Developing Awareness

bright eyes & intense focus with all senses

bright eyes & intense focus with all senses

original watercolor painting, “Monarch,” copyright Cheri Isgreen

Text from Solo Schooling book study

For non-equestrian subscribers, read these coaching/motivation notes with your non-riding goals in mind.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.

Part 2: “Getting Started;” Chapter 3: “Becoming More Aware”

Our book study skipped all of part 2.  We had a rich discussion on part 3, which developed into the epiphany of “Joy, Moderation, and Gratitude.”  In the interest of continuity, I will return to part 2, “Getting Started.”  Today’s post will be my ideas and notes from Chapter 3, “Becoming More Aware.”  Please share your own experiences about awareness.  These ideas expand to all aspects of life.  How do you develop awareness?  How has heightened awareness affected a relationship, a problem, or an event?  Are you using the principles in this book?

P40 Use observation to develop awareness.  Hone your observation and awareness to be rapid and detailed through internal and external monitoring.  Foster your ability to connect present input and patterns with past information.

P 41-42     DEVELOPING SENSORY ACUITY through focused interpretation of experiences through all 5 senses:

  • sight- what is happening visually
  • sound- notice breathing patterns, footfall rhythms, etc
  • feel- interpret physical sensations
  • smell- deeply inhale your horse’s good smell
  • taste- do you have a dry mouth from nervousness?  Is your horse relaxed & salivating?

(As noted above, recreate empathetic sensory experiences from your horse.  This is taking second position.)


  1. target a skill for improvement or a specific problem to solve
  2. determine whether the focus will be on you or your horse  (If the focus is on you, taking first position, ask less of your horse during the session.)

P42-45     TAKING DIFFERENT PERCEPTUAL POSITIONS  If the focus will be on your horse, (2nd position), imagine yourself in his experience.  Determine whether he understands you, why he shows anxiety or resistance, etc.

Explore taking third position.  Step outside yourself to gather input as a concerned observer.  The focus can be on either you or your horse in third position.

Regardless of the position, ask lots of questions, embrace a variety of answers, and experiment to discover which answer may hold the key.  Describe in detail any repeating pattern, then change one thing at a time to note what happens.  Use these criteria for focus:

  1. OBSERVABLE EVIDENCE: ask What?  When?  How?  Who?  Where?  Avoid blame; don’t ask why?
  2. RELEVANT: aspects that impact the ride: feelings, beliefs, attitudes, states, techniques
  3. INTERESTING: the focus must be interesting enough to develop commitment and effort.  Flow is that which is natural and fluent, making the process absorbing and harmonious.

P45-47    CALIBRATION- Spotting Differences and Changes     Notice and measure change.  Calibrate change in past and project change to the future based on current evidence.  Develop skill to consciously calibrate riding progress during and after each ride.  (Journal and/or discussion could be useful tools.)  Examples of calibration:

  1. Compare skill or technique of someone you admire to your skill or technique.  What is similar/different?  What is the key difference?  What is the simplest change you can make?  Does this move you toward improvement?
  2. Compare feel: How does it feel now?  How will it feel when it is refined?  What is different?
  3. Recall an outstanding moment: what made it special?  Now ride for the moment.
  4. Imagine improvement: create a “compelling future” by using your 5 senses to create a representation of your goal so  strong and attractive that you are positively drawn toward achieving it.
  5. What other calibration strategies may work for you?  List  some personal calibration strategies you want to explore.

NOTE: use calibration to gage progress.  Use progress for motivation.

P48-49     SKILL-BUILDING TIPS   Engage in keen observation.  Detailed investigation will open possibilities and reveal information without criticism or pressure.  Suggested ways to become a detective of your experiences:

  • Choose one thing and allow sufficient time to develop your focus.
  • Concentrate on one sense, then build awareness from other (less dominant) senses until undertanding is rich and complex,
  • Be creative to get sensory input from unfamiliar ways: (example- ride on a lunge with your eyes closed to focus your sense of feel.)
  • Identify moments of change.  What happened just before?  What was the relationship of the moment and the change?


2 comments on “Developing Awareness

  1. Los to think about. Good comprehensive analysis and questions for the rider/owner to work on and continually develop. Wish I were younger. I would start over again.

    • This book is easily applied to real life- not just riding. In fact, all the strategies were taken from mainstream NLP/life coaching and applied to riding. Many of the techniques and strategies are familiar to me from my long career in education- some from learning theory and some from building interpersonal relations. Develop a goal- what do you want; now start working through the techniques and strategies to attain that goal. Let me know what you have chosen and how the process is going. I’m learning so much about life from this book, and use it more away from the barn than during my riding.

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