And miles to go before I sleep

My little horse must think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near...He gives his harness bells a shake to ask if there's some mistake

My little horse must think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near…He gives his harness bells a shake to ask if there is some mistake



I heard today is the 50th anniversary of the poet, Robert Frost’s death.  It reminded me of my favorite poem, which I like to read every year on the winter solstice.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost



By the time I finally made it outside to play with my horses, the rain had stopped, the mist had lifted, and the sun was breaking through the clouds.

the sun breaking through the misty clouds

the sun breaking through the misty clouds…


The pasture was too muddy to venture, so I played a liberty game with the horses in the arena.  The sand was heavy from the rain with big puddles everywhere and left over slush.  The horses treated me with casual indifference, not really interested in moving.  I could drive them quite easily, but drawing was difficult.  Sterling was far more cooperative than Monarch.  I think he’s lonely, missing his girl who’s off to college.  At one point I got Monarch to follow my draw, but as he got close, he nipped my jacket pocket, where he expected to find a treat, and then charged off.  I tried it again, but only got another charge.  He really didn’t want to play.

Instead of getting mad at Monarch or feeling sorry for myself because my horse told me he didn’t want to play, I went into the curiosity frame, and looked at the situation from 2nd person, my horse.  “Hmmm, what might Monarch be thinking….”  For the past two months my interactions with my horses has been to feed, check water, feet, and blankets.  Monarch has stopped seeing me as his partner; I’m just the waitress.

I needed to change the focus from food.  The arena footing was really too terrible to do any groundwork in reestablishing a sense of partnership, so I followed the horses back to the gate just to “be” with them, rubbing their faces and scratching their necks.  Cimarron, our cute rescue cat, joined our lovefest. buds


The interaction between cat and horses was irresistible; I grabbed my camera.



I’m wondering about the cat/predator—horse/prey relationship…..  Horses are amazingly adaptive animals.  Humans were originally predators of horses too.


At least someone wanted to play!!

Horses in the Mist

Renee and I chose the same goal: PLAY!  Today is the fourth day of a mist charged with an atmosphere of magic and mystery.

horses in the mist

It’s warm, (if I dress wisely); just above freezing.  When my horses finish their breakfast, I will put on my flannel lined jeans, my upper layers of fleece and nylon, a warm hat, waterproof ski gloves, and my favorite Dublin tall winter boots.  I will approach my horses with friendship and curiosity; “what would you like to play today?”

Form a Support Group when Pursuing Goals

Our book study group met to discuss Part I of the book Solo Schooling.  Our conversation revealed how similar our group is: in experiences, in goals, in needs.  I believe forming a support group like this will provide us with learning, advocacy, encouragement, inspiration, and insight.  We planned to discuss all of Part I, but after an hour and a half, we had barely finished Ch. 1.  The discussion was VERY RICH!!  Highlights included:

-Focus on the process, not the product.  This is the key to the coaching method.  When we go inside ourselves, we are surprised to discover how much we know about ourselves and our horses.  This is what the author means by getting into a resourceful state- p9.  We need to honor our knowledge and experience.

-We discussed the equation: Performance = Potential – Interference  and what kinds of things interfere with our riding performance.  Our group experiences more internal interference;  our “self-1” (the frame of praise/blame or success/failure) can get in the way of performance.  We will focus on allowing our “self 2”- (the intuitive self) to guide and nurture us.  Our group does not seem to have much problem with external interference- people, weather, competition, etc.

-NLP helps us discover patterns, which can aid us in our quest or sabotage our goals.  As coaches, we will help ourselves and each other discover our unique patterns.  This will be part of our “Resourcefulness.”

-We discussed  making choices that fit our beliefs and being comfortable with who and where we are to keep us moving forward in reaching our goals.  Jody shared her experiences with Joker, and how her friend pushed her into some dangerous and scary situations.  Jody has learned not to allow external interference to influence her decisions.  Part of this discussion dealt with the idea of ZONES- comfort/stretch/stress.  It seems we all have  raised young horses.  Dealing with their fears has created defensive postures and  affected our psyches.  We’ve experienced a range of fearful emotions from apprehension to panic.  We need to congratulate ourselves for how well we have worked though these issues.  Ch 2 p33 references  the “mental movie” strategy, which I found helpful.  See last blog: “An Update from Violet/Managing Fear.”

