I’m not posting a full blog this weekend as it’s Bank Holiday and we have a wonderful ‘old’ friend staying with us. We haven’t seen him in too long and this is a precious time for us, remembering good times that we’ve shared and creating fabulous new memories as we laugh and ‘play’ together.
I hope that whatever you’re up to this weekend, you have a wonderful time with those who are special in your life 🙂
As #mentalhealthawarenessweek2019 draws to a close, I thought I would take this opportunity to reshare a blog that I wrote a while ago on why I think we should exercise the ‘3 C’s around #PositiveThinking :
– Conscious consideration
Sometimes I think that the trend for advocating Positive Thinking has got a little out of balance, where people are pushing themselves to feel happy all the time and then feeling that they’ve failed when they fall short of this impossible expectation.
Our lives seem to be full of contradictions! On the one hand we’re bombarded by news that is often negative and full of doom and gloom, while on the other we’re encouraged to be positive, smile and avoid negative thoughts for the sake of our health.
So what’s the answer?!
Well, first of all let’s look at why positive thinking can bring great benefits. The cycle goes like this:
The thoughts that we think create the perspective from which we look at things. This influences the filters through which we interpret the world around us. This determines our experiences, which help to form our beliefs about that world. Our beliefs are what our thoughts are based upon, and so the cycle continues…
Obviously if we think positive thoughts, and can carry this on round the cycle, then we will be happier than if we are plagued by negative thoughts, however…
The last couple of weeks have felt pretty tough here at Equenergy. This is my first year of being a horse carer, having welcomed Dax back in May last year, and Rika in October when we moved to Wales and got our own land. It has been a steep learning curve!
About a week ago, on Friday, we had the first snow of the season and, obviously, the first since our move. Suddenly I was having to feed the horses much more hay, as they were unable to access any grass. We were already running a little low, and had arranged an order for the Sunday anyway, but it quickly became clear that there probably wouldn’t be enough to get us through the remaining day, night and morning before we picked up more supplies.
I went through uncomfortable feelings of guilt at not being better prepared and getting into a situation where the horses might suffer because of my lack of foresight…
This came on top of me already feeling rather low, mostly due to exhaustion, which was the result of a combination of factors:
the short days which never seem to have enough daylight to get everything done
the relentless-seeming round of daily poo picking; often in wind, rain, mud and semi-darkness at this time of year
juggling appointments, working on the house, business stuff (such as updating my website, networking, etc) and caring for the animals
still not having any proper internet, phone or TV connection
the time it takes to get things done because of the above challenges.
As you might have spotted, reading the above list, another drain on my energy has been the high level of expectation that I place on myself!
At times I’ve felt rather alone and vulnerable, and it was at one of these moments that I received some comments on a post that I’d made on Facebook. From the perspective of this low point they hit a nerve and felt like criticism. I was tempted to hide away and feel sorry for myself, but instead I decided it would be more productive to take a step back and look at the situation with a more objective view.
Doing this I quickly realised that the comments were far from being critical. They were actually just someone who cared deeply about an issue, expressing their thoughts. However their message threw a spotlight on a need in me that I hadn’t been addressing (old insecurities about how people see me and being ‘good enough’), which was bringing up old hurts and leaving me experiencing emotional discomfort. I could see that this provided a great opportunity for me to work on this inner pain in order to release it, taking a further step in setting myself free from the things that hold and restrict me. I explored the sensations I was experiencing and used them to identify where I needed to change my thoughts to be more supportive.
There are a variety of ways that we can do this kind of exploration:
talking with a friend or a professional coach / therapist
I personally used EFT (emotional freedom techniques, or ‘tapping’) as this helps to reduce painful emotions, meaning that I could look at things with greater clarity
I’ve had to remind myself, too, that change is often painful, as it pushes us out of our comfort zone. This is true, even when we were the ones who decided to make the change. Even when we know in our heads what to expect, the raw reality, and the unknown duration of the discomfort, can make it hard to keep going, and to keep trusting that we’ve made the right choices. This is especially true when we’re feeling tired, alone or unsupported.
Often when we’re feeling low, our inner critic goes into overdrive. I had to remind myself that this part of me is just trying to keep me safe, but in actual fact it’s made up of thoughts and beliefs that are untrue, or at least greatly exaggerated, and viewed from a negative bias. But I am able to choose my thoughts and beliefs, which in turn impacts on my perceptions, emotions, behaviours and the outcomes I experience. If I choose to focus on more positive, uplifting, optimistic thoughts, then I will experience more supportive, hopeful feelings, leading to behaviours which are more likely to produce the outcomes that I desire.
