December 22, 2010
November 30, 2010
October 24, 2010
So after we discussed personality on the last day of our course, we met in our smaller groups. Lisa kept us in the group to discuss our plans for what we would work on when we went home, though after the first few of us, it was more about where we were all at emotionally, and several people were in tears.
We then reconvened as a large group, and John asked us to volunteer moments that stood out for us from the course. After the first few of us, it was more about where we were all at emotionally, and several people were in tears.
At the end of the session, the coaches talked about what they’d gotten out of the month, and after the first few, even some of them were in tears—including, briefly, the implacable John, as it was his last course before retiring as Head of Faculty.
And it did feel even more like everything was drawing to a close because our course was the last one at the ranch before it shut down for the winter. Pat and Linda had already left for Florida, as had many of their horses, and once the last of us were gone, it would be only a handful of interns and externs remaining to close camp.
Many in our course left after our farewell lunch, though Alex and I were staying over to leave the following morning. I knew I needed to get Lupin out and play with him in the afternoon since we hadn’t done anything with the horses that morning, but I was in an environmentally-induced funk and having trouble motivating myself.
I got him out and did a little rockslide down the path through the pens. Hmm, that was kind of cool. We ambled out to the Lower Savvy Park, and I had nothing in mind other than to move his feet and let him have a little fun. We had the Park to ourselves, and before I knew it, we were all over the place with Lupin enthusiastically trotting out and around me, climbing over things, just waiting for me to start playing in earnest.
I took him up on the offer, making use of whatever crossed our path as we did falling leaf and travelling circles all around. At one point I went up to some feed bowls to set them up as obstacles for change of direction on the circle, and Lupin lowered his head and picked one up. I asked him for it and he gave it to me, and we repeated this with a couple of the other bowls—the first time he’s picked anything up for me besides his Frisbee.
Then I picked up the pace and he cantered parts of figure 8’s around the bowls before we zoomed off to something else. We played on the bridge, the teeter-totter, and the pedestal, never staying at one thing long and doing a lot of fast playing in between. It was the first time since I’d been at the ranch that I’d had time to play with my horse without anything in particular to work on, but with all the new stuff we’d learned to play with, and with no one watching. We had a blast. We just . . . played.
Such a play session would be welcome at any time, but it was especially welcome that afternoon as I felt my earlier dejection melt away. I realized that some obscure, almost unconscious part of my brain had been thinking that, with everything I was leaving the next day, I had to leave Lupin as well, and I was immediately happy to realize that I didn’t, and then happier to realize that I was happy about that. A year earlier, I would not have been that sad to have left Lupin at my first clinic with Dan and gone home alone.
But Lupin and I (mostly I) have come a long way since then. Indeed, I’ve been quite certain for a while that Lupin has just been waiting for a worthy leader/playmate to emerge in me, and thanks to the seeds that Dan planted, which were then nurtured so well in the Fast Track course, I think I’m finally starting to get there.
Since my course I have, among other things, begun to get excited when I find holes that Lupin and I need to work on because they are, as Linda has said all along, interesting. It helps to have reached a kind of critical mass in my overall knowledge where I don’t feel as threatened by those holes any more, and where I feel I have at least a fair chance of being able to sort them out. Now I actually like holes because they give us a clear focus.
I have also become much less afraid of experimenting. Can we do this? Can we do that? And what does it matter if we can’t? It’s just information. But when we can it’s way more fun than doing the stuff we already know how to do over and over.
I think, too, that I got a slightly different rhythm in me during my month in Colorado. We rarely played on the ground in the ring—we were always out and around the ranch in fields and playgrounds. Somehow all that wide open space opened up an equally big space inside my imagination where it no longer seems strange to cover large amounts of ground on foot with your horse just to go somewhere different to play. And, of course, during our course we needed every second we had with our horses to try out all the new things we were learning, so we didn’t waste precious time just leading them from one place to another—we played all the way there starting at the gate out of their pens.
I carried home with me that sense of constant play and constant experimenting. Lupin and I play all the way in from the pasture, on into the stall (or trailer, or other location) to eat, down the road to the field, and wherever we go, we’re looking for new ways to play and new things to play with. It doesn’t seem at all strange to me now to walk all the way to the cow pasture to play with Lupin, and now that I’ve got the confidence to play with him in big open spaces, I love the enthusiasm he has out there and the challenge of seeing how much I need to do to keep his attention on me.
