long-time Parelli student Gillian Geoghan and I, Niki said she would bring her horse along and the three of us could present the Spotlights to the crowd. We organised a stall to be set up with freebies and information which Tasha and another long-term student Christine Worthington spent the day handing out, and additional Savvy Sisters showed up and helped with everything from taking photographs to rearranging my featherlines for me, and just showing amazing support! It was an incredible team effort and I was so proud of everybody involved. We also managed to have a professional photographer attend the event; Rob Powell from Horseplay Photography (http://www.horseplayphotography.co.uk) took some wonderful shots of the day.

What was originally just an idea, and at the time I figured it might just be me doing a few things in front of a few people, turned into a huge event – and when it came to the due day, I was pretty nervous!! But, (and here comes the emotional part) as I learned that day, it’s all about prior and proper preparation, and waiting for the grass to grow. And boy oh boy did grass grow that day.

I had barely played with Dillon at all the week before, and the biggest session I had was on Saturday afternoon. We didn’t do anything spectacular, just some online and liberty, going over the stuff I knew we could do. At the end of our session I was standing over his neck while a few people talked, and figured I’d try lying over his neck. I had attempted to mount from the neck previously, and he picked me up but I never got myself far enough over to actually get on. Anyway I just figured I’d try it again, and sure enough the first time I only got half my body over, but I thought I’d give it another go. I went for it and really leaned over, and without me having to ask at all, he knew his job – he lifted me way up and I managed to swing around and onto his back. I was absolutely blown away – as were the few people around me!

Of course my first thought was “Wouldn’t it be cool to do that tomorrow during our spotlights?” And naturally, my second thought was “Don’t be stupid.” I had no idea how Dillon would react to all the people, the noise, the music, (our spotlights were following a dog show and a Spanish horses demonstration, so it was going to be busy!) and I told everyone involved, including Niki and Gill who were in the Spotlights with me, that I was putting no pressure on myself to ride, I didn’t even take my saddle!

But, from the minute Dillon hit the stable at that place, he had an incredible look on his face. What must have been at least 50 people said hello to him in the time we were waiting, and my previously aggressive, distrustful, nervous and at times “dangerous” horse was nuzzling children, greeting elderly people, and was so popular with the visitors that when it came to preparation time, I found he had acquired a huge lipstick print on his blaze! He oozed confidence, and even down to us setting up the arena with the obstacles, he could see us and began banging his stable door. I don’t know how, but he knew exactly what was going on.

First time on the pedestal while mounted

When we entered the arena, he took in the 100 plus people, the giant bouncy castle, the other two strange horses, and never blinked. And then the music started…

I had picked out 7 songs, all with a deeper meaning and many very personal to me and our journey together. We were at liberty by the second song, and that horse blew me away.  With all those distractions, two other horses, a huge arena…his gaze never left me, and he was with me the whole way. Finally we reached my favourite, and the second to last song…and without even thinking about what I was doing, I headed over to get my hard hat.

My family were all watching from up on a hill and my mum has told me since that when I picked up my hat, her jaw dropped. I had no 12ft line; I’d left it by the stable, so the nearest thing was my featherline. I looped it onto my halter and lay over my horse’s neck. With Sarah McLachlan’s “Arms of the Angel” playing in my ears, Dillon lifted me, unsuccessfully the first time, but the second…I felt him lift me effortlessly, I swung onto his back, heard the cheers, punched the air and started to cry. And it didn’t end there. We rode around bareback, with just our halter and featherline, and made it three firsts…first spotlight, first time to stand on a pedestal while mounted, and right at the final song, I knelt on his back.

Gill read my mind and said “Go for it.” And in front of those 100 people, I dropped the reins, and stood up on the back of my horse for the first time. And he never moved a muscle. I’m filling up as I write this, because so many people said “Well done” for that day, and I’m so grateful to Gill and Niki who did an equally amazing job in their spotlights, but when people say “Well done”, I know it wasn’t just me. My horse showed up that day, he blew me away in every moment. Before we went out, I whispered into his ear that it was time for us to show people what we’ve got. And I’ll never understand how, but he heard me. When I lay over his neck, he looked me in the eye and said “Sarah, we’ve got this.”