-P16 talks about Play, which I am guilty of ignoring.  We had a great discussion about playing with our horses during the winter, since the footing is poor.  Doing ground work, taking walks, and playing liberty games will build bonds, confidence, and attentiveness for both the horse & the rider.  Renee suggested we skip right to Part III, “GROUNDWORK,” for our next session,  since this is something we can do during winter.  Jody suggested that we all state a goal, & mine should be “Play with Monarch.”  I love this idea and plan to go out tomorrow, rain, sleet, snow, or shine to play liberty games with Monarch & Sterling.   This is quite a different goal than I had stated in a recent blog.  This goal is much more focused and do-able.  The group is helping clarify what I need.

-We also discussed from p17: take responsibility and accept yourself.  We all come to riding with different challenges; Daisy & I are aging and have sustained numerous injuries. Renee expressed her struggle with her position.  We will do a Tai Chi session at the “barn” when I return from Mexico, then play with how these movements help us tune up our saddle position and aid us in following and influencing our horses.  We will see how our horses respond to our focused “chi” or “qi….”  We had a great discussion on using curiosity & heightened awareness to solve problems or just provide feedback for improvement- Ch 2 deals more deeply with this topic.  The author calls it “relaxed focus;” I call it “effortless effort”- a tai chi term.  Jody & Renee emphasized the need to avoid “Pressurizing.”

-Chapter 1 ends with Wendy’s inspiring words, “You’re involved in a process, not dominated by a product.  You get to choose, plan, investigate, discover…puzzles bring rewards.  And because you’re relaxed, so is your horse…have better conversations together: you can listen to each other, and whisper rather than shout…”

We hurriedly wrapped up our session as the librarian prepared to close the library.  We chose Feb 20th to discuss Part III Groundwork, Chapters 9 & 10, pp 143-174.  I noticed the last section in Part III is titled, “Playtime.”  I guess that section is for me.

An Update from Violet or Managing Fear

I received this text from Violet’s mom the other day.  I believe Violet is bonding with Santo and learning to deal with her fear:



“……First thing this morning when Violet opened her eyes she said ‘ mom when am I going to ever have a horse lesson again?? I miss it so much.’  I obviously told her it is too cold now but we will as soon as it warms up – I thought it was cute and would make your day ;)….”

I saw Violet and Santo this past weekend.  He looks gorgeous!  His coat glistens, and there was a sparkle in his eye.  He and Violet get on very well.  The footing was terrible, but we did a bit of groundwork.  I’m looking forward to working with the two of them when we get a thaw.

I had an interesting insight for dealing with fear in the book Solo Schooling. Do you “play a movie” in your head and continue to relive your fear?  Do you stop the movie as your heart begins to pound and your stomach hosts a swarm of fluttering butterflies?

First remind yourself that fear is future thinking; it is not reality.  It is your imagination projecting what MIGHT happen, not what IS TO COME.

Second, when you stop the movie at the scariest past,  your brain feeds the fear, creating a monster that will threaten to overwhelm you.

Here is a step by step strategy based on this insight and other approaches to dealing with fear:

1. Stop imagining disaster, breathe deeply.

2.  Imagine how you can deal with this situation to resolve it safely and successfully.

3. Now restart the movie from where you stopped it; use your new ending.

4. Play this movie with the revised ending over and over until your fear becomes neutralized. This is what we do when we desensitize our horses, helping them deal with scary stimulus.

5. Be with your horse and play the revised movie.  Test your desensitizing strategy while you also stimulate your 5 senses.  Be aware of how your horse smells, how his coat feels, the quality of the look in his eye, the sounds he is making; maybe you want to skip taste….Keep playing the movie and focusing on your horse until you relax and regain confidence.