Between my willingness to experiment and my increased confidence, the time I spend with Lupin is completely different. I’m more prone to ask him a series of questions, “Can you do this? What if we try it this way? Okay, but now can you not do that and do this instead?” And I have a lot more faith now that we can still achieve our goals without constant drilling because everything we improve helps everything else improve too. So I think of as many variations as I can, and I stay only briefly on each thing before moving to something new.
And because we’re playing the whole time, I’m no longer thinking ahead to what all we need to accomplish that day. My focus is on the game. I am, like that last afternoon in Colorado, in the present, with nothing on my mind but looking for the thing that will give Lupin an opportunity to show me how smart he is—in a good way, so that he doesn’t have to prove it to me in a bad way.
There is, too, one final sense in which my month in Colorado brought me into the present. Over the past month that I’ve been home I've realized that the little part of me that was still missing my last horse has let go. I think that’s because I’ve finally realized what Lupin has given me.
While I was indebted to Limerick for taking care of me and being patient with me through the years of my greatest ignorance, I am now indebted to Lupin for continuing to push me to learn more and to be smarter, braver, and more athletic so that I can keep up with him. I am also indebted to him for pushing me only as much as I can handle, even if it took going to Colorado for a month to begin to learn how to handle it. And, of course, I am indebted to him for that very month, which has changed so much of the way that I approach things and shown me so much more of where I can go from here.
Lupin is a big equine adventure, taking me places I never dreamed that I would go.
October 13, 2010
On Thursday of our final week, we were re-tested on several of the tasks we had been tested on during the first week of the course. We spent the morning on the ground and the afternoon in the saddle.
There was only one task that I was thoroughly unhappy with, and that was the squeeze over the barrels in the morning, during which I was pathetically ineffective.
It’s true that I actually didn’t want Lupin to jump the barrels, as the last time he did that he was lame for a couple of months. So I didn’t want to get him all riled up and send him at the barrels with a lot of energy. But I wasn’t very optimistic that he was just going to step over them. The weakness of my send probably reflected both my reluctance for him to jump the barrels and my doubt that he was going to go over them if he didn’t jump. It didn’t help that when Lupin investigated the barrels, they all started rolling down the hill, so that I had more focus on trying to keep the barrels in place than on Lupin.
But this is the point at which Alex would say, “All I hear is ‘wa wa wa I’m making excuses.’” And she’d be right. There was one moment in particular when I remember asking Lupin to back up and he all but ignored me, and I just let him. Sure, part of my brain responded that way because the task asked for us not to move our feet. But there was no way I could pretend that adhering to that requirement was more important than getting a positive response from my horse. That moment made me disgusted with myself and ate me up for the rest of the day.
By the end of the day, though, I managed to find peace with it. What had happened was that I had just allowed myself to be lulled back into my old way of operating: unclear communication, low expectation, lack of effectiveness with my horse. The degree to which that bothered me for the rest of the day was actually, I realized, the degree to which that way of interacting with Lupin had become foreign to me over the month that I had been at the ranch. I finally realized that my acute aversion to the way I handled that task was a good thing, as it indicated how far I had come.
It was also a wake-up call that I carried with me for the rest of the day. I focused after that, and made pretty good decisions for the rest of the day, I felt. I was especially pleased with our test in the precision pen. It was the last test of the day, and Lupin was feeling strongly that his day should have ended a couple of hours earlier. It was tempting to go into the ring and fake it. The test asked for several serpentines and circles to be ridden at the trot and canter on a collected rein. I thought about how, if I took up both my reins, I could probably micro-manage him through it and, by doing so, prevent him from screwing up.
But I knew that was wrong. It was what I had done during that same test at the beginning of the month, and it hadn’t worked then, and now I knew all the reasons why it hadn’t and why it wouldn’t work this time either. Yes, I wanted to control him, but I needed to do exactly the opposite and allow him the opportunity to make mistakes. Principles don’t change just because you’re taking a test.