I’m convinced now that we really are better than I let myself believe we are, and my next step is to film my Level 3 as soon as possible. I know this is only the beginning, and I have an incredible belief not only in myself now, but also in my horse. 8 and a half years in the making, my Dillon shone like a star that day, and I am so incredibly proud of him. HAPPA had a great day, people visited the stall, people were inspired, but most of all…

My Horse Showed Up.

**

Thank you to everyone who was there on that day, who helped out, who supported us, and who simply gave us their time and watched the spotlights.

And to you, the reader, Thank You every moment of every day for your love and support,

Keep it natural

Sarah x

P.s Here is a short video clip of those special moments (bar the standing on his back, as our camera cut out. We’ll work on getting that footage too!)

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Long live all the Magic we made…

The music faded gently into the background and all eyes (not one of them dry) were focused on the arena before us. It was the final event at which Pat’s world-famous black mare would ever perform, and while the pair worked their way back towards the gate, dancing all the way, it was proved to us just how powerful the bond between horse and man can be, and in those final tearful moments, we witnessed the true beauty and meaning of silence between the notes.

I was lucky enough this year to be accepted as a volunteer at the latest Parelli Celebration at the LG arena in Birmingham, UK.

To say it was an emotional weekend would be a huge understatement! With over 6000 attendees and the largest team of volunteers to date, we were certainly kept busy. We were awake at 5am every morning and worked through until approximately 6pm from the Friday set-up, until Sunday’s tear-down where we finished at exactly 7.30pm, followed by a well-anticipated staff dinner. Needless to say the atmosphere was electric! I find it never ceases to amaze me how a cause that people are incredibly passionate about can bring them together in an incredible way.

I certainly had a great deal to ‘lick and chew’ over, but I think the highlight for me has to be the finale. The volunteers were gathered behind the curtains at the back of the arena and we were the first to enter and wave like crazy people to the crowd. We were followed by the ever growing number of instructors, staff, and event organisers and finally Pat and Linda. Almost every person in the arena had been handed a glow stick in one of the four horsenality colours and when Neil gave the cue – we all cracked the funny stuff in the middle and shook them.

On looking up, I think everyone had to catch their breath for a moment. Not until I saw the 6000 little splashes of colour blinking out there in the darkness, little rainbow candles shining bright, each one like an unspoken promise of the future. Not until then did I fully comprehend how amazingly special these moments are and I feel truly privileged to bear witness to them.

Parelli Celebration Finale

And speaking of emotional times, I do feel my emotional fitness has grown incredibly in the last months since returning from my Fast Track – not least in that almost as soon as I returned Dillon fell lame with an abscess that took almost four months to burst, which meant no play time at all! Additionally things in my personal life seemed to go haywire – the most difficult of all being that my partner and I both lost our jobs within several weeks of each other and we risked losing our house, amongst other things.

Thankfully I have learned to think from a point of view of abundance versus scarcity. And life has taught me that just as in horsemanship, it’s all about balance! I have also recently been listening to Anthony Robbins’ Lessons in Mastery, most notably his system of “CANI.” This stands for: A commitment to ‘Consistent and Never-ending Improvement’. In all honesty, when you refer to the bigger picture, that’s the most important factor in becoming a horseman – never-ending self-improvement, and I highly recommend the teachings of Tony Robbins as a powerful tool in helping our relationships, and ourselves!.

One of the greatest things I came away with from the Florida campus was the comment on my mid-term score sheet which read: “Have confidence in yourself and your abilities.” It makes sense of course, that self-confidence plays a huge part in our horsemanship -particularly in the way our horse views us as a leader…but how often do we forget to build on this?

