Lesson Sixteen – Look Beyond What Is

Good-bye dear friend and teacher

Nootka found a new home! She is leaving in a few days. Since the sale became final, I seem different and she does too. I think we both realize that our relationship is coming to an end. It made me think about closing chapters in life and reflecting on the lessons learned.

Noot can be a bully with my other horse, Aspen. Aspen is a lovely black warmblood with a heart of gold. When I’m with her I feel light and present. She has a very grounding effect on me. Noot, on the other hand, is more the ‘show me what you’ve got’ type of personality.

The biggest lesson for me was to stand up and be the leader, not by force but by intent. I remember the first time I worked with Noot and she was charging around me in a circle like a mad woman. Everytime she wanted to run too fast I stopped her and asked her to walk again. After several tries she did it and I stopped the session. That was good enough!

The next day she tried to kick out at me as she really likes to take charge and wanted to show me that she didn’t want to trot. I just ignored it and moved on. It was always a fine line with her between doing too much or doing too little. I learned that she did want to please me and with the right asking and inviting her to choose the ‘correct’ answer, she was learning.  I knew that one day, I would ride her and she would be relaxed, happy and going nicely.

When her new owner came out to try her, she was so responsive and easy going. I felt so proud of her progress. She was like a different horse. I think she is comfortable in partnership with humans and more relaxed about it.

My lesson is:  See beyond what is. See the potential and what can be.

Lesson Fifteen – Check-in, Not Out

Girth Tight - check! Nootka Ready to Work

At university I took a course called Self-Management and Motivation. I thought it would be an easy ‘A’. I think I ended up with a ‘C’. It was all about making goals for yourself, making lists, multi-tasking, limiting yourself to a certain amount of time to do things, etc. Looking back now I see how none of that really makes sense.

It makes more sense to ‘feel’ your way through life with your emotions as the guides. For example, today I figured I needed to organize some paperwork and clean-up my workspace. At first, I felt a resistance to doing it then I thought that it would be great to listen to a podcast, drink some tea and relax about it.

Maybe I only needed to do part of it. I felt so much better that I actually enjoyed sorting those papers into files! If I had said to myself…just get it done now without seeing how I felt, it wouldn’t have felt good. I have figured out that resistance is a strong indicator. It means that something needs to change.

Nootka can be really crabby when the girth is tightened. Lately, I have been distracting her while I gradually tighten it. I usually scratch her belly (she loves that) then take the girth up a hole or two. She doesn’t notice. It takes longer but she is much happier.

Is the lesson…Make life fun! When there is a task to be done see how you feel and figure out ways to feel better about it.

Lesson Fourteen – The Beauty of ‘Feel’

The levade.

Dressage - the Classic 'Levade'

Riding well requires something that horsefolks refer to as ‘feel’. It’s when you know how to ask the horse to do something or react to what the horse is doing in an intuitive way. ‘Feel’ becomes a conversation between rider and horse. Often, it can turn into a beautiful dance.

There are many riding instructors that try to teach people how to develop feel. I’ve watched dvds that break training horses or how to ride into small chunks using a step-by-step program. It’s good to have the security of developing those practical skills in linear format but horses, like life, are not linear.

I got to see a good example of that over the weekend. I had two different riders on Nootka. The first was a professional dressage rider that has trained and ridden the higher levels of dressage. The other was an amateur, who has ridden off and on for many years.

The first rider got on Nootka and immediately started the conversation politely and then began asking Nootka for more to see where her training level was. When Nootka didn’t know what she was asking or couldn’t hold it for long physically, the rider backed off and tried something she could do. In a matter of fifteen minutes or so, Nootka was gaining more confidence and was engaged in the ‘conversation’.

The second rider was more tentative. She wasn’t sure what to ask Nootka to do so she walked around to gain her own confidence. When she decided to trot, Nootka said, “yes, ma’am” and threw the rider a bit off-balance. This conversation was more trial and error and required more regrouping. The first rider offered suggestions on what to do to the second rider and helped guide this conversation to several good moments of partnership.

