Decision making

Someone told me once that teaching your children how to make decisions was one of the best life skills you could teach them. I think this is probably true. Life is full of endless decisions from the small, “what shall I have for breakfast?”, to the large, “shall I buy another horse?” Every decision that we make changes our lives. Some people struggle with decision making, whilst other seem to sail easily through.

I think decision making is difficult. Some people find themselves with “paralysis by analysis” whereby you simply render yourself incapable of making a decision. Some people always pick the easiest option, some always seem to pick the hardest. Some people fail to weigh up their options. The list of way that we can struggle with decision making is seemingly endless.

However there are some good pieces of advice. One is, ask other people’s opinions. Have a group of people who seem to make good choices. Don’t ask for financial advice from someone who is living in a caravan after going bankrupt for the second time. Don’t ask for relationship advice from someone who is on first name terms with their divorce lawyer. Don’t ask for advice on your horse from someone whose horses are always lame and who changes trainers every five minutes.

Weigh up the evidence. Read about critical thinking. Wikipedia defines critical thinking as: “the analysis of facts to form a judgment. The subject is complex, and several different definitions exist, which generally include the rational, skeptical, unbiased analysis, or evaluation of factual evidence.” Don’t base decisions on the opinion of one person. Do your own research.

Believe in yourself. If you have carefully evaluated the evidence, drawn your own conclusion, don’t let yourself be knocked off course by other people. Respect yourself enough to trust that you have made a considered decision.

Decision making can be difficult, but as with everything start small. Evaluate your small decisions and apply a logical process to them. You might be amazed by what you learn…

Never lose that joy…

One of the great things about children is their joy in the present. As we get older, we become more pre-occupied and distracted by the stresses and pressure of our life. But children have that opened-eyed awe of the world. Children will be delighted by muddy ponies grazing in a field. Children don’t think of the work, or the cost, or the scheduling of horses around work. They don’t worry about getting that extra dressage percent, or whether the lorry will pass its MOT. They just enjoy the ponies in the field.

It is so easy to forget why we fell in love. We become caught up in the crazy circus of life. We forget that as children we just loved our ponies. We loved the ones we walked past on the footpath, the ones we biked past on our way to park, the ones we were occasionally allowed to ride at the riding school. We loved them.

If you are competitive or driven, it can be easy to forget the simplicity of that first love, the love of the pony in the field. It is easy to become ensnared by ambition and competition. That is not to say that competing isn’t wonderful, that ambition isn’t brilliant, because they are. But for some people they can lose that little child who just wanted to stand on the gate and watch the ponies graze. The little child who just wanted to hug them and pat them and didn’t think about scores, and judges.

Don’t lose the little child inside you. Don’t ever lose your wonder of the world. Don’t ever lose your pleasure in those simple moments, those wonderful moments that string together to make a wonderful life. That little child standing on the gate, is still there inside of you, don’t forget that.

Opening and closing doors

There is a great saying (and I am fond of a saying!) which says remember when you say “yes” to something, that means you are inherently saying “no” to something else. It doesn’t mean saying “yes” is a bad thing, just that you can only use that period of time to do one thing, and you choose what to do with it. You can never have that period of time again.

This resonated with me recently, after I didn’t get an opportunity that I was pursuing. Though I was initially disappointed, because we are all human after all, I had a think. I thought of all the others things I wanted to do in my long term plan, which I probably wouldn’t have done if I had got the other opportunity.

You cannot do everything, and you certainly can’t do it all at the same time. Every choice that you make have a repercussion. It can be impossible to know what is for the best, and what have happened if you had made a different choice. You can see it sometimes when you look back how a series of choices led you to a certain place. But while you are living it it can be hard to see the best path.

