Appreciation

I hope after this time has passed, after the restrictions are lifted and we can venture out into the world again, I hope that we have learnt the art of appreciation.

I hope that we feel lucky when we sit down in a cafe across the table from our friends and enjoy a chat, a coffee and a cake. I hope we delight in our pubs, our theatres, our shops. I hope we realise that people fought to be able to re-open those businesses.

I hope we never again take for granted a hug from a loved one, or a random chat with a stranger. I hope we remember the lessons that we learned while the world stopped.

I don’t know whether we will or not, but I do hope. For this period of time has bought suffering to many. Suffering from loss, from grief, from mental health, anxiety, stress, depression. And it would seem so sad, if all the suffering did not accomplish anything. If there were no lessons that we learnt. If all that grief was simply in vain.

I hope we have learnt the art of gratitude, the value of appreciation. I hope we will enjoy our lives again and feel blessed to be allowed such liberties as walking into crowded cafes. I hope we remember the lessons we learned on those long lonely days.

It’s easy at the time to swear that we will remember to be grateful, but it is so easy to slip back into our old disgruntled ways. So remember to be grateful. Be grateful for the time you are having, some people would give anything to be to have that time. And when we are allowed out and about again, remember to be grateful for the luxuries of our world, the laughter of friends, the hugs from our loves. Remember appreciation.

The days are getting longer

In a sea of difficulty small things make all the difference. The sun breaking through the clouds, a glimmer of warmth during the cold, light at the end of the day. For anyone who works, or ever has worked, in an office, you know how wonderful it is when you come out of your office in the evening, and discover that it is still light. This moment is the first sign of the end of winter, the first hope of spring.

Even at the moment when many of us aren’t in the office, we are often still bound by our working hours, and office jobs encompass many sectors, so that there are many key worker office jobs, with people who have trudged through the dark to work and back. And suddenly there it is. The end of day office conversation around how light it is and but look at the time, remember last week it was dark now…In fairness the scope for conversation at the moment is fairly low, so pretty much anything counts as entertainment.

But it never ceases to amaze me how much the lightening evenings lifts our souls, how very much it surprises us every year. Do we believe that this winter the spring will fail to come and that we will be trapped in some Narnia-esque eternal winter? This winter I suspect anything felt possible, so the redemption of daylight and sunshine seems like a greater blessing than normal.

And indeed in a world where the only form of entertainment is going for a walk, daylight has become more valuable than ever. Picnics when the days are short and the weather drives straight into your bones are not a thing of joy, but a picnic as the days lengthen and the flowers start to push through are a pleasure to look forward to.

Finding magic in the small moments

Our days are no longer filled with big gestures, with amazing adventures, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t filled with magic moments, we just need to look a little harder…

It is so easy to think of all the things we have lost. The people, the fun, the community, all the things that we looked forward to, the treats that we gave ourselves through the year, the markers that we lived towards. It is easy to think we have lost everything, the our worlds have been stripped away, made grey and empty. But even in this time, there is magic in the smallest of moments. That whinny as you walk across the yard, that moment when dawn breaks across the sky and light shatters the darkness, that card from a friend that falls through your letterbox. It is the small moments that we are cherishing now, the ones that would have passed us by in a frenetic old world.

Savouring the little things is what keeps us going. Small gestures, a quick text, a card, a shouted conversation with your neighbour, a phone call with a friend, a cup of tea on a cold wet day, eating chocolate whilst wearing fluffy socks, whatever the small thing is that touches you, make sure it keeps happening.

This time will pass. We will once again be able to enjoy the bigger things, but for now enjoy the dandelion growing through the concrete, enjoy watching a swan swim on a flooded field, enjoy watching a flock of geese fly in their haunting v-shape across a winter sky, look round and seek out the smallest things to take pleasure in. And failing that put on your fluffy socks, make yourself a hot drink, get some chocolate and curl yourself and tell yourself you are doing an amazing job in difficult times…

Step by step

I was reminded yet again about breaking down difficult challenges into smaller pieces. I know this, but constantly seem to forget it and just become overwhelmed. Yet this single piece of advice is constantly reflecting through my life. In work, at home, in relationships, in anything that requires training – horses, dogs, children, husbands…whatever the issue is, if you break it down it will become manageable.

Your boss gives you some seemingly mammoth task (bosses love doing this!), break it down into small pieces, tackle it one piece at a time. You need to teach your child to tidy their room, break it down, first put away the books, and then the clothes, suddenly each job becomes doable, and our stress is swept away.