A lot of experiences in our lives, particularly those from when we were in school, condemned us for getting things ‘wrong’, for getting the wrong answers and for making mistakes. Is it surprising then that as adult learners we find it difficult to be confident in our own abilities? Because in every new situation we are putting ourselves out once again as a learner, we risk being outside our comfort zone and making mistakes.

The truth is however (in the words of John Baar :-) “Be prepared to screw up, because you’re going to.” The difference is in knowing that mistakes are all a part of learning, and the trick lies in building our confidence, yet at the same time being progressive. This is the part that for me, I’m going to have to do the most work on. I need to find the steady balance between pushing myself just enough to progress and stretch my comfort zone, yet not too much that I risk doing more than I’m prepared for. Like many things, it’s all a case of doing the right thing at the right time, or as Jack Sparrow would say: “Waiting for the opportune moment!”

As regards always focussing on a positive outcome, the good news is that Zak (my partner) and I managed to successfully find new full-time jobs within a few weeks, and Dillon is now once again happy, sound and healthy! All thanks to a little faith, a lot of patience and of course giving the ‘law of attraction’ a nudge in the right direction. (Or a pull, whichever make more sense!)

Additionally, the other exciting news is that my Mum purchased her very first horse last month! “George” is a 15.2hh grey cob with a beautiful face, a little wonky ear and a great sense of humour. I’m looking forward to practising my teaching skills (poor Mum, thanks Mum) and my savvy on a new horse, I suspect a Left-Brain Extrovert innately, but it’s early days!

Our new horse George

I close once more with the memory of this past weekend and the amazing sense of community we all witnessed there. From the funny, educational and inspiring lessons on all the different horsenalities, to Wally, Mikey and Silke – the applause and standing ovations, the Savvy Team and of course, Magic’s final show. I hope I am not the only one who thinks that, despite the sadness of saying goodbye to Magic in the arena, change must be welcomed and I’m sure she is ready to be a pasture pal, and a new mum.

Most importantly however, I think that with everything Pat and Magic have ever shared together with us, and particularly the emotion of that final performance, in our eyes Pat Parelli and Magic will be remembered as nothing short of legendary in terms of their partnership and journey, and the example of the bond they shared.

I was lucky enough to shake Pat’s hand and give Linda a hug after the finale on Sunday night, and I find I am always struck by the genuine approach that they both share and the honesty and gratitude that they always have for anyone willing to help spread the message. I guess it’s an example of one of the Parelli Core Values to ‘Be Humble’ and of course, “Keep It Natural”.

And with a little “CANI”, putting the relationship first, exceeding expectations and getting it done with a bit of fun, we will change the world…one horse and one human at a time…

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Bless the Broken Road

Well, it’s almost two whole months since my last blog, and return from the Parelli Center in Florida, and already so much has happened!

My life seems to be rearranging itself in some very strange ways…ups and downs! (Though in my opinion each way leads to an up, eventually. Nothing means nothing, everything means something.)

Our car broke down and died…which has left me pretty stranded, and despite still being able to get to the yard to see Dillon, it’s hard to have to rely on other people again even though I know it’s only temporary. And also, within weeks of the weather deciding to let up, Dillon went and got himself lame. (If you didn’t hear about the snow here in the UK, it was pretty bad – and cold, so much so that our whole water and central heating system froze up!)

All we know is that after being stuck inside for almost two weeks, he went out for the first time with another horse, a bit of a ‘Houdini’ character…who decided it was a great idea to smash the gate and jump out, leaving Dillon alone in the field for 3 hours to panic.

Whatever he did that day – he sure was sore the morning after. The only conclusion I can come to is that he overdid it by racing around, and maybe even tried to jump and fell, or slipped…and it looks like he just pulled a muscle. Several weeks later and his leg is still giving way every so often. Some days he looks better, and others he’s just the same. I’m just trying to keep him moving as much as I can – but with the gate being trashed, the weather, and lack of facilities where we are – it’s difficult. And being stuck in all day, he’s remaining stiff. All we can really do is wait.