Sometimes we can get stuck in a negative cycle, particularly when we’re feeling run down, which is why it’s so important to take care of ourselves, doing our best to get quality rest, eat healthily, spend time outdoors in the fresh air and engage in exercise that we enjoy. It’s also important to reach out for help when we need it. Things can feel too big to face alone, but with another pair of hands / eyes, suddenly they seem much more manageable. Also, we are social creatures. We need to feel connected. When this is missing from our lives, the world can feel like a very big, scary and lonely place. Even if you feel that no-one can help, it’s still worth reaching out, as even doing something as simple as meeting a friend for a cup of coffee can bring a bit of brightness to your day and make things seem much less bleak.
Taking action in this way has also helped me to remember the many ‘highs’ of our new life here in Wales, and having horses with us. It’s so lovely to be able to spend time with them, either connecting through activities, or just being in their presence and feeling their calming, grounding energy. I’ve been seeing some subtle changes in Dax, where he seems to be processing things and being less reactive. He can tend to show some fear aggression, reverting to inappropriate behaviours – such as biting and pushing – when he feels anxious, but having started some clicker play with him, I’ve seen how he’s using his brain to find other ways to approach situations. Doing this in a safe environment seems to be giving him confidence in other areas of his life as well. Occasionally he seems to take a backwards step, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it can take time to change habits that have been held for long periods of time so I just need to remain patient and keep remembering all the good things in him so that he can see these too and step into them more fully.
Another ‘high’ is that Rika is opening up more and more each day. When she first arrived here, everything was so new for her. She’d been taken away from her people, her herd and the environment that was familiar to her. It has taken her a while to find her feet but she now regularly approaches us to say Hello, or for a cuddle or a scratch. She’s such a gentle and graceful creature that it’s a joy to spend this time with her!
I’m also deeply grateful for this amazing space all around us. The landscape is so beautiful and the light changes almost in every moment! We are surrounded by birdsong from early morning to well into the evening and it’s magical to watch the onward march of the seasons.
If you are experiencing painful emotions that feel like they’re taking over your life, and you’d like to explore some constructive ways to address the underlying issues so that you can reconnect with your balance, joy and wellbeing, then please get in touch for a no obligation chat.
PS For those of you wondering about the horses and their hay: I rang our lovely hay man, Gwyn, on the Friday and he happily gave us a couple of bales the next day which easily got us through to Sunday when we collected our order. This reminded me again that worry is unproductive and that when I reach out, help is there, supporting me through the ‘dramas’ of my life and showing me that, in fact, all is well in the end 🙂
I’d like to wish you all a wonder-full festive season
and all the very best for the New Year!
I’m so looking forward to the days getting longer again!
I will also be making preparations for next year. I’m really looking forward to seeing how I might use the fabulous space here, with the woods and the horses, to offer the opportunity for people to reconnect with Nature, and with their authentic selves, in order to find balance and wellbeing.
I’d like to apologise for the lack of posting last week. We moved to our new home on 12 October and have not yet been connected to the internet, so everything is being done as and when we can get WiFi or 4G when we’re out and about.
Our new home is very beautiful though it has brought many challenges. The weather on the day of our move was wild and windy which caused some issues with coming across the bridge from Bristol to Wales. This seems to have set the tone for the following days, too, as it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride.
The removal itself went past in a blur. The team arrived and seemed to sweep all our belongings up and into their lorries then head off to our new location, without even pausing for breath! We then discovered that they’d been so thorough in their sweep that they’d taken my car keys with them! This added a whole new dimension to the process.
My lovely mother and father in law had come along to help with the move but unfortunately they took a wrong turn on entering Wales and were lost for a couple of hours with no way to contact them as they don’t have mobiles. When Tim and I finally arrived we found that the lorries had already been emptied, but everything was in the wrong place, leaving us with lots to sort out and heavy things to try and move around over the next couple of days. It also meant that we couldn’t find anything – though this meant that we had to unpack every box which helped us to make the place feel a little more like home.
We couldn’t have done it all without the wonderful help from a couple of Tim’s friends from work. Thank you so much guys – we owe you big time!!