You wouldn’t expect your horse to be able to a half-pass unless you had broken down the exercise into steps? So why do we expect ourselves to be able to do things without breaking it down into steps? In order to teach the half-pass we first need a balanced trot or canter, we need a good leg yield, a good shoulders-in and quarters-in, only once we can move all the legs of the horse, can we add all the pieces together and ask for a leg yield.

Don’t do the same with yourself, don’t ask for a leg yield without having learnt the component parts. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Set yourself up to succeed! If you spend time on the building blocks the rest will follow. If you are finding something difficult stop and think, can I leg yield before I half-pass, can I walk before I run? We wouldn’t do it our horses, so don’t do it to ourselves. Give yourself the optimum conditions to succeed, don’t send yourself off to do a medium dressage test when you are working at novice level at home. Be kind to yourself, as you would to others…

Time outside is time well spent

One of the fantastic things about horses is that they force you spend much of your time outside. More so than other animals. Dogs you can walk outside for an hour, and then lie on the sofa with for the rest of the day. But horses require you to be outside for large portions of the day, they need feeding, their rugs changing, turning out, mucking out, bringing in, love, attention and fuss. They can use up your whole day, fill it with things to do, hanging around in the outside.

The benefit of being in the outdoors is well-documented, it restores mental well-being, reduces stress, reconnects us with nature, restores us, being physically active is good for our health, it improve our functions, improves our sleep, improves our stress levels. It’s basically like gold dust!

Horses, regardless of what we do with them, are good for us. The hours of being with them are soothing and relaxing. Riding them is merely co-incidental, a by-product even. At the moment, more than ever, we need our pockets of time in order to de-stress, to breath in and out, to simply be.

Horses are our outlets, our respite, our link to another quieter, softer, saner world. Just being there with them in their presence is soothing and cleanses our souls. They are the best of doctors, the greatest of therapists. In a time when so much has been taken away from us, we are left with our animals, and the great outdoors.

Whatever you do today, whether you are working on the frontline, homeschooling, attempting to keep your head above the water, make sure you spend time outside. No matter no busy you are, or how bad the weather is, that is the best thing that you can do for yourself, spend time outdoors, in nature, breathing in and out, waiting for this time to pass.

Be kind, always…

It’s okay to find things difficult. The world is tricky at the moment and it is okay to feel that. There was a meme going around about enjoying time with your children and spend time baking or gardening, you might have seen it. This is all well and good, but all it actually does is make parents feel guilty. All we should do is be kind to each to other. Maybe some people find the structure generated by school suits their children better, lots of people are still being expected to work from home while home schooling, which is entirely unrealistic. You may as well try and email your boss while doing a canter halfpass! Most people aren’t worried about their children not learning, they are worried about them not learning social skills, not seeing their friends.

Now more than ever we need to be kind, but not only to others but ourselves. If you wouldn’t say it to another person why would you say it to yourself. The world is challenging and it is okay to find it so. Telling people to be positive can be undermining, can make them feel their response is not valid. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to realign your expectations. Remember what you see online is a snippet of other people’s lives. For every positive post people put on you have no idea how much of the day they have spent sat on the floor crying and eating chocolate biscuits.

Don’t judge your life against other people’s social media posts. The world is difficult it would wrong to expect yourself to be unaffected by the circumstances. Be kind, realign your expectations, be kind, eat biscuits, be kind, hug your ponies, be kind, ring your friend, be kind. This too shall pass

Christmas miracle

I took my daughter for her first canter the other day. It was perfect! That was my Christmas miracle, the fact that there are perfect ponies, ponies that can give a child their first canter, ponies that will slow down if the rider is losing their balance, ponies that are simply perfect for the job they do.

We ask horses and ponies to do a range of different jobs. From riding school ponies, to racehorses, from para-dressage horses to showjumpers. They are endlessly obliging to our strange whims and desires. They are patient and tolerant, and when we decide that they should doing one thing and start doing another, they simply adapt.

It is simply astonishing when you think about it that they put up with us! They are far stronger than us, they could simply decide not to co-operate, but they don’t.

The pony that took my daughter for a canter, was incredible. The first time it simply went for a few strides. By the fifth canter, when the pony was more confident in the little rider, it went off happily and carried on cantering along the tracks.

Ponies like that are priceless, giving people good experiences builds confidence. Teaching children to ride by putting them on naughty ponies doesn’t help anyone. The children learn that ponies can be dangerous, the pony learns that it is in charge. Learning through positive experiences creates a better result, it creates harmony, and enjoyment. Lots of my childhood riding experiences were based around fear. Children don’t learn when they are scared, they learn when they are happy.

