The great German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, famously said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” I owe Nietzsche deep thanks for teeing up the next ingredient of Leading the Change so, um, epically well. Before we talk about that next ingredient however, please allow me to quickly recap for those of you who may be new to my blog, or the concept of Leading the Change. The Archives on my freshly updated website contain the full story :)
Change is an inevitable part of life, but we usually think of it as a really crappy, scary, icky thing that we must endure, and, we avoid it like the plague. When training horses, however, we WANT change! Change is THE GOAL. How quickly we can make that change is one of the metrics we use to determine our success. By focusing on the change we want, instead of being reactive to change when we find ourselves in the middle of it, we ‘Lead the Change’ where we want to go. Leading the Change is HOW we achieve our wildest dreams. In addition to training horses, I also love to cook, so I like to to think of the tools we need to Lead the Change like ingredients to a gourmet meal. Similarly to cooking, we can add more or less of each of the key ingredients to the meal based on your tastes, preferences, and needs. We’ve already covered the first two key ingredients, Presence and Perception, and today, we're adding Persistence to the pan.
Persistence is defined as, ‘a firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition’. For us, the ‘course of action’ is the achievement of our goals and dreams, which if you have been following along, we identified in our Dreaming Big post and then actioned in Making Your Dreams a Reality. ‘In spite of difficulty or opposition’ is another way of saying ‘that which does not kill us’. (Thanks Nietzsche!) For our purposes then, persistence is making our dreams come true no matter what obstacles life throws our way.
And life sure does like to throw obstacles our way, doesn’t it?!? This last fall and winter have reminded me just how much life COULD challenge me with, if it wanted to, and not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars that life seems to be throttling the challenges it’s giving me, just a little bit. Being able to shift my perspective helps too! When things get difficult, and I mean REALLY difficult, quitting and changing direction no doubt can seem like the easier solution. For me, this would look like following my mentor and friend, Brandi Lyons', advice to sell my seemingly cursed property in California (that’s right folks, I’m STILL trying to get my barn permit) and move to Arizona, near her, but, 'Momma, didn’t raise no quitter!' Pride is not the reason that Persistence is important to Leading the Change however, because we are humble horse people. Respecting the way horses learn is the reason we care about persistence.
Horse’s learn our language through the classical conditioning techniques that Pavlov made famous with his salivating dogs. Without geeking out on you too much, repetition is the key for horses. Pick up the left rein, turn left. Pick up the left rein...turn left. It can take ONE THOUSAND repetitions of the same cue (pick up the left rein) for a horse to really truly LEARN what you are asking them to do (turn left). What happens then, if after 10 repetitions where our horse seems to totally be getting it, they stop instead of turning left, and we aren't Persistent, instead quitting because ‘the horse must be tired’ or 'doesn't like this exercise,' or my personal favorite, ‘'cause we must not have asked correctly.' Then the next time we get on and the horse stops when we pick up the left rein, we get frustrated, or angry, and move on to something else again, or even switch trainers or disciplines because the horse really doesn’t like or understand this, when in actuality, we had yet to do enough repetitions for the horse to learn what we wanted. They were still going through the process of elimination that helps them figure it all out. If we do this too much, our beloved horse gets so frustrated that they act out, earning them the “problem” horse label. We had the very best of intentions, were just trying to make our horse happy, but by not maintaining “obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition,’ the impact on our horse is anything but.
Persistence: it’s not just about making our dreams come true no matter what obstacles life throws our way, it is the key to understanding how horses learn. In order to Lead the Change, we must be obstinate in our pursuit of our goals, no matter how big and crazy (like turning a junk yard into an equestrian center by building everything yourself) or seemingly simply (pick up the left rein, turn left) those goals may be.
Be well my friends, and never stop Leading the Change!
Visit our website at www.defrateshorsemanship.com/blog to learn about the other ingredients of Leading the Change. While you’re there, sign up to receive notifications of our future posts, or better yet, contact us and set up some time to start Leading the Change with your horse! No seriously, go check out the website :) We’ve made some major updates and would love to know what you think!
Yes, I know it’s been a super long time since I’ve written a proper blog post. If you Like us on Facebook you may have seen some of our ranch updates, but if not, the long story made short is that we are making a lot of progress building our facility AND it is taking a lot longer than we thought it would, which ultimately is leading to an even better end result. See some of our progress at the end of this post. Our ranch building progress is also the reason why, despite my best efforts, it’s taken me almost six months to write this post. You see, I have actually been struggling an awful lot lately, both with the first key ingredient we discussed in the blog post The Power of Presence, but more so with the next key ingredient in our gourmet 'Leading the Change' meal.