It’s been hard to remind myself of all the things I’ve learned, and still only spend UT (Undemanding Time) with him. Sometimes I worry that I’ll just forget everything…but, I think it’s one of those things, when you’ve raised the bar and been taken up to that level, you can’t un-learn something, it’s there inside you no matter what you do, and it shows up just when you need it.

The two biggest things I took from the Fast Track (forgive me if I mentioned these before) are really the two things I got the most feedback about – Being Progressive (because I do so often stay in my comfort zone, and allow myself to get ‘stuck’) and Have More Confidence in Yourself and Your Abilities.

I’ve often heard people mention Pat’s statement: “You’re probably better than I think you are, but you’ll never be as good as you think you are.”

I guess this can go one of two ways, you either buoy yourself up that you really know so much more than you actually do (big ego)

Or, if you’re me – you’re probably not as bad as you think you are (I guess that’s still ego, or lack of it?)

I wasn’t completely confident that I knew what I was doing, even when I did – and it shows, especially in my horsemanship, and this in particular shows me exactly why I’ve been struggling with Dillon in a lot of ways.

My favourite new quote is “Your horse can only be as brave as YOU are.”

Hmmmmmmmmmm…another BFO.

And there are days when I’m so busy talking and life gets on your heels a little, and I find myself tying the halter maybe a little low, or not asking for enough flexion – but this time, I’m not going to make excuses. I at least notice it, and correct it, or make a mental note to do a lot better next time. It’s so easy in your own environment to slip back into “Oh no-one’s watching, I’ll do it that way just this one time.”

And I’m not afraid to be honest about that, because I’ll admit to being human. The fact is, I’m noticing my mistakes! I didn’t before, I just made ‘em! And now I know what to do about it, and where to go find the information if I don’t know it. But, the truth is – if I want to be a professional, and God knows I do, I ‘d better start acting like one. In everything I do.

The one thing I tell myself now, to get myself back in the ‘zone’, is think of the way things were done at Pat’s barn – the high standards, and simple things with excellence. Not just the major things – everything.

And often I look at Dillon, and I tell him that we’re aiming for Level 4 now, things have changed…and most of all I say “Come on, we have to make it right this time, we’re gonna make John (Baar) proud.” And then I get a little emotional, and honoured to have experienced all that I have, and that reminds me exactly what we’re aiming for, and that we are so ready now.

So – the good news!

I’ve been watching a lot of Tony Robbins lately (I highly recommend his Love and Relationship programme) and learning a lot about the 6 Human Needs – and that makes me think a lot about the patterns we get ourselves into, which has been really interesting. But, especially when everything goes wrong – I think a lot about Law of Attraction, my teachings from Tai Chi lessons; yet most of all I am reminded of an excerpt from a book written by Bob Doyle (The Secret) called Wealth Beyond Reason, from his Wealth Beyond Programme about the law of attraction. (I began this course but have not yet finished it…I hope to review it in much more depth at some point, as there is so much good stuff there.)

Anyway, the excerpt goes something like this…

“When you begin using these techniques… (law of attraction,)

You may find that big changes happen, and sometimes it may feel like your life is falling apart around you, but it’s just your energy shifting, it’s opening a door for you…”

There is so much truth in the statement that: “You are exactly where you’re meant to be.”

It may feel like a lot of things are falling apart at the moment, but I look at that as a huge shift…a huge change, and I welcome that so much…because change is exactly what is needed.

But, the Big News?

Yes I do have some big news. We have a week left before we take Dillon to a new yard. Not such big news? Well, this just happens to be the one yard where we started out, over 8 years ago. It has the best facilities in the area, 200 acres of land…no main roads, a cross country course, a floodlit arena and a round pen. A lot of changes since we were last there. There are a few old emotions surrounding that place, but mostly I feel excited to be in a place where we can actually move into our potential, and what a challenge for our relationship! There are also 53 other horses on site, and the arena happens to be the very arena where I had my accident, all those years ago.