My Christmas miracle is a little pony called Dolly, and watching my daughter on that wonderful first canter. That was better than any fancily wrapped gift sat under the tree.

Our animals as teachers

Animals teach us so much about ourselves. They teach us patience and kindness, they teach us wisdom and tolerance. They teach us that you cannot use the same techniques for every situation. They teach us to be flexible and adaptable. They make us better people.

All the lessons you learn with your animals are transferable. Lessons from your horses can be applied to your dogs, lessons from your dogs can be applied to your toddler. The experience of having trained another being to do something, will always stand you in good stead. Whether you are training your dog not to jump up, or your horse to a do a better half-pass, many of the principles remain the same.

Animals have the ability to show us our good and our bad, our weaknesses and our strengths. Maybe we are not as patient as we could be, maybe we can be too prescriptive, whatever your flaw (and we all have them!) animals will show you. Because animals can’t tell you what you are doing wrong, you can’t become defensive. Your dog doesn’t say “Gosh you are so intolerant, why are you always like that, you’re such a bad person.” Your dog simply reflects you shouting at it, and makes you see your own behaviour reflecting back at yourself.

Great teachers always show rather than tell. We learn better by being shown. Animals are not judgmental in their feedback, whereas humans find it difficult to give feedback without adding their judgment in. Animals provide us with such a fantastic opportunity to learn more about ourselves. So the next time you think how much your animals cost you, think of the lessons they have taught you, and how much richness and depth they have bought to your life, and suddenly, they will seen cheap at the price!

Dark nights, short days

It’s not the weather that is depressing about the winter, though that can be tedious, it is the short days. The lack of daylight is my biggest problem. There is so little day in which to fit in everything that I want to do outside.

On work days you watch the light slowly fade from the skies and realise that you still have 2 hours left of staring at your computer before you can even go outside. And if you work outside, the day is suddenly incredibly short.

I don’t mind the cold, or even the rain, after all, there is no such thing as bad weather, simply bad clothes! This is true to an extent, buying decent outdoor clothes which are suitable for the location and the activity does make a difference. Walking clothes are designed for walking in, riding clothes are designed for riding. Even though it can seem extravagant to have specific different clothes for different activities it does make a difference.

Especially this year. This year walking is our saving grace, why else has there been such a rise in the price of puppies? The footpaths are once again full of people, carparks by well-known walks are overflowing onto the lanes. This year the money you haven’t spent in the pub, I suggest investing in good outdoor jackets, fleeces, layers. Layers are your friend, trapping in heat, providing you with the ability to alter your clothing depending upon intensity level. On, off, on off all day!

But clothing can’t help the day length, and unless you are lucky enough to have a floodlit arena or an indoor school, its simply too dark to ride. This said, simply hanging out with your horse at the end of the day can be a pleasant change from your office. Relaxing and de-stressing time spent simply being with your horse can be wonderful. If you want something to do with your horse that you can do in your stable, take a look at our books, Activate Your Horse’s Core, or Horse Massage for Horse Owners.

And remember it is less than 4 weeks till the shortest day, and then the days start getting longer again!

Equiband Review from Racehorse Recharge

One of the things we love about the Equiband System is that it can be used by all types of horses and ponies for a variety of different reasons. And we love hearing about how the Equiband has helped people and their horses. One of our lovely clients shared their story with us about the rehabilitation of an ex-racehorse named Bear…

“He’s really enjoyed his summer in the field and living out, putting on some grass belly, but the last few weeks he’s been back in and back to work. His groundwork is something that he enjoys and we get a lot of great beneficial progress from this for his transition from racehorse to riding horse. He’s very quick to learn and always tries hard and gives his best. He’s very athletic and it’s no surprise that he was a group 1 racehorse. I’m sure he will also be a 5 – star riding horse. We have been using the Equicore concepts system which is proving to be a great addition to our program. He is really lifting and using his abs with this which in turn makes him lift and work through his back and swing from behind. When under saddle you can really feel the difference.”

Bear is being re-trained by the super-talented Claire Townsend, of Racehorse Recharge. You can learn more the services that Claire offers on her website here at www.racehorse-recharge.co.uk

If you would like to follow Bear’s progress you can find Racehorse Recharge on Facebook by clicking here.

We love the work being done by Claire, as it can be difficult to re-home ex-racehorses and her services are optimising the chances of these horses being able to have a long and fruitful lives. We are glad that the Equiband System can play a small part in the rehabilitation of these incredible horses.