Throw away your agenda!
Did that sound like a shocking statement to make?
It did to me when a trainer first told me this. I am a very organized, systematic person and I think I went into panic mode when I first heard this.
- What do I do?
- How do I teach my horse what I want him to do?
- Without an agenda, how do you even think about teaching something?
- What do I do?
Yes I meant to say that twice. I was instantly befuddled and confused about what I should be doing instead of using an agenda. I was completely lost and absolutely dumbfounded. I couldn’t even speak.
My trainer just laughed at me when she saw how that fried my brain.
It was like telling a straight ‘A’ student who studied all the time, to throw away her books, go to class, and then just take the final exam.
I know it sounds backwards, but it is actually scientifically sound advice. It has been proven that if a person just listens to a lecture, without taking notes and without reading a book about what is being said, they will learn more and have better retention.
How does that work?
It works because the mind is programed to forget things, on purpose, when you write it down because your brain knows it’s saved for later and that you don’t HAVE to remember it. You have it to fall back on later so you don’t need it now.
But if you don’t read it in a book or take notes during the lecture and instead you intently listen to the lecture; your brain is more focused on the subject, it will associate what’s being discussed to other things you know and it will put more importance on remembering the lecture.
Well, it’s the same for you and your horse.
I do believe you need a general game plan and even certain steps that you can do when something doesn’t quite go as planned. So, when you get to a certain level with your horse and you want to “level up” some more, that’s when you throw out the agenda.
But, you do have to have a solid foundation, a solid base, and a solid understanding of your horse and how he or she works and feels first.
There is a beginning, middle, and end in training. Don’t throw out the agenda until you get to the end and want to go further. Otherwise, you’ll be doing a whole lot more trial and error and may risk teaching bad habits not good ones.
Let me explain how I figured this out and how this can help you.
In my personal coaching program, I have a beginning, a middle, and an end. I actually have two ends – an end and an encore which takes you a bit further.
I like to start wherever my students are with their horses to get a feel for what’s going on with both of them. Then we start back at the basics for them and their horse to make sure there is a strong foundation. A reset, so to speak. That is my “Recess with Your Horse” program.
This also gives me a good look into their connection, the trust that they have in each other, their horsemanship skills and the knowledge and skills that their horse has, and what their horse enjoys doing.
Very often I see that my student has a particular dream in mind and has a particular path they want to follow and are set in their ways. However, they don’t realize that their horse has his or her own dream and actually enjoys doing different things. They don’t always sync up.
A student wants to learn how to ride their horse bareback and bitless in Dressage competitions. But their horse is giving them slack and just isn’t connecting or learning what they want them to. It’s a frustrating and difficult up-hill battle.
Then when given a break and hitting the reset button, they allow their horse to explore and do what makes them happy. It turns out their horse loves going on trails and exploring with them. So, when they start going on trails with their horse, they find out they can go bareback and bitless without any issues and their horse seems advanced as he excels at this type of interaction. A happy compromise.
Then we go on from there. The next step is the medium and end part of my personal coaching program called “The 3 C’s of Horsemanship”. I like to pair what the student’s dream goals are with what their horse enjoys and find a happy medium so that they BOTH excel at what they want and are happy.
Yes, we do start with an agenda – a lesson plan, exercises, games, and very specific things to do in a very specific way. However, that’s the middle part.
That’s how I can see what’s currently going on and “Push the Easy Button” for both my student and their horse to allow them to work better together. Getting rid of the bad habits, the old routines that don’t work anymore, and adding new and exciting routines.
Then near the end the magic happens! That’s when I say, “Throw out your agenda!”
Once the connection, the bond, the trust, the willingness to please, and the leadership is established it’s time to level up.
Every single one of my personal coaching students can attest to this moment in time because this is where EVERYTHING CHANGES.
There is a week or a few weeks when all of a sudden things don’t feel the same, things get confusing, and frustration seeps in. Everything was going great and working and now something happened and you have no idea what.
This may sound like a bad thing, but it is just the opposite.
This is when the physical steps and the emotional steps that have been taken change to a much deeper level. Body, Mind, and Spirit become one.
Most people stay in the physical stage with their horse and things become “old hat” and they both get stuck in a routine. There’s nothing wrong with this if you and your horse are content and don’t want anything more.
Everything is working to a certain level and you’re both fine to stay there and content with where you are. This is the level of the Body.
Lots of people go on to the next level, that of the Mind. They become connected with their horse at an emotional level and they learn to have a beautiful relationship together doing things on the ground and in the saddle.
Again, there is nothing wrong with this either as this I where I was for many years with my horses and I was very happy to be at this level.
I actually didn’t realize that there was another level.
Then I went through a frustrating time with my horse Jazz where he seemed bored, wasn’t listening as well, and seemed to push back on the easy stuff. It seemed that everything I did just wasn’t working as well and nothing clicked. And it had been fine for years.
What the heck?