In my ‘old’ career I felt like the years of gaining knowledge and good old-fashioned experiences helped me develop a great deal of ‘feel’. It was such a good feeling to know the answers and be super confident in the work. I liked it! Now, I feel like the second rider on Nootka. I feel like the start-up is much more trial and error and that I have to repeatedly regroup and think of things differently. It’s not a linear step-by-step process. It often doesn’t look pretty.

Could the lesson be….Trial and error along with creative thinking will lead to creation of beauty?

Steve Jobs – You Changed Us

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

Steve Jobs with the iPhone 4 in 2010

It’s strange the things you remember. As soon as I heard that Steve Jobs passed away, I thought back to 2001 when I worked at a middle school in Roanoke, Virginia. I had a grant funded position and some funds that allowed us to invest in technology for the school. The computer guy (Gary) was an amazing teacher and was always looking for best ways to engage students. He had encouraged me to buy Macs for the school and we did.

One day at lunch, I distinctly recall talking to him about buying stocks and asking him if he had invested in any company. He told me that he had invested in Apple. I was shocked as it seemed to me that Microsoft owned the computer world as it stood at that moment.

It seemed like a crazy bet to me. He told me that Apple was going to make a come-back because Apple was all about innovation based on design. It all sounded good to me but all I knew was what I saw so I invested a little bit of money on a ‘safe’ company called AOL.

So now it’s October 6th, 2011, I see photos and articles about Steve Jobs and feel sad. Why do I feel sad when I never met him? I look down at the iPad I’m typing on and have my answer. Steve’s ideas changed us. He knew there was beauty and wonderment inside and outside devices. He wanted us to experience technology with ease and grace. He opened up new worlds…no more going to start to shut down the computer. He allowed our devices to be accessible, to have an easy learning curve..not a huge user’s manual within a clunky box.

Steve thought of it all. From the moment you lay eyes on that slick box to the moment you slide your new device out, it is all part of the experience. It is the texture, the colors, the design, the feeling of that first moment. Turning on your new device is a thing of beauty– Ready to use, not hours of reading ahead. Steve respected us and knew we deserved the best.

But he went even further, he saw what didn’t even exist. I remember seeing the iPad days after it’s release. My friend waited for hours to get one and was like a small child on Christmas morning showing it to me. As she laughed and demonstrated what it could do, all I could think was this is a total game changer.

For me the game changing is more concrete. I have an iPad application that is going to launch soon. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I could have designed an application. I mean it blows me away to see all of the wonderful (and not so wonderful) apps that people have designed and how many doors have opened. It’s like Steve knew he could give us the most amazing platform to create our dreams on. From simply reading books to playing games to seeing the world differently it’s all there.

Steve Jobs did what we are all capable of doing. He felt passion for creation and design. He believed he could change the world and he did.  Rest in Peace.

Lesson Thirteen – Living Like a King

Chillon Castle seen from Geneva Lake

Castle Living at Chateau Chillon... Is it better?

I listened to a webcast with Linda Kohanov, author of the Taos of Equus, Riding Between the Worlds, and The Way of the Horse over the weekend. I have done several workshops with Linda in the past. She brings wealth of insight to working with horses and how horses can help humans transform their lives.

During the webcast, Linda mentioned her research for her new book and how she was surprised to find out that we are living in better times than in the past. What struck me was that the interviewer mentioned that we are living in difficult times. I thought about how we can get in that pattern of gloom and doom thinking on any subject. Then I thought of a conversation I had with Jonathan Field, of Jonathan Field Horsemanship.