The property is a cute little cottage which is very tastefully renovated, however we found that there was some… creative wiring in the house and the office which needed to be sorted as a matter of urgency. We’ve also found that the sockets and outlets in the other outbuildings do not work which is posing some interesting challenges as the days grow shorter. Also some of the outbuildings leak, meaning that we don’t yet have the storage area we thought we would have.
The horses were due to join us the next day, but the wind was still blowing hard and so we had to reschedule. Originally we thought this was going to be for the following week, but thankfully we managed to move them on the Sunday and so they’ve been here for nearly 2 weeks now. Dax seems to be loving it in this new, wild, Welsh space – we think he might be part Welsh Section D so perhaps some of his genes feel like they’ve come home – and ‘Rika is settling in well. This involves rolling in the mud so she’s hardly recognisable now!
Dax and ‘Rika – before the mud bath
‘Rika after her roll in the mud!
Despite the challenges, I love it here. Walking up to see the horses every morning and evening is such a special time. I love watching the light, which is constantly changing and subtly altering the landscape and its moods. Also, the changing colours of the leaves at this time of year are turning the surrounding countryside a glorious golden hue.
The woods are amazing and there’s lots of wildlife. Most of this we hear rather than see, but there’s a wonderfully cheeky robin who is a frequent visitor.
In one of the fields there is a fabulous old beech tree. It holds an ancient, mystical energy and is a wonderful place for some mindful meditation.
I’m so looking forward to opening this space up to share its healing energy with others!
I will be inviting people to come and spend time in this peaceful place and allow it to open their hearts and bring healing.
This is an opportunity to take some time, just for yourself, to get out of your head and into your body.
To Be present…
To get in touch with your body and emotions and see how they can show you what is working well for you, and what isn’t, so that you can make supportive changes.
It’s a chance to reconnect with the Earth beneath your feet and the Nature all around you to bring balance, harmony and wellbeing.
If you’d like to know more, please get in touch, or see my website for more information:
Isn’t it interesting how allowing our horses to say ‘No’ can bring up so much stuff – both for them and for us!?
Since Dax arrived there have been some changes in his behaviour, as those of you who’ve been following this blog will know. At first he was like a little lamb, meekly following wherever I took him – except into that weird dark box that hoomans call a ‘stable’! This has now turned around where he’s quite happy to go in to his stable – after all there’s hay and treats in there (herbs or pieces of carrot / celery that I leave on the floor for him to ‘forage’) – but not so keen to walk on the lead rope.
He also has times when he says a definite ‘No’ to being touched – this can be challenging when I want to check his feet or apply neem oil to keep the flies off.
Thankfully, though, he never says ‘No’ to having any scratches and scrapes treated, and will even come and show me when he’s got a cut somewhere!
His behaviour can seem unpredictable, in that some days he is quiet, almost subdued, and others he appears ‘grumpy’ and disconnected. I get glimpses of a softer Dax, a more gentle and relaxed fellow who is open to engaging and exploring with me, and I think these glimpses are becoming more frequent, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t still see the other sides of him too. As a good friend of mine posted on her Facebook group the other day, all of these responses from Dax are opportunities to question and explore:
Why has he responded this way?
How is he feeling today?
What has triggered this behaviour?
How does this situation look from his perspective?
This is also raising other questions for me, around my own beliefs and ways of being. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the use of strong discipline and ‘dominance’ theories doesn’t sit comfortably with me. Many people talk about having to be the ‘lead horse’ but this has never made much sense to me. A horse can see that I am different – I look different and I behave in different ways compared to horses. I don’t have the anatomy necessary to speak full ‘horse’ either – big, mobile ears; large eyes on the side of my head; 4 legs; a tail; etc. I am also a good deal smaller, lighter and less powerful. Also, I can never fully appreciate what it is to see the world from a horse’s perspective.
Dominance theories are often based on research done in domestic (artificial) situations and so the behaviours recorded are not always ‘natural’. Also we are viewing them through our human filters.
I have learnt that a herd’s way of being is more one of co-operation, synchronisation and leading / following, rather than dominance.
I want to learn how to be a good leader, one who leads by example, conscious behaviours and kindness.
From other, personal, work that I have done, I believe in the value of being curious and of listening to our inner, gut feeling, to guide us in finding the best course of action. Of course, this needs to be done very consciously or we could easily think or convince ourselves that what we are doing is ‘right’ when actually it is just an ‘easier’ course of action for some reason.
