Saturday, June 4, 2011
RC's Journey Days 6-8
It has taken me a few days to write this blog about RC’s journey. I have found myself spending a lot of time licking and chewing on the lessons that I have learned in the past 3 days.
First I feel that I need to share a little bit about RC and myself before getting into the details of the last 3 days.
I am an Equine Experiential Coach and I work with individuals, couples, families and groups. My horses and I help people to explore their beliefs and behaviors through interactive activities. This gives our clients the opportunity to discover strengths and weaknesses in themselves and then together we create a game plan on how they want to move forward from that new understanding.
Horses have a very strong sensory awareness and are able to sense and mirror things for us that we are unable to see about ourselves. Horses have been some of the best teachers in my life and is the reason I have decided to do Equine Experiential Coaching (EEC). Sharing these powerful teachers with others is something I am very passionate about.
RC is a 3 year old American Paint horse I adopted 2 years ago from a PMU ranch in North Dakota. He came to me after the loss of Rondo; who was my 24 year old Parelli Natural Horsemanship partner. Rondo was given to me by a very dear friend when he was 9 months old. Needless to say RC has some pretty big horseshoes to fill! Since the first day I met RC our relationship has been very special. Becoming certified in EEC and continuing my education in Parelli Natural Horsemanship has made me much more aware of how I interact with my horses. I am learning everyday about the psychology of the horse as well as their behavior and how they interact with each other as a herd. My relationship with RC is stronger than any other I have ever had we are learning and teaching each other about things every time we engage with one another.
The journey we are on together is one of growth and exploration. It is my goal to become a Parelli instructor and RC is my partner in this dream. Together we will work our way through the Parelli levels and on to sharing it with others. We will help to teach people about horses, humans, relationships, life and how to live and love unconditionally, however first we must experience this with each other.
RC’s sixth day of training with Matt began with some play time in the round pen. He tends to need to do a little rolling and running before he is ready to focus. Once RC let Matt know he was ready to join him in the days lessons he was saddled and out into the big arena they went. They started with the circling game having RC circle in both directions and asking him to maintain a trot. This was pretty easy going to the right however not so easy when asked to go to the left. RC was pretty sure that his pen was the better place to be and decided it was time to let Matt know about his decision. Matt recognized very quickly that RC was bumping up against something that he was uncertain of and needed some guidance in order to help him find the right answer and a more comfortable way of moving around the circle.
Horses live in the present moment and every day is a new day bringing with it new experiences. Even though RC has done the circling game with Matt every day for the past 5 days, each day has brought something different to be learned. Every day he is asked to step out of his comfort zone and into his learning zone. It is Matt’s job to keep him from entering into the panic zone, as his trainer and leader discovering where these zones begin and end in a safe and effective way.
There are 3 zones in which we spend our time, imagine if you will a circle with another circle around it and then another around that, creating three circles. The inner circle is the comfort zone, where we spend most of our time because it’s comfortable. There is not a lot of change taking place for us when we are here. The next zone is the learning zone we must leave the comfort zone and be willing to be uncomfortable in order to learn new things. It is natural for us to experience a degree of discomfort when we are challenged with new experiences and if we are able to allow ourselves to be a little uncomfortable we learn how to achieve something new. As we learn new things our comfort zone actually expands automatically. The last zone is the panic zone this is the place where we are fearful of our safety and survival instincts kick in. We are in the reptilian part of our brain and thinking is not something we can do at the moment. If for some reason while we are in our learning zone we tip into the panic zone any ability to learn has disappeared. This is the place that memories of bad experiences are born and will be triggered anytime something similar is experienced. Sadly many of our horse companions are pushed into this zone unintentionally by inexperienced trainers setting them up for a lifetime of challenges.
While I watched Matt working with RC and saw his uncertainty developing and he was beginning to act like less of a partner and more like a prey animal, I was not really sure what was happening. Matt stayed fully present with RC and when this young horse began to get himself so worked up beginning to enter the panic zone, he took him back to a place that RC was familiar with. He allowed RC to accomplish what he was asking him to do in a way that he had done before, bringing him back into the left side of his brain and back into his learning zone. RC calmed down and was reconnected with Matt and then back out into the arena they went. He was able to accomplish the same task in the bigger space without the comfort of the round pen. From there they went out into the pasture and had a wonderful time trotting, cantering, circling and even some side passing. RC ended the day feeling very confident and happy.
I spent the day thinking about the lesson and realizing how important it is to have a professional starting my colt and helping him to learn safely and effectively. All day long I played the session through my mind, observing and learning more each time.
Instead of sleeping that night I found myself deep in contemplation about the three zones and how they apply to me and my life. I have been experiencing a lot of anxiety about pursuing my dream of becoming a Parelli trainer. I realized that thinking about the commitment and the unknown of how I would find the funding and the time to accomplish this dream would put me into my panic zone.
As I lay in bed with my heart racing, my palms sweating and fear surging through my body, I wanted to default to my normal response which is to shake it off and stop thinking about it. To get back into my comfort zone and postpone this dream even longer.
Instead I found myself thinking about Matt and RC and what had transpired when he was challenged with something he was not sure he could do. I imagined I was on the end of the rope and my heart filled with fear was the horse. I did not quit and hung in there allowing myself to be uncomfortable long enough to explore some options. When I felt panicked I would take my thoughts to something I knew I could do. Bringing me back into the learning zone and then I would begin to imagine about what I could do next. My heart rate slowed down, my palms were no longer sweating and the fear had dissipated.
I laid in bed in amazement at how RC’s experienced had helped me to successfully navigate myself through a very uncomfortable moment. It also confirmed for me that I am on the right track and pursuing my dream and sharing horses and their gifts is absolutely what I am meant to do.
I was unable to be present for RC’s seventh day of training. Matt introduced RC to a new level of the friendly game with swinging a rope from on top of him allowing him to feel and see it swinging all around him. Then they played with pulling a log around from the front and the back. RC thought that this was pretty fun and enjoyed pulling it from the front. It helped him to learn how to engage his hindquarters and he discovered just how powerful he is. He also got to feel the difference of having reins held in one hand versus two.
This may seem like no big deal to those who have older experienced horses or have not had a horse before. If you would like to have an experiential opportunity to gain an understanding, tomorrow morning when you get dressed pay attention to what leg you put into your pants first or what foot you put your first shoe on. Then stop and do the opposite and do so for the next four days and that is the awkwardness this youngster is learning to accept and explore.
Day eight brought with it a new level of communication, Matt began to ask RC to carry himself a little more collected and on the proper lead. RC complied after they spent some time with the questions and answers part of the process. My young horse is becoming more confident and capable every day. He looks to both Matt and I as we pull up and is excited to come out and play. He is beginning to develop a new understanding about the human/horse relationship and enjoys being with his people even more. Every time I walk out to the corral he turns and comes to me with the “oh boy here she comes” attitude instead of turning tail and going to the other side of the corral with the “oh no here she comes” attitude.
Thank you Matt for providing RC and I with the proper beginning to allow us to achieve all that I know we can be together.