So I walked into the ring with my reins in one hand that was firmly planted on his neck. Lisa called out to me, “Marian, you do realize you’re supposed to be trotting on a collected rein?” I said, “Yes, but I haven’t earned a collected rein yet because I still have problems with a BS rein.” I rode the whole pattern at a walk on a casual rein. It wasn’t close to what the test called for, but it was much closer to the underlying goal of the test than it would have been if I’d used two reins when neither of us was ready for it. And I was rewarded by the fact that Lupin could not have followed my focus any better: I barely used my rein, and some of the circles we did were the best we’ve ridden.
It’s possible that when I rode that test at the beginning of the course I had hoped to have gotten further in Finesse by the end of the course than Lupin and I did. But what we wound up getting was even better: firm principles that will lead, in time, not only to the physical components that make up Finesse, but to so much more than that as well.
The next morning we all met in the lodge, and John talked about the reasons behind the testing. He said that the most important thing was for us to learn how we reacted in a testing situation, and he went on to talk about personality types and how our own personality types might have come into play the day before.
We had talked about horseanality a lot, but not personality, though pretty much everyone on the ranch when describing somebody would start with, “Well, she’s a right-brain extrovert . . ." I myself am pretty bad at pegging other people’s personalities, perhaps because I was first introduced to the concept outside of Parelli where it seemed like the height of narcissism to be concerned with what your personality type was. I had a lot of friends who could rattle off their Myers-Briggs types, but I never saw the purpose of it, and so I never got into the habit of thinking that way.
On Friday morning, I began to see the purpose of it. John charted himself, his wife, and his horse and then gave anecdotes of where their personality types had come into play by way of showing how personality types impact relationships. Basically, as Carmen had mentioned during her presentation on Tony Robbins, everyone has a pattern of response. Events don’t cause us to act a certain way; they are simply the trigger for us to react in the same way we always react to certain stimuli. If you become aware of your pattern of reaction, and that of the people and animals around you, you can start to figure out ways to improve the relationship. And a lot of those reactions have to do with personality types.
It’s also helpful to be able to understand and accept where a lot of your own reactions are coming from before you deal with trying to change them. There’s a bit of a trick here, because it’s easy for me to say, “Well of course I have a slow reaction time—I’m a left brain introvert,” and use that identity as an excuse not to change. But if instead I say, “Okay, I’m a LBI, so one challenge for me is going to be improving my reaction time,” then it’s more empowering.
I don’t know why I find it useful to have that piece of information. I’ve known for a while that I need to improve my reaction time, so why does it matter what the reason is? (Well, maybe because I’m an LBI, and we like to thoroughly understand things!) Whatever the reason, though, it does make me feel more motivated. Maybe because once you understand personality, you’re seeing the whole picture—both the good and the bad (or challenging) parts of your personality. So now I can start by saying, “Okay, I’m an LBI, which means that I’m really good at knowing all the reasons behind what I’m doing; now I just need to do it a little faster,” instead of just saying, “Good god, why in the heck am I so dang slow?”
All in all, it seems to me like examining your personality type lets you see more of the potential in yourself than the problems, but it also gives you a way to focus on those problems that doesn’t make you feel like a failure. That’s because, I think, you’re no longer seeing those problems as personal short-comings that move you further away from some Platonic version of your perfect self. Instead, you’re seeing them simply as characteristics.
Personality charts then help even more because they let you see that other people have complementary characteristics to your own. Looking beyond yourself like that makes it all less about perfection and more about experimenting with different ways of being in the world. And when you think about playing around with new things rather than trying to fix personal shortcomings, that makes the whole process of self-improvement a lot more fun, just as it's more fun to play games with your horse than it is to endlessly try to perfect him.
October 3, 2010
September 29, 2010
positive and playful instead of judgmental
make games for myself to play with Lupin so that I have a playful “can you?” or “can we?” attitude
faith in me to do a good job
fair / not taking things personally
look at things from a third-person (an instructor’s?) perspective
a clear plan
having an interesting and fun yet challenging focus (provocative and progressive)
have a clear focus
set up challenges for him and let him figure them out (don’t micromanage)
give him jobs
telling me the truth / expecting a lot out of me
confident in both myself and my horse
don’t cater to his comfort: stretch his comfort zone but don’t overwhelm him
physically, mentally, and emotionally in sync with my horse
think like a horse—all the time
September 26, 2010
September 20, 2010
September 13, 2010