Before we get to the polarizing effect that our next key ingredient can have if you don’t know how to Lead the Change, I would like to revisit the dreams you have with your horse, the ones you crafted the last time we spoke, um, nine months ago, and finally give you the next step to making them happen, ‘Leading the Change’ style.
Do you even remember that dream circle I had you make the last time we chatted? If you do, do you still have it? It was so long ago I wouldn’t blame you it you tossed it. Get that circle out for me if you do still have it, and grab another blank piece of paper or two while you’re at it. If you no longer have that circle, or you want see what all the fuss is about and maybe create one now, see our 'Dreaming Big' blog post for the full story, or jump right to our Mapping your Dreams exercise for the instructions; then come back here when you’re done. I don’t want to distract you from the importance of our next key ingredient with a novel length post, so when you are ready to start making your dreams happen, read our Making your Dreams a Reality guide for a step by step process, and please, contact me if I can be of any help along the way. Seriously.
If you will indulge me a little longer, I would like to finally introduce the next ingredient in ‘Leading the Change’, Perception.
The title of this post is, ‘If making your dreams come true was easy, everyone would do it.’ A fabulous friend of mine shared this wonderful piece of wisdom with me during a particularly dark time in my training certification program when I was ready to throw in the towel and come home. I loved the saying so much I would repeat it to myself multiple times a day, everyday, and boy was it true: my certification program was HARD, but I was making my dreams come true so it didn’t matter. The saying got me through the incredibly difficult time. This saying had become a daily mantra for me yet again late last year as I jumped through hoop after hoop with my counties permitting process, trying to get permission to build my barn. I don’t want to mislead you; achieving your dreams can be difficult, trying, and outright infuriating at times. You may have moments where you lose all confidence, all faith, and all hope, either in your own abilities, in your horse, in your trainer, or in some other combination of factors, all of which may lead you to lose sight of your dream, or even question if the dream still exists. We’ll talk more about this process in our next post, which I promise won’t take me so long to write. You may even experience some of this while doing the Making your Dreams a Reality exercise. This is Change, in yet another form, sneaking into our saddles again, grabbing those reins from our hands, and distracting us from what really matters. Read our What is Change? and The Power of Presence post to see a couple of Change’s other alter egos. This time however, Change is using our next key ingredient against us. Change is using our own perception to stay in control. Let me use my recent experience as an example.
For months I kept telling myself that my dream of building an equestrian facility, a barn specifically, was going to be hard, and it had to be hard, because, ‘If making your dreams come true was easy, everyone would do it,' and this is a dream I have had since I was a very young child, so it was going to be extra hard … right? Wrong! By focusing on how hard it was going to be, turns out all I could see was how hard it was, and that mindset put me in deep, dark hole that just got deeper and darker every time I told myself it was going to be hard, just like it was while I was in my trainer certification program. I’m told this is kind of a weird law of the universe, that you get whatever you focus on, so if you focus on something being difficult, you get a difficult experience, and let me tell you, everything about this experience was difficult. My favorite quote from this process is just one example of how ridiculous this permitting process is…”your road must hold a 75,000 lbs fire truck in all weather conditions because if your METAL barn is BURNING, in a TORRENTIAL DOWNPOUR, the fire truck needs to get to it to put the fire out.” If my metal barn is burning in a torrential downpour, I think we may have bigger problems than how much weight my driveway can hold. Just saying. That wasn’t the worst of it either, it got so bad, that if I hadn’t already paid for half of the barn as a deposit, I would have scrapped the whole idea of building one because the process of building it was killing me.
I lost touch with all my friends, blamed my amazing husband, the fabulous Mr. De Frates Horsemanship, for all our difficulties, obviously stopped writing this blog, and was questioning why I ever wanted to be a horse trainer in the first place. I was ready to give up on my oldest dream. Then, one day, as I was scoping out alternate locations on my property for us to put this stupid barn (because the first location was denied by the county) I had a revelation. I have property. I have a beautiful piece of property. I have so much pretty property that I have options on where to put this barn. Heck, I GET to build my dream barn on MY pretty property. Yeah, this permit process might be drawn out, and costly, and insanely stupid at times, metal barn burning stupid, but I am also insanely lucky that I get to go through it so I can BUILD MY DREAM BARN ON MY PRETTY PROPERTY.