My ultimate goal this year, is to ride, if not canter in that very arena. I feel this is right where we should be now…and if we can go right back to the beginning of the circle, as new beings, as new partners, both older, bigger, wiser – if we can overcome that, we can overcome anything – and there’ll be nothing we can’t do anymore.

I have my focus stations all pinned up on my wall, ready and waiting, and I plan on building some cavaletti as soon as I can, and helping him rebuild his muscle structure and get in the best shape he can before I even think about working on canter circles and flying lead changes. All I need now is for my boy to heal…I know he will, he’s strong. He’s a tough cookie.

Am I nervous and a little scared about moving? Sure, but I’m also excited…and it’s that nervous excitement that comes from meeting and overcoming a challenge, and the change of a brand new environment. But variety is the spice of life- and after all, as Tony Robbins says – Variety is one of the six human needs!

I hope to take some photos as soon as I can of the move and the new place, and keep you all updated on our progress.

And I will remember: I’ll put principles to purpose, but the horse is in charge of the timelines…it takes as long as it takes.

In closing, I’d just like to say that the title of this blog is that of one of my favourite songs by Rascal Flatts, and the lyrics say: “God bless the broken road, that led me straight to you…” because the right road is often never the straightest, or easiest.

And I’d also like to share a video of Grande and I in our Liberty spotlight (I miss that horse!) :-

Thank you so much for reading, it really means the world <3

Here’s to new beginnings.

Yours

Naturally,

Sarah xxx

 

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Sparks Fly

“I’m captivated by you baby, like a fireworks show…”

~ is a line from a new song in Taylor Swift’s album, which makes me think, more than anything, of exactly what we’re looking for in our relationship with our horses.

As John was telling us, we want to have that attractor factor. I guess I started my fast track journey thinking it was enough for your horse to simply want to be with you, but it’s so much more than that. To have our horses be willing, motivated…to want to please us, to enjoy everything as much as we do. To have that desire for a partnership with us, in a word – riveted. I heard this word so often during my time in FL, and it encompasses so much more than ‘interested’ or ‘wants to’.

I read in the recent Savvy Times (I can’t recall the exact words) that Parelli teaches us horsemanship savvy through relationship principles.

This is what causes us to transform, to change and to grow within this programme…and that I think, is what makes Parelli one of the most advanced self-development systems in the world today.

That is how we find that horsemanship influences the way we function with friends, family and in life. When we perhaps don’t receive the truth and transparency (i.e feedback!) from our family or peers (or indeed, we hear it but don’t necessarily want to accept it as our ego gets in the way,) the horse gives us everything we need to know, in black and white. If we’re not just, or fair, or firm, or patient…they’ll give us the feedback, nothing personal. Don’t get me wrong, our egos can still get in the way if we let them…but that’s where horsemanship is so helpful, we have to learn to lose our ego. And we know our horses won’t judge us for how we look, or what we may have accidentally said last week about such-and-such.

And when we screw up, most of the time they’re still going to meet us at the gate, give us a second chance.

I was very pleased with my scores at the end of my fast track journey, and though I know we have such a long way to go…my goal is still there, slightly different in some ways perhaps. More than anything right now, it’s about gaining my rapport back with Dillon, (which may take a while as I abandoned him for over four weeks!) and taking us as far as we can go…and if nothing else, having fun. To live the dream together that I started out with when we first started out searching for the ‘perfect’ horse.

I have to find my own little ride into the sunset before I can help anyone else to get there…and I know that it doesn’t matter how long it takes, but I do have to remember to be progressive. That – more than anything, as I do tend to get so stuck in one place. But there’s no excuses to be made now. I can do it, he can do it…it’s just a matter of keeping my focus and motivating myself to keep on keeping on. The grass is under there, somewhere.

We were so priveleged on our last week, to take a trail ride up to Pat’s Performance barn. Grande of course was amazing, he didn’t blink at the mechanical cows that were zooming back and forth when Pat gave Caton a lesson on cutting. We saw Casper…Sailing Smart…Mango…some of the most famous horses, in one of the most incredible places. And the level of professionalism was amazing. I could fully understand how particular Pat is about simple things being done with excellence.