Some people have very clear ideas of what they want their lives to look like, and some people have none. You may be living your ideal life and wondering why it doesn’t feel right. Or you may be living a life that is not remotely how you imagined it would be, but you love it! Every life is different. But the one thing we do know is that you can’t live that time again, so every yes, have an opposing no. Just like simple physics were every force has an opposing force. So the next time you don’t get a seemingly brilliant opportunity, just consider what you would have said “no” to to achieve that “yes”, and remember every door that closes, another one opens…

Snakes and Ladders

I always think fitness is a little like snakes and ladders. Intermittently I run quite a lot and between times I eat biscuits. Life is all about balance. Running is quite straightforward in terms of building fitness. Run for 20 mins, then gradually increase your time. The snakes come out with illness, injury or life getting in the way.

Horses can feel the same. We can feel like we are getting somewhere, and then we have a setback, maybe we have to work late all week, and suddenly the next week it feels like you have slithered all the way back to the tail of the snake. In the same way, if I don’t run for a few weeks, too much work, had a cold, suddenly I feel terribly unfit and feel like I too have slithered down the snake.

However, the light in all of this is the ladder of repetition. Because I have previously been able to run, it doesn’t take that long to return to fitness. Because you have worked hard with your horse, the week off will be quickly overcome, as you climb up the ladder.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still disheartening. But the initial work never goes to waste. When I first started running I couldn’t run for a bus. (Could ride horses, muck out, etc all day) The first time I got myself to running 3 miles it was a tremendous effort. Now it never takes that long to get back there. In the same way, the initial work teaching a good trot canter transition may have been an effort, but even after a break re-teaching it is never as hard.

Setbacks may feel disheartening, the snakes may frustrate us, but never forget about the ladders of repetition. Those few weeks off will be quickly overcome. So don’t fret if life gets in the way, you will soon be moving up the board again.

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…

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

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!

Love in all its shapes and sizes

Over the years I have had many different animals, horses, dogs, cats, chickens, geese. I have loved them all in different ways and for different reasons. I have had horses that I have loved because they were beautifully well schooled and a delight to train. I have had horses that I adored because they were cute and they let me sit down beside them in their fields. I have had horses that were rescued from mud drenched Welsh hillsides and ones bought from manicured yards in green belt land.

I have had dogs which I have loved for their crazy exuberance, and others for their cuddles. Big dogs and small dogs, dogs that were well-trained and others that were less so. Some from puppies and some as rescue. All the animals that I have had, all with their different quirks and foibles.

One thing that has always struck me is this. That while I have loved them all, and in different ways, it is how we fall in love with them that is curious. Many we fall in love with gradually, as we get to know them, as we start to appreciate their characters, whereas other simply fall like a jigsaw place into a part of our heart that we didn’t know was missing.

These loves are not better or worse, after all they are all simply love. And our love for our animals fills our days with joy. So if you are worrying about whether you will love your new horse or dog the same as your current, you probably won’t love them in the same way, nor will you fall in love in the same time span, but rest assured you will love them and each animal will give you something that you didn’t know you were missing…

Changing priorities…

Life changes, and with it our priorities change. Adjusting to our changing priorities can be difficult, sometimes it feels like you have been focused on some target for many years, and suddenly it loses its allure, and we realise that our priorities have changed.

Remember when you were young, and staying out all night was great fun? And now being tucked up in bed with a good book by 10pm is the ultimate delight? That is simply your priorities changing. As our life changes our views, our outlooks change.

When you were younger riding horses as fast as possible was an aim, now a spook-free hack is a delight. When we were younger we might have been more results driven, and gained satisfaction from winning at a show, or beating our rival. Though often as you get older, you appreciate the delights of training more than the pinnacle of the competition.

Age changes us, experiences, both good and bad, change us, so that our priorities change. If you have had a bad fall, success might be a hack without feeling nervous. If are older, a ride where your hip doesn’t hurt might be the ultimate indicator of success. These aspirations are no less valid or important they are just different. All our personal goals are just that, they are personal, they are all equally valid and important. We cannot judge our goals against the goals of others. We don’t know what battles other people are fighting, we don’t know what constitutes success to someone else.

So be kind, to yourself and to others. Even if your aims aren’t as seemingly ambitious as they once were they are still your aims. They are still valid and you should still be proud of them. Take a moment to look back at where you have come from…