As luck would have it, the second I started to feel grateful and appreciative of the situation, I looked up and found myself in a location that was even better than the first, with wondrous views of the sunrise AND the sunset, that also blocks the noise from the busy street while highlighting my beautiful arena. A location that is closer to my neighbors horses and gives my horses larger paddocks, while also meeting with the fire marshals requirements without us having to build a road that can support a fire truck in all weather conditions, that will allow me to be greeted by horses every time I turn down my driveway. And in that moment of gratitude, the magic happened. Instead of hating everything about the permitting process, and my life in general, my appreciation grew, and I was suddenly THANKFUL that the long, drawn out process of getting a permit did in fact take so long and was so thorough, because it if hadn’t taken this long, I would not have found this spot. Now, I’m still waiting on that permit, but my PERCEPTION of the process has changed, and thankfully, my attitude in general has followed suit. I have faith again, faith that it will all work out like it should, that I am in the right place, at the right time, doing what I am meant to do. I’d like to take a quick moment to send a huge thank you to the incredible Mr. De Frates Horsemanship for never letting me forget how capable I am, and how special I am to him, no matter what.
Change will try to use your Perception against you as you seek to achieve your dreams, and if you let it, it can steal those dreams from you, just as it may try to do while you map out your ‘Needs’ and ‘Haves’ during the dream exercise linked above, and just as it tried to do to me during my barn building process. Left to run amok, Change, at it’s worst, will alter your perception so much that you may not even remember that you have dreams you want to achieve. In order to ‘Lead the Change,’ you need to learn to focus your Perception on the positive, and tell yourself a story that feels good. Instead of focusing on how hard a process is, focus on how much you are learning along the way and how much knowledge you will have by the end. Instead of paying attention to how much you need to accomplish before you realize your dream, focus on how many little wins you will get to celebrate as you make your dreams come true.
I no longer tell myself that "If making my dreams come true was easy, everyone would do it," instead, I tell myself that “I have the ability to make all of my dreams come true.” If you have a dream with your horse, you can make it happen, and if I can be of any help along the way, I would be honored to hear from you. Until next time, stay positive and Lead the Change you want to see with your horse.
The last time we chatted, I promised to discuss HOW you figure out what to actually work on with your horse once you have made the courageous decision to Lead the Change, AND, if you’re following us, you also know that there has been something exciting in the works for De Frates Horsemanship. I can’t believe that was a month ago already. Well, I appreciate your patience and see no sense in making you wait any longer. First, figuring out what you should work on with your horse is a bit of a process, the first step of which just so happens to be the the next ingredient in that gourmet meal we’ve been calling Leading the Change. Exciting news second ;)
To successfully Lead the Change, and change your relationship with your horse, you need to capture, or document, your dream. I suggest sitting down in front of a fire with a glass of wine and a notepad, but to each their own. Remove all other distractions, like TV and cellphones, so you can be truly present in the moment (see our June 5th post to learn more about the Power of Presence.) Once you are all set up, draw a HUGE circle on a blank page in your notepad, and ask yourself this question.
If I had all the resources I needed: the education, the money, the time, the skill, etc., and none of the limitations I am currently facing, what would I do with my horse?
Fill your circle with your answers and don’t you dare hold back. There are no, “well, I can’t do this because of…” thoughts allowed when you are dreaming. Don’t allow reality to sneak into your circle either. I don’t care if horses can’t fly through the sky and take you to school (was I the only child that dreamed of commuting this way?) if that is your dream, that is YOUR dream; we will deal with the laws of gravity later. I know I’m telling you to dream big, but there are also no dreams too small or too silly. If you’ve always dreamed of your horse stealing an apple pie from your kitchen window, write it down!
Once you’ve exhausted all your dreams, the big, the small, and the silly, I want you to ask yourself one more question, and fill the rest of the white space in your circle with your answers.
How would I FEEL if I could do these things today?
When you are done, throw the date on that puppy and put it somewhere safe. We will revisit it next time we chat, but for now, don’t worry about how to make your dreams happen, just enjoy the dream buzz (or is that the wine?)
While you’re still on your dream buzz, I’d love to share my exciting news with you :)
Earlier this year, after I graduated from Brandi Lyons’ Certification program and had officially started De Frates Horsemanship, Mr. De Frates and I were talking business logistics but kept running into all sorts of limitations, so we took a step back and did a little dreaming of our own. Well...it took a while for all the pieces of the puzzle to work themselves out, but our dream is coming true!!!
