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…

Things to do in the rain…

The rain is rolling down my window panes with a seamless backdrop of grey skies. October is heralding in winter in all its gloomy glory. But our horses are still there waiting for us by their gates, or standing in their boxes, sleeping under the patter of rain on sheet roofing. They still need attention and interaction.

Some people are happy to ride in the rain, as are some horses, but some people hate it, or are starting to struggle with the darkening evenings. Sometimes riding isn’t an option, but there are other things you can do with your horse.

Grooming is a great way to spend time bonding with your horse. Old-fashioned grooms used to spend hours strapping their charges, bringing a gleam to their coat and giving their muscles a work out at the same time. In our time pushed world, we tend to go for quick fix, a quick flip round the tack areas before saddling up. But spending time just grooming your horse will be therapeutic and rewarding for both of you.

Massaging is another brilliant bonding exercise, learning some of the basic massage skills is an invaluable tool to have in your knowledge banks. Take a look at our ever popular “Horse Massage for Horse Owners” book, which will teach you how to give your own horse a lovely massage.

Our best-selling “Activate Your Horse’s Core” teaches you how to do stretches with your horse that will increase his flexibility, these exercises are invaluable to help your horse improve his evenness from side to side, and give you another activity to do with your horse.

Using a combination of the three will help you to spend enjoyable time with your horse, on those rain drenched, miserable days when you don’t want to ride, or even take him for an in-hand walk. Having a collection of different things to do, will prevent you both getting bored and will give hours of enjoyment and pleasure in each others company.

Making the best of it…

The first action to take is to throw away our preconceived notions of what we should be doing, or what we want to be doing and instead concentrate on what we can do. If we are always yearning for something else, we forget to enjoy what we have. After all if we are not happy with what we have, why do we think we will be happy with more?

The world is often difficult and even more so at the moment. So adjust your expectations and your threshold for happiness will change also. If your reduce your aims while life is challenging, you are more likely to reach your objectives and then feel satisfied. Setting yourself up to fail, doesn’t get you anywhere.

If you are struggling with stress and anxiety at the moment, don’t expect your riding to be calm and measured. You will only end up beating yourself up over it. Reduce your expectations. Now might not be the best time to try and teach your horse half-pass, instead do the things you both find easy, so that you end your schooling session smiling.

It doesn’t matter if you put back your desire to a medium level dressage test for another 6 months, in the grand scheme of things at the end of your life you are not going to lie there thinking about the fact that it took you a year longer to move up a level than you had planned. Remember the 5 rule. If it isn’t going to worry you in 5 years time, don’t spend more than 5 minutes worrying about it now.

Life can be difficult,  but it can be rewarding and entertaining and enjoyable, and even if it the moment we have to look a little harder and a little deeper to find the pleasure in the moments, they are still there…

Letting go…

The mental flexibility required at the moment is immense. The world is in a state of flux, and change is now a daily occurrence. Staying balanced during this time is a feat of mental gymnastics. Letting go of pre-conceptions is a huge part of mental flexibility. Making the most of what you can do, rather than hankering after the unobtainable is a life lesson in happiness.

This lesson can be applied to anything. This week I had to let go of my notion about how long my child should do swimming lessons for, as it is simply not practical to do swimming lessons during this time. Once I had let go of this fixed idea in my mind, other possibilities opened, other sports that are less restricted than swimming. It was a prime example in the merit of letting go.

The same applies in our schooling sessions. Sometimes we can come out with a fixed idea of what we want to work on today. And sometimes it will go to plan, but other days it simply won’t. At this point you are left with two options; battle away with your horse because, that’s what you had decided to do, or, take a step back, let go of your fixed idea and do something else. This is not “letting your horse win” or “not standing up to them” it is simply having a plan b. A lesson learnt through force and stubbornness will never be as effective as one learnt through enthusiasm and collaboration. So letting go, may be the best thing you ever do.

Be kind to yourself, the world is a complicated place, always and even more so at the moment, but learning to let go of your fixed ideas, will help you to flex and adapt in a rapidly changing world.

The right time for a challenge

A lot of life is about timing. Sometimes the right things happen at the wrong time, and sometimes the wrong things happen at the right time. Sometimes opportunities arise at the perfect timing. But we are not entirely powerless. We need to be aware of the timing of life, and how different periods of our life present different challenges.

It is good to stretch ourselves. It is good to challenge ourselves, but it is also important to pick your timing. You may want to learn to jump your horse, but if you are currently so stressed that all you can manage to do is simply groom him every evening, this is probably not the best time. If you have young children who wake you up all night, now is probably not the best time to do that difficult online course you had been looking at.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by not understanding the importance of timing. Timing is everything. If you are working on your trot canter transitions, there are some that feel effortless and others that don’t. Some of this is down to the timing of when you ask for the canter. There are good moments to ask for canter and bad ones. There are good times to challenge yourself and bad ones.

Sometimes there is no choice, you simply have to do it now. Take the job, ask for canter, you may be pressured by money, or your dressage test may say canter at M. But sometimes there is a choice and when there is a choice, make sure you take a moment to consider the timing of your choice. It may not be the wrong choice, but it may be the wrong time…