6.  Saddle up and replay the movie again.  Remember to breathe deeply when you begin to panic; then play your success movie  as many times as it takes to erase the panic reaction.  Be patient with yourself and celebrate approximations until you have complete success.

Solo Schooling: ride with precision (Part 1; Chapter 2)

Review: For winter, I have formed a book study to improve skills and knowledge even when it is too cold or footing is too icy to ride.  Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago discusses coaching strategies within the context of Neural Linguistic Programing, (NLP for short; NLP is a positive way of perceiving and acting/coaching is a positive process for  guiding & motivating).  Though this book was written for  riders, it is applicable to the general navigation of life.  It discusses strategic ways to reach goals and be successful.  I found the discussion about relaxed focus to be fascinating, (p35).  Relaxed focus is when you allow your subconscious to solve the thorny challenges that seem to elude the conscious mind.  In books about metacognition & problem-solving, one is advised to take a break when one is stuck.  Somehow this relaxing break allows the brain to process on a different level to explore novel solutions.

At the end of the chapter, I developed my goal:  I will ride with quiet precision to produce exquisite, animated precision in my horse.  

Here’s how:

TRUTH, ASSUMPTIONS, & PRESUPPOSITIONS, (P23) We think of our beliefs as true; examine whether the belief come from facts or a theory. Assumptions are patterns of experience or learning in which we reflect on the past, navigate the present, & anticipate the future. These are guiding assumptions, or (NLP- ”presuppositions”).

• When things aren’t going well, question what assumptions are guiding your thoughts and decisions

• Then ask, is this assumption -specific? (ex from book- my horse is lazy);   -generalized?  (ex- all horses are lazy); or  -globalized? (ex- people lack motivation unless they are pushed)…

ENABLING PRESUPPOSITIONS, (p24) are assumptions that improve communication & achievement:

• Effective Communication, (25)

  1.  involves dialog & negotiation, with our horse, ourselves, our trainer; strive for win- win
  2.  for the horse, we show sensitivity to how the horse receives & understands, which requires rider flexibility & refinement
  3. Be aware of internal dialog- powerful; is it in conflict with goals? Focus on positive approximations when pursuing goals, (be satisfied with improvement before excellence is achieved); be flexible in adjusting focus, strategies, agenda, etc

• States, (p26) Yours & Your Horse’s: determine what you can achieve; comprised of emotion, physiology, & mental processing. These states have characteristic postures, tensions, reactions. (This how how horses are able to “read” you.)  Know your state & your horse’s- leave emotions aside/horses pick up on riders’ states.

• Representing Issues to Yourself- know how you process.

  1. FRAMING (p29): Solve problems from your preferred learning modality- what kind of learner are you: visual, kinesthetic, auditory, etc?
  2. FILTERS (p31): know your strengths & weaknesses, (examine your assumptions).  Know your “meta-programmes” or modus operandi- your personal methods of operation- your predictable behavior patterns. Know your horse’s meta- programmes.
  3. MODELING (p32): detailed information, key to skill development; model both correct & incorrect for deep understanding; know/experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Combine modeling with framing to learn and to solve problems through your learning modality.
  4. FEEDBACK (p33): all is valuable. When it is wrong, it is not failure. Use mistakes to reach goals: ask questions & focus on HOW when giving feedback, (see ex p34). Feedback is “feed-forward” when you use: questions, curiosity, & exploration.
    1. use questions instead of statements, (statements limit & questions expand, so control is regained) Ask what happened, how it happened, what could be changed?
    2.  curiosity (exploring how) shifts focus from success & failure; (avoid the “praise/blame frame.”)
    3. explore by asking search questions (p35); When you haven’t information at the conscious level- engage your mind to process beyond awareness at the unconscious level, trust in your ability to solve problems with “relaxed focus.”
  5.  LESS IS MORE (p36): strategies to ride in lightness: Become aware of how you aid using precision, timing, & a light touch.  Become aware of how your horse responds. Explore how “quiet” you can be to develop a light horse.

GOAL: Quiet precision (me) yields exquisite, animated precision, (Monarch).