De Frates Horsemanship is moving September 1, and we are opening up our very own training facility in Gilroy, CA right across the street from Red Fox Farm! I have dreamt of owning a ranch since I was a little girl, and our new property is a perfect combination of all of the dreams, big, little, and silly, that both Mr. De Frates and I have ever had, wrapped up in one pretty 10 acre bow :) There’s a lot of work to do (there are NO horse facilities currently), but if all goes according to plan, we will be fully operational in Spring of 2018 offering training, boarding, clinics, and lessons. We even bought a tractor to make quick work of all the construction!
June was a blur, wasn’t it?
To kick off the month I had the pleasure of assisting Brandi Lyons and the Brandi Lyons Horse Training Crew at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento, CA. It was a ton of hard work, but so worth it and I left feeling ridiculously proud to be a Brandi Lyons Certified Trainer. I met many wonderful people during the expo, all from different walks of life, coming from varying locations, no two with the same experiences, goals or issues, yet after a quick conversation, almost all of them asked me the exact same question, “Where do I start?” My answer to each of them was also the same, “Congratulations; you already have!” How could so many different people, facing completely unique situations, all have taken the first step towards Leading the Change and not even know it?
The answer is relatively simple. It doesn’t matter what type of relationship you currently have with your horse, it doesn’t matter what discipline, or lack thereof, you choose, your experience level doesn’t matter either; the first step towards achieving your goals, whatever they may be, is deciding that you want something different than you have now. Simply put, the first step towards achieving your dreams is to decide to make a change to your current state. We call this, Leading the Change, and it all begins with the answer to one simple question...
Do you want more out of your relationship with your horse? Yes? Well then, let’s pop the bubbly because congratulations are in order! You too have just taken that all important first step on a very powerful journey. Great work ;)
“Okay, that’s nice Dana,” is what you’re thinking now; I know because that’s what every person I talked to at the Expo said to me, and next you’re going to ask, “so, HOW do I get more out of my relationship with my horse? What book/video/product/gimmick/quick fix do I need to buy to give me this relationship of my dreams? How much is it going to cost me?” Especially true at the Expo as I stood in front of an entire display of training products…
This folks, is where I’m going to ask you to slow down for a second, breathe, maybe even sit down, because I have some difficult news. There is no quick fix. There is no magic product. There is no amount of money that will give you want you really want, assuming of course, that you want a wonderful, meaningful, trusting relationship with your horse. All relationships take time to build, and all QUALITY relationships take work to maintain. Even if all you want is a well broke horse to go out on a trail ride with every so often, you still have to work to build a relationship with that horse. Even if you buy a horse that already has all the fancy buttons you could ever want built in, you still have to put in the time to form a relationship with your new partner. There are no workarounds, no alternatives, and no products that can do this for you; you simply have to put in the time.
The good news is this that is the fun part! Taking the time to build a great relationship with your horse is not only key to actually building that great relationship, it's also one of the best ways a horse lover could ever spend their time. At some point our society lost interest in anything that took time to accomplish and people started searching for a quick fix to all our problems. I believe that this started because people didn't know WHAT they should be spending their time working on to help them achieve their goals, and that’s where the No Limits Program comes into play.
Brandi’s fundamentals can help you fix almost any problem, and there are ‘No Limits’ to where her method’s can take you. One of the people I talked to at the Expo was looking for help leading their pushy horse from the barn to the pasture, and another was working to perfect Tempi changes (a dressage term for changing canter leads every stride). These were two totally different goals that both found help in the No Limits Program and it is one of the reasons why I’m so proud to be one of Brandi’s certified trainers. It doesn’t matter where you are in your equestrian journey, as long as you are willing to take the time to work on your relationship with your horse, you can achieve your dreams with the No Limit’s Program, and I get to help you do that! How cool is that?
Next time I'll share more about what else happened for De Frates Horsemanship in June and we'll dig into how we figure out what you should spend your time working on to achieve your goals, but first, I want to know, what does your equestrian dream look like?
Learning to Lead the Change won’t happen overnight, but it won’t take you years to master either. I also love to cook, so I like to to think of Leading the Change as a gourmet meal, and in order to make this meal we will need a few key ingredients. The first ingredient we will discuss is Presence.
