I love the change of the calendar year, though I rarely make it to midnight on December 31. I love to spend this day reflecting on the year and giving thanks for all of the inspiring moments I’ve