He said, “We live better than kings did.”  I thought about this for a long time and you know he is right. We have sanitation and clean water. I’ve lived in third world countries and let me tell you that is a biggie. Years ago I visited the medieval Chillon castle in Switzerland. I was most surprised by the hole (aka toilet) in the upper story floor that would send the ‘stuff’ down into Lake Geneva. I, for one, love my indoor plumbing and hot water. Second, we have medical care that doesn’t involve a ‘bleeding’. We are able to heal many illnesses and injuries that would have been life threatening in the ‘king’ days of old. Third, we are able to go places and have experiences unheard of in the ‘king’ days.

I feel like it is easy to take a negative view on things and find all that is wrong in the world. The media encourages it and promotes the negative because they think that is what people want. Why is that?

I think we need to seek out the positive and beautiful moments in our world. I see them everywhere when I focus and look. It’s seeing the unseen and using that as your point of attraction, not the person at work or at home that is annoying you.  When I watch Nootka interact with other horses. I see her use horse cues to communicate her wants. I never see her ruminate over how the other horse got more hay or made her move when she didn’t want too.

The lesson…Seek out the good in life and don’t ruminate over the negative.

Lesson Twelve – Money vs Nootka

Who doesn't want a cute face like mine?

I’ve thought about selling Nootka. I did put one ad up online to see if there was any interest. Yes..it’s hard to do but it would be good to have the money.

I sold my BMW before moving down here (man was that hard to do). I’m now driving a truck my mom bought for me. It’s a 1994 Ford Ranger and let me say it is the opposite of the BMW ride! On the positive side it has been great to load compost into or take loads of brush or old barbed wire to the dump BUT quite honestly it needs a make-over. When you get to over 180,000 miles a make-over is in store. I’m being too PC now. Let me be honest…sorry Ranger but you need more than a make-over..you need surgery! Someone had to say it.

I did have a woman come out and try Nootka. She got on her and did the walk around pony ride then told me her trainer would have to come take a ride too. I rode Nootka for her to see what she could do and she was fabulous. This horse just gets better and better. Which ironically brings me to my problem. Do I sell her or keep her? I was on the sell her side before I rode her tonight. She was great! We almost have the Flutterbooks Ipad application done but I’m not sure anyone can predict the revenue.

Is the lesson…weight it out more money in the bank account or more riding? Which feels better?

Lesson Eleven – Baby Steps

I love this video with Ira Glass (of This American Life fame). The video isn’t great but his voice and of course words are worth listening to.

I feel like I put too much pressure on myself to get things right! Like Ira says, “You have a high bar and you really want to reach it quickly.” When you are starting something new or taking a risk, it is so easy to say, ‘I suck at this…I’m not going to be good enough to get it done right.’

It takes a certain level of belief in yourself to keep plugging away day after day with enthusiasm.  It’s a matter of setting the bar high but seeing everything you are doing (yes, even the baby steps) as part of the process.

With Nootka I can see the baby steps leading to the next training level but I still find myself wanting her to process faster. Why are we so conditioned to time/speed being the most important thing?

The lesson is: Get up everyday with the intention to write, paint, sing, exercise…whatever but do it no matter what!

Lesson Ten – Growth vs Protection?

Rasping the trimmed hoof level

Farrier rasping a hoof

Perception is a tricky thing! I had a new farrier come out to trim Nootka’s hooves and put new shoes on. My usual farrier didn’t return my calls and missed an appointment so I had to find someone else on the fly.

The new farrier (let’s call him ‘Bill”) reminded me of how much as a child I hated when the farrier would come to do my horse’s hooves.  I hated that if my horse didn’t do exactly what the farrier wanted, he would grab a tool and smack him real hard and yell. I never understood the yelling and hitting before even trying something else.

So fast forward to ‘Bill’. Nootka swatted her tail and hit him in the eyes. He automatically assumed that Nootka wanted to hit him. He decided that there weren’t flies on her and that he needed to show her who was boss. This all happened in seconds. He hit and screamed at her.

Does this make sense to you? Horses don’t think, “Oh, I’m a bad girl for hitting the human in the face- I better be good.”  All that happened was Nootka went on high alert because she thought she might get hit again.