Presence is defined as, “the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing,” and you can not Lead the Change without being present. By definition, presence should be easy; you simply have to exist, and bam, you are present. Super easy, right? Sadly, that is not the case. To be truly present, you must do so in body AND in mind. Unfortunately for most of us, our world is filled with so many distractions that even when our bodies are present, our minds are elsewhere.
Let’s take a step back for a moment; why do you want to be involved with horses? Go on, take a minute to really think about this before you read on. I’ll still be here, I promise…
Welcome back! I don’t know why you want to be involved in horses, but I have horses because I love everything about them. Horses are beautiful, powerful, gentle creatures who are so incredibly trusting and willing to give all of themselves to those they trust, it’s inspiring. That willingness and trust allows us to build a relationship with them that is beyond words, a connection that can not be duplicated in any other relationships we form. I train horses because I want to others to experience this type of relationship; see our 5/17/17 blog post about Jason Leading the Change for just one example. There are some days though, that I just want to ride my old mare on the trail and escape the rest of my world. The time I get to actually just ride Angel is beyond rare though, and therefore, extremely precious.
If you are anything like me, the time you have with your horse is also pretty precious, you spend a lot of money to have this horse, sacrifice a lot to make the time to spend with them, and you want to form the type of relationship I’m talking about. Far too often however, this becomes what that precious time look like.
Now, before you get defensive and tell me you were just checking the time, or changing your pandora station, stop. You will get no shaming from me; I’m guilty of this too, but oddly enough, only when I’m on my favorite horse Angel…the one that I rarely get to ride. Isn’t that funny?
Why do we so readily sacrifice what is most precious to us to distraction? It’s not just our mobiles that distract us either, they are just the only distraction I have a picture of to use as an example. Distractions are anything that take our mind away from our body, and they are plentiful.
This phenomenon is not limited to us equestrians either, it is an epidemic in our modern world. How many times have you sat down to dinner with a loved one and spent most of your meal distracted by watching TV or texting a friend?
Distractions are not inherently evil and some are beyond beautiful; regardless, they are Change’s most favorite way to sneak in and take over, so in order to Lead the Change, we must be present and avoid distraction. We can still Lead the Change once Change has used distraction to take away our presence and sneak into our saddle, it will just take more time and some ingredient substitution, but if we can avoid distraction and stay present, our gourmet meal known as Leading the Change, will come out much tastier with much less effort.
Someone great once said that, “The greatest gift you can give someone is your time because when you are giving someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you will never get back.” I disagree. We’ve already seen how distraction can sabotage your precious time. Presence; it is not only the first ingredient in Leading the Change, it is the most precious gift you can give. So why not give your presence to your horse, to your loved ones, and most importantly, to yourself?
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Change is a constant force that has the ability to alter our plans and shape our futures in a variety of ways. Change is so powerful that if you let it take the reins, it might just rip them out of your hands and buck you off, but if you can take back the reins, you can steer Change in a direction of your choosing. When you learn to harness Change’s power and LEAD instead of follow, you unlock the ability to create your dreams.
Jason and Boo were having a pretty good day when Change threatened their plans. They were working very hard to learn a couple of new exercises that would set them up for smoother lope transitions, and Jason was ready to call it a successful day when Boo’s pasture mate started calling for him on the other side of the ranch. Now, if you know Boo, you know he is the sweetest horse in the world, but he struggles with separation anxiety, and when Boo gets anxious, Boo bucks. Change had snuck into Jason’s saddle and was trying to stage a coup, forcing Jason to make a critical choice. He had three options: let change take control of his ride, and most likely end up in the dirt; take back the reins and stay on the horse; or harness the change and LEAD it where HE wanted to go. Now, in the heat of the moment, Jason chose option two, he took the reins away from Change, stayed on the horse, and tried to continue on from the place where Change had taken him. While safe, Jason wasn’t satisfied; sure, Change no longer had the reins, but Change was still in the saddle, whispering in Jason’s ear, reminding him that if he let his guard down for just a moment, Change would be there to take over again, and this time, it would put Jason in the dirt. Instead of continuing to focus on what Change had done to him, and lamenting the loss of what was shaping up to be a really good ride, Jason decided to make a new choice, he decided to LEAD THE CHANGE.
Jason used a fundamental exercise to calm the anxiety that Change had created in Boo, and led them to something that Jason never thought was possible. When you are ready to Lead the Change, contact us; we're here for you!