The most interesting thing about that day was that Grande was so excited, and impulsive…he just wanted to go. Finally I asked an instructor what to do about him breaking gait. And she said “Well, why not take the opportunity to just let him trot…if he wants to, let him…and if you need to you can always bring him back down.”

Talk about a BFO. You mean it took me all that time to remember that extroverts need to move their feet? So I let him go, and we trotted around a huge sandy track, then over onto some grass, and  he broke into canter and I just let him go. There were around 46 other horses, plus Pat’s proteges, Linda teaching a lesson and Pat himself in the next area. We took a beautiful run across this field and then it hit me – “I am 4000 miles away from home, I played a Level 3 Liberty spotlight to a green ribbon standard with a horse I only met 3 weeks previously, and I was cantering across a huge field at Pat’s Performance Barn!” Forget the scores, that will stay with me for a long time, if not forever. And I know now that the more I ride, and the more I canter…it does get easier! And I know that I can do it, there’s no going back now.

When we returned to the Playground, I just let Grande off in the round pen and let him run and run. When he’d had his fill of that, I mounted up again for ten mins, and did a few laps of the canter to the left and right, just passenger lessons, and then without my feet in the stirrups, and hardly touching the reins. Then we cantered back across the playground together. He taught me so much in those four weeks, and I just hope I do him justice by taking that to my horse.

The hardest thing now I’m home is that we’ve been snowed in for over a week and I can hardly play with Dillon, let alone think about riding. It’s so hard not to get frustrated because I have all this knowledge I just want to use…but perhaps I need this time to focus myself, and digest some of the things I’ve learnt.

I had the most amazing month, met some fantastic people..and it’s been the perfect end to the best year of my life. From moving in with the most amazing guy last year, and starting our life together…it’s been an upward spiral, with our journey across the west in January, through LA to Vegas, my travels to France and my studies of the language, the life, the people, and now my Parelli journey re-inspired. Now I’m home there is plenty of work, but I’m determined now to have fun with as much as possible. Life should be fun, life should be a game.

After all, it is for horses…

Here’s to adventures, to love and to the kind of friendships that last a lifetime. And above all, to the beginning of a new journey that I hope will never end.

Keep it positive, progressive, and natural.

Thank you so much for reading

Sarah xxx

P.s I’ve included just a few photos from my last week at the centre. :) Enjoy!

View from the Lodge

John Baar and I believe - Chica :)

The Lodge

Pat's Barn

Pat, Linda, Vinny and Moxie :)

Dawn breaking over the lower playground

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Ordinary Miracle

Here we are, testing is over, scholarships have been handed out, parelliconnect is up and running, the ambassador programme is almost entering its final trial process, and I have only three days left in Florida before I fly home.

What a crazy week it’s been. Amazing and yet stressful and exciting and yet terrifying, as a woman I guess I should be used to feeling 100 different emotions in a day, but I still manage to suprise myself!

We don’t get our final scores until friday…but I’m really going to go against my instinctive human nature and say – “It’s not about the scores”. Even though I expected to graduate through L3 while I was here and of course raising the bar to myself as I do I was envisioning flying lead changes with my arms folded. Of course, I do have to remember to be realistic without being pessimistic…

And the first thing they had us do this morning before testing was repeat to ourselves three times: “I know exactly what I’m supposed to know.” And “I am exactly where I’m supposed to be”.

It was incredibly hard today, hard to not get direct-line and upset if something goes wrong or isn’t 100% correct (and as a perfectionist I find that terribly difficult at times!) yet, as we were told at the beginning of the course… “Nobody likes to make mistakes…but get over it – you’re gonna make them!”

And yet, this morning went quite well, the liberty session was great and I finally convinced myself to let go and have fun. Then came the riding, lol. There were times where I felt like I had to be the worst rider there and I was sure I looked like a ragdoll on an elastic when I was trying desperately to sit to the canter. And my emotions came through and it felt a bit like everything went to pieces, it was so hard to keep my emotional fitness, to not get mad with myself…especially not my horse, and to not simply burst into tears.

