May 27, 2015

TrishBits #8: When Life Threatens To Throw You, Don’t Drop the Reins

Here’s a powerful combination: Relax, AND take up your leadership role.

Last week, I was in Virginia to try out a gorgeous little palomino mare named Shamrock. I was traveling with our ranch manager, Ali, who’s been gathering a small herd for Blue Star Ranch, where we’ll welcome clients to get coached while doing groundwork* in the round pen with our horses.

Ali’s been training me for weeks, re-awakening my horsemanship skills that haven’t gotten much practice since girlhood. I’m still pretty green, and so was Shamrock. She was also very sensitive. I mounted her, and off we walked. And then I shifted in my saddle, and she went into a trot. I shifted again, forward, and she broke into a canter. All this happened in, umm, 3 seconds. I was alarmed, and off center, so I dropped forward, which put pressure on her in ways that she didn’t understand. She moved faster, and I clamped my legs tighter. More pressure. She got more agitated.

Time stood still for me – I knew I was in trouble. She might very well throw me. I couldn’t remember what to do. I didn’t know this horse. My hands dropped, the reins slack between my gloved fingers, my body crouched, when I heard Ali’s crystal clear voice: “PULL THE REINS.” “SIT UP.” “TAKE YOUR SEAT.” “PULL THE REINS.”

And I did. It worked, like magic. My muscle memory and Shamrock’s training took over, and I did two things that I once thought were mutually exclusive, but really are a powerful combination: I relaxed, AND I stepped into my leadership role. Shamrock was relieved. (So was Ali!)

It was a powerful lesson for me, and not just in horsemanship. This is what coaching with horses is all about – we ask our clients, “Where else in your life do you ‘let go of the reins?’” Or, “What do you do when you get in trouble? What if ‘giving up’ weren’t an option?”

I was reminded, then, of a lesson from my drivers’ ed class (ages ago!). I remember our instructor saying, “Here’s the most important lesson I can give you: If you get in trouble behind the wheel, don’t forget to steer.”

Want to read more about Blue Star Ranch? We’re working on our new website, which will launch this summer, but here’s an introduction.

Curious about what it’s like to get coached with horses in the round pen? My friend and fellow coach Amy Pryce wrote a lovely firsthand account of her experience at a workshop with horse whisperer Koelle Simpson, who’s training me.


*All horse work for Equus Coaching is done on the ground. No riding or previous training necessary.

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