So this is what I am working on in my relationship with Dax. Seeking to find the way that feels right – for both of us. One that allows us both freedom of expression, while still allowing both of us to feel safe. Giving him the space to say ‘No’ while also showing him that I can say ‘No’ too. Opening up a dialogue where we can explore those ‘No’s to see what’s behind them, and how we can find ways to say ‘Yes’ to each other. This isn’t always easy. Dax had a hard start in life and doesn’t appear to have learnt the subtleties of expression. He seems to go from ‘Ok’ to ‘NO!’ in one leap, with no shades in between. Part of this is my ability to ‘hear’ him too, and to spot his signals, so this is something that I need to learn.
In an earlier post I posed a series of questions:
Is Dax really ‘unsafe’?
Can the ‘ beautiful, loving horse’ within be encouraged to be brave enough to come out?
What would be the best way to work with him to give him boundaries while keeping myself safe and not feeding his fear?
How can I learn the lessons this is offering, to be the best person for Dax that I can be?
My responses to these would be:
No, at least, no more so than any other unsure, sometimes frightened, sometimes anxious, younger horse would be. I need to be observant around him, learning his signals and so avoiding situations that could be risky.
I believe that the answer to this is ‘Yes’, and will look at this in more depth next week.
This is still the big question and one which I am continually thinking about – reading, researching and exploring with Dax.
I think this comes down to the observations and exploring mentioned above – that, and always seeking to be as honest with myself as I possibly can about what is / is not working, and where I need to go from there.
If any of this has raised questions for you, or you have any comments, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below or to contact me.
Around the time that the changes I outlined last week were going on, the trimmer, Caroline Wang-Andresen of Hoofing Marvellous, came for her second visit. I spoke with her about what was going on with Dax and mentioned that he seemed unhappy if I tried to lift his front feet, often turning round to bite me.
While she worked on his feet we noticed that he was not as happy to stand still through the trim this time. He tried to nip her, too, and was more fidgety than before. She also commented that his feet were more brittle than the last time – a reflection of whatever was going on when that part of the hoof was growing (around autumn/winter last year).
She asked me to walk him up and down – which he did, thankfully – and there was no obvious sign of lameness, but she mentioned the fact that his front right leg twists slightly from the knee downwards. We wondered if this was causing him any discomfort. It might be a congenital difference, or could have been due to his rough start in life and not getting the right nutrition as a foal. Caroline recommended asking her colleague Helen Jacks-Hewett, a McTimoney practitioner, to come and take a look at Dax to make sure that he’s not in any pain and to maybe suggest some ways that I can help to make him more balanced and comfortable.
Dax’s previously ‘rock-crunching’ feet
It was a few weeks before we could find a date that suited both myself and Helen and in the meantime I continued to try and encourage Dax to walk with me. We had varying amounts of success but, frustratingly, every time I thought we’d made progress, we’d then seem to go back to square one! I could see that Dax was either shutting down or getting agitated – his eyes would go blank or he would start to chew on the leadrope or toss his head a couple of times – and I didn’t want to push things, particularly as I hadn’t yet been able to have his body checked to rule out any pain or discomfort.
I wrote in my journal at the time:
“Wondering if this [behaviour] is the predicted challenge of being with an independent thinking horse… sometimes he seems so connected then so distant.”
“I think Dax had to learn – at a very young age – to survive in whatever way he could, ie to become independent, at least in heart and mind. I’m sure he’s also learnt that humans should not be trusted, at least until they prove themselves very worthy of that precious gift, and even then, perhaps only in as much as he feels safe / wise to do so…
I, too, felt that I had to take care of myself in many ways as a child. Dax and I share so much I think – which is why this is challenging for us both… It’s been isolating in some ways for each of us, but hopefully we will find connection and healing through our similarities – that they will bring us together”
Helen came out at the end of July and did a full assessment of Dax’s conformation, suppleness and strength. In her report she commented that she could find:
“No misalignments located in spine or pelvic joints, and no areas of muscle asymmetry or soreness noted so on the whole there doesn’t appear to be any significant underlying musculoskeletal problems.”
This was a big relief!
She went on to say that:
“His behaviour seems typical for a hand raised foal, and shows a lot of foal like tendencies even though he is 6 years old.
There is a really sweet natured clever horse in there who will hopefully continue to learn and develop given the right herd conditions and handling techniques.”
I so hope that she’s right, and that I can provide what he needs to bring out that wonderful side of his nature.
But… there’s a darker side too, which I’d seen glimpses of and which then reared it’s ugly head unexpectedly one night.