It made me wonder why people can automatically jump to a conclusion that someone is out to get them?

I think there are two states that people function in. One is growth and the other protection. If you are in protection, you wack the horse and assume it was out to get you. If you are in growth, you think okay I can do something different. You think about tying the horse’s tail in a loose knot or putting on some more organic fly-spray.

With my iPad application, I feel like I’m in growth most of the time but I do have moments of protection. This weekend I thought our artist was falling down on the job. My first reaction (one of protection) was to write a demanding sharply worded email. I scrapped that idea and thought I needed to give her more detail and direction. She sent much better work today and I felt nothing but good vibes.

Lesson: Don’t ‘wack’ the horse…stop and try something different. 

Lesson Nine – Grazing Part II

Known to Unknown and Back

Yesterday a lovely lady came over to ride Nootka. She was looking for a horse to ride on the weekends and Nootka is always game for more exercise (my words not hers-she says). As she rode, I saw Nootka keep looking down the hill outside the ring. I knew what she was looking at which was the backs of the other horses (Flutter and Image) grazing.

From her perspective, she just saw that something looked off, out of place. There was an unknown and this worried her. She kept wanting to figure out what it was and started losing her concentration. She became fixated on it. Every time she circled close to the hill she wanted to stop and stare. No, going back to grazing or focusing on the riding in that moment. It was all about what is it? what is it? When the two horses came up the hill, she was almost like ‘only them?’ and went back to work easily.

I thought of the terms out there for the unknown. I’ve heard…education for the unknown (from a conference I went to at Harvard -preparing kids for an unknown future -I didn’t understand how you do that in a traditional factory-type education system…I don’t think they really knew either), there is unknown.com publishing (which is actually about getting known from publishing with them), going into the unknown (like Lewis and Clark exploring or that guy in the book: Into the Wild). All those unknowns have an element of being a little wary or afraid but then trying to do it anyway.

I feel like I’m looking in the eyes of the unknown this morning. Quite honestly I feel like Nootka. I want to figure out what it is. Can I figure it out though? It’s a future unknown.  Maybe if I could only see a bit of it I could go back to grazing so to speak?

Could the lesson be: React, know you are reacting, see/do what you can and get back to ‘grazing’

Lesson Eight – Going Back to Grazing

Grazing is Good!

Today I watched Nootka spook at something. She ran then turned and kept looking back to where she thought the ‘spooky’ thing was. She finally stopped and stared. I have no idea what she thought looked or sounded out of place or scared her. Who knows? But it was only a minute or two before she decided that everything was fine and she could go back to grazing. She didn’t run around for hours on high alert just in case it happened again!

Most people don’t seem to go back to grazing well. I find myself ruminating on things I just don’t need to think about. It’s so easy to get on a loop of repetitive thoughts.

For example, today I kept thinking about what I would do if the artist didn’t have the menu art done by the end of the month. Now my intellectual mind says…no need to think about that now. Wait and see what happens then figure it out. My reptilian brain apparently doesn’t like that answer and keeps trying to think of all sorts of scenarios in case it happens. A TOTAL waste of time! I want to go back to grazing whines my neo cortex.

There are many different kinds of techniques to let go of this kind of looping thinking. The first step is a simple awareness that you are in the loop! It’s that awareness without judgment that counts. For me the most useful technique has been PSYCH-K. Pretty much you are able to tap in to your subconscious mind with simple muscle testing. It’s a quick and easy way to reprogram tapes that keep playing in your life.

Another thing I do is to jot down a few sentences around the topic. For example, I write down the art will be beautiful (that feels good so I write more), it will enhance the app (good feeling there), I know the artist will do her best to be on time (good again) and the whole project is coming together easily (not as good so I change it). The project is going to look amazing soon (that one feels better).

The lesson is: Go back to Grazing!

How do you go back to grazing?