I kept repeating to myself, “Put the relationship first, it’s not about the…”

But when you’re hanging on a score which could decide whether or not you can move on in a certain direction with your horsemanship it is so bloomin’ tricky not to make it about something!

I sat down when it was all over though, and had a bit of a vent and a talk to myself and let my positivity bounce back. (There’s no point sitting around with the wrong attitude for too long, it soon comes back to bite you in the bum – besides, it just makes you feel bad!)

And I had to be honest with myself and think on what I have progressed to within these four weeks. (Which is a long time, and yet it’s not in the grand scheme of things.) I said, “Sarah- to even be attempting to canter a clover-leaf pattern in a big arena with other people riding around in all the opposite directions on a horse I’ve only known a few weeks and cantered a handful of times – in perspective, that’s huge!”

It’s taken until now to be able to canter without shaking afterwards, it’s still there a little but not nearly as much as my first few canter transitions 3 weeks ago. I guess until now I didn’t actually realise how deeply seated the fear was! It’s like even though I know I’m okay my subconscious is still re-living the time when it really was not okay!! But, I’ve proved to myself that I can push myself just enough, and progress, and that if I do it more, it does actually get easier! Now it’s just a little inner tremble rather than an actual phsysical shaking. Funny how your subconscious stores things hmm?

But hey, scores are just feedback, and feedback is good…feedback is great! It tells you exactly where you are, and then you can look at where you’re going and where you want to be, and you know exactly what to improve on to get there. And I have suprised myself in other ways, there are parts in my horsemanship where I have huge holes to fill and other parts that have advanced more than I realised they had!

Now, at least…I feel that I can actually take this back to my horse and use it to show him how to get there, because I know now how it should look and feel, and I know what I’m aiming for. Simple things done with excellence, to a Level 4 standard. Even if I didn’t make it this time, if I wasn’t too far off with a strange horse in a strange place and a relationship of only 4 weeks…then it should be a whole lot easier when I get home.

It’s not about the destination, it’s the journey…and remembering all these ups and downs and crazy moments will help me understand all the other people that I may teach someday. What’s the use in getting there if you miss the view? And if you can’t remember where you’ve been or come from, it’s not a lot of use at all…and it’s not so much of an achievement. I have to remind myself many times that I am going to get there! I know I will, it’s just a case of when.

But this is still, only the beginning. And just the fact that I’ve experience this beautiful place, and met the people I have, seen and learnt what I have, and had the most amazing liberty sessions with Grande, just the fact that those horses will stay by your side even when you throw the halter over the fence…that’s what’s important, that’s what matters.

It’s not the 100+ perfect lead changes or the flawless canter-walk transitions, it’s hour upon hour spent sitting in the pasture, it’s taking several hours to wait for your horse to catch you without pushing him, it’s the amount of time you spent circling that horse in the rain and the mud with the sodden ropes and the wind blowing your face, but you still stand there and wait for him because you want him to understand, you don’t want him to feel wrong.

When it doesn’t matter if it takes you three hours to only pick up one foot, that’s where it is. That’s where the magic happens. It’s not in the huge things, it’s in the thousand little things, the small things done with excellence, the tiny moments in every day where with unconscious competence you put the relationship first time after time and you play in the dark, in the cold, in the wet. It’s the unglorified moments that make it happen…that’s what makes the difference, that’s what makes the truth and transparency and love, those are the ordinary miracles, the small ones that happen everyday. It’s the dedication…you plant your seeds and you wait for the grass to grow. That’s foundation before specialisation.

And this is only the beginning, for sure. And if I can get even one horse to that level of trust, communication and contact…then I’ll know I’m on the road to being the best me that I can be.

Here’s to the journey and to those whose relationships we invest in,

Remember the first law, and keep it natural.

Sarah x

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