It was very frustrating and confusing for me. What had I done that caused this? What was my horse trying to tell me? What was wrong? What did I need to do to fix it?
I wanted to make it easier on both of us and felt that maybe I had gotten the most I could out of Jazz and he couldn’t learn anything more or go any further in his training. I thought we had gotten to the end of his training ability, or mine.
So, I went back to lower-level lessons that I knew he could do because I thought I was pushing him too much, doing too many new things, and trying too hard to teach him more and more and more. Well, me asking for more and pushing was part of the issue.
The other part was that he was telling me he wanted more from me!
Whoa! He was trying to teach me something new.
He wanted a deeper, spiritual connection. He wanted to talk to me. He wanted me to listen to him in a new way. He wanted me to hear him.
Listening to his body language and hearing him talk to me are two completely different things.
His way of telling me this was to push back and try to push me into a direction I wasn’t willing to go because I didn’t know I could. I didn’t know it was even possible.
I realized this only when I gave up and gave in. I just threw my hands up in total despair and frustration and gave up what I was trying to teach him. So, I gave up training him.
I just decided to be with him and enjoy his company. Basically I went on vacation with him. I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
Just because I gave up on teaching him, I didn’t give up on wanting to be around him. I didn’t know what to do next so I did nothing. I needed a break from training and so did he.
I threw out my agenda.
This is where the encore comes in. We did nothing but be together for about a month. We ate together, hung out together, went for walks on a lead rope together checking out the best grassy spots. We became friends, best friends.
When I had an agenda and was teaching all the time – mostly working with a little play time – I was always thinking. My mind was always engaged. Plus we were always doing something.
But now that I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong, I just relaxed and stopped thinking. I gave in. It did take me awhile because I’m such an active person. Quieting my body and my mind was pretty difficult for me. That wasn’t even what I was trying to do. It just happened because I stopped doing things.
For the most part I started talking to Jazz about everything on my mind, out loud. I would just sit with him while he ate grass and babble on about what was going on in my life, who I was seeing, how work was going, etc. Just like you would do with a best friend.
I just talked and talked and talked. We would go on walks around the pasture or on nature trails and I was constantly talking to him. Jazz was very patient.
And just like when you’re talking to your best friend…I became more relaxed and happier.
But something extraordinary happened…
I had said all I could and I ran out of things to say. So, I stopped talking. That’s when Jazz decided to get closer to me. He would stand right next to me doing nothing and just relax with me.
Then he would put his head on my shoulder, or on my head, and fall asleep. He would get really close and put his chest on my shoulder and drop his head into my lap and fall asleep.
I knew he was safe to be that close because I could feel it and he would always be slow and gentle. This brought out a unique feeling in my heart and soul. I became quiet and peaceful. It was the most amazing feeling to be so quiet and content.
It was a unique sense of peace. Both my mind and my body were at peace which brought about the spiritual connection with Jazz. The encore.
Before this moment, I could always read his body language and he mine, we enjoyed each other’s company and liked working together and riding together. We had an understanding, so to speak, on what we did when and how.
It was a good working relationship and I loved him deeply. But this spiritual connection was different.
And all of a sudden I thought something, quietly, and I heard Jazz answer me. I could feel what he was feeling and I could hear him for the first time.
I almost fell out of my chair and I just started crying because I could feel him so deeply. If someone had told me that this type of spiritual connection was possible, I would have thought they were nuts.
I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it for myself.
Jazz just looked at me and sighed and I heard him say “it’s about time. Welcome home mom.”
And our relationship was changed forever, never to go back to the way it was. By the way, there were no more glitches, push backs, major issues, nothing. However, we did have discussions about things and we came to compromises with each other, but it was very different now. We had reached the Spirit level.
So if you are at that point in time when stuff that used to work isn’t working anymore and you’re frustrated and can’t figure out what’s going wrong or what you did to elicit your horse’s response…
…Maybe your horse is trying to tell you he or she wants more from you.
…Maybe your horse is trying to get you to the Spirit level.
…Maybe your horse wants you to hear him.
It’s time to take a vacation together. It’s time to throw away your agenda.
Just for a while, maybe a week, maybe a month, maybe forever.
Enjoy being with your horse in his world. Stop asking more and more from him. Stop your old routines. Stop thinking. Stop pushing. Stop being frustrated. Stop trying to figure it out.
Start quieting your mind and your body. Start doing what your horse does. Start paying attention to nature around you. Start just being with your horse. Start enjoying doing nothing together.
Give yourself and your horse a break.
If you’re in this spot – it’s a good thing and it’s the perfect time to shift and allow yourself to go to the next level and hear your horse. Quiet your mind and listen.
I truly hope you are at this level with your horse as it is so amazing. If you’re not at this level I know you can get there. Everyone can who has the desire to be there.
And if you would like my help, just give me a call and we can discuss where you and your horse are, where you want to be, and how to get you there. It’s a complimentary call and I’m happy to help wherever I can.
Until next week, have a great weekend and Happy Horses!