Some thoughts on my highs and lows of winter horse care!

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:

  • journaling
  • mindfulness
  • meditation
  • 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 🙂

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Can I avoid networking?

networking

This was the question I asked myself when, earlier this year, my business coach advised that this was a necessary next step for me.  My only experience of networking to this point was a meeting of my local Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and I had felt so out of my depth that I didn’t relish the thought of having to do that sort of thing on a regular basis.  I can tend towards being an introvert, particularly in new situations where I feel out of my comfort zone, and I have generally avoided speaking in front of groups of people, so networking was rather unappealing and my brain was frantically trying to think of excuses and alternatives to avoid this situation that it predicted would end in embarrassment and discomfort.

My coach, however, persuaded me to join her at her next 4N breakfast meeting.  This was a more informal setting and I had more of a chance to speak with the other attendees and realise that they were regular human beings.  They were a lovely bunch and welcomed me with open arms, but I still didn’t feel that I really fitted in.

I then remembered another group that a recent contact had recommended to me.  I felt that she and I worked in similar fields and were also alike in disposition so I thought I’d look into the group that she belonged to.  This led me to visiting my local Women Mean Biz group.  It’s not actually the one that my colleague goes to but it’s about 10-15 minutes from my home so I thought I’d dip my toe in the water there first.

The group was very welcoming and also very relaxed.  It was smaller and more intimate which suited me, and as it turned out I already knew one of the members.  I was still nervous doing the 60 second presentation about my work, but I got through it without major incident and survived!  I wasn’t sure that there were any businesses there that I could immediately connect with – my work is very niche and very different from the accountants, solicitors and estate agents represented there – but I felt more comfortable with this form of networking and actually considered becoming a member of Women Mean Biz.

I returned home and decided to visit their website to explore this further.  While browsing I spotted the group that my colleague belongs to and thought I could visit them too.  I had discovered that the format used by Women Mean Biz felt like a good fit both for me and for my business and knowing that a colleague in another group was working in a similar niche convinced me that it would be worth visiting there despite the fact that it’s about an hour’s drive from my home.

As soon as I arrived at the venue I knew I was going to enjoy the meeting!  The group meets in Combe Grove Manor Hotel on the outskirts of Bath.  The grounds of the hotel are stunningly beautiful with woodlands and spectacular views.  The hotel itself has recently been refurbished and boasts some amazing artwork and furnishings.  In addition the food is delicious – even for me as a vegan!

combe grove

As soon as I entered the room where we were to have lunch I was greeted warmly and made to feel at home.  I instantly felt that this lovely group of women was a ‘fit’ for me.  It is very relaxed and, well, cheerful!  The group leader, Maria, is a perfect example of this – always upbeat and very easy to talk to.

I joined Women Mean Biz a few months ago and in that time I feel that I have benefitted so much from being a part of the Bath Combe Down group.  We meet on the second Tuesday of every month and it’s wonderful to have that opportunity to share time with such an amazing group of business women.  They might be relaxed and cheerful but they are also focused and proactive.

wmb

Our meetings start at 12:00 with the chance to catch up and do some informal networking for half an hour.  We then sit down to a ‘working lunch’ where we go round the group, each giving our ’60 seconds’.  There is then a Member’s Slot followed by a guest speaker and then the opportunity to raise any issues that you might be having with your business to see if others can offer suggestions or advice.  We finish with a ‘Thank you’ round where everyone has the chance to thank others for referrals, contacts and 1:1 meetings.

I was rather taken aback to be approached by Maria to be the ‘Member of the Month’ a couple of months ago.  As I said earlier I am not comfortable speaking in front of people.  I can get through the 60 seconds – still with some nerves but knowing that I can read from a script if I choose – but a whole 10 minutes!?  I think I’d been assuming that as I was relatively new I would have several months – hopefully a year or more – before this was asked of me.  But how could I refuse?  Wasn’t this what I was there for?  To challenge myself and to reach out and make connections (which included letting people know more about what it is I actually do)…

I convinced myself that as this is a small group of lovely women who have become good friends it was a ‘safe’ environment in which to speak, but as it turned out there were lots of guests that particular day and so I was faced with a larger than normal sea of faces, many of whom I didn’t know.  I was extremely nervous but quitting would be more embarrassing than trying!  I was acutely aware that the information I would be sharing was probably very new to most people there and perhaps not even in their area of interest.  All those faces seemed to be staring blankly at me as I ploughed on through to the end of my slot.  When I finished there was a pause… and then lots of questions poured forth!  I learnt a valuable lesson that day – blank faces does not mean people have switched off!  They were just taking it all in and processing it.  It was such a great confidence booster to hear all the positive comments and also to get people signing up for the taster sessions that I offered.

We also meet outside of the group, for 1:1 sessions, to find out a little more about the other members and their businesses.  This is the part that I like best and where I feel I get the most benefit.  It feels like an extended family where everyone is supporting everyone else and willing you to succeed.  The organisation also provides great training – often for free – on things like creating a compelling ’60 seconds’ and how to get the most out of a 1:1.  I also recently attended a workshop on how to use Facebook to help grow your business.

Through this process I have discovered that there are lots of networking options out there and there’s bound to be one that suits you.  They range from formal to informal and from large to small.   I can now say that I’m glad I didn’t listen to my fears and excuses.  It took a while but I’ve found the group that works for me.  So if you’re setting up a new business, or wanting to grow the one you have, I recommend trying out some groups until you find the one that is right for you.

If you think our group sounds like one you’d like to try then you are very welcome to pay us a visit.  Why not come along to a meeting and enjoy the glorious scenery, the delicious lunch and some fun social time – with the added advantage of it being ‘work’ towards building your business!  To see the dates of our upcoming meetings follow this link: Bath Combe Down meetings

There are several of these groups already up and running and there is a new one launching in Shepton Mallet on Monday 3 October from 12:00 – 14:00 at Bannatyne’s Charlton House Spa Hotel.  Click on this link for further details: Shepton Mallet launch

In addition the organisation is now branching out to run groups to include men as well.  These will be called We Mean Biz and will be launched at the Radisson Blu hotel, Broad Quay Bristol on Monday 26 September, again from 12:00 – 14:00.  Click on this link to see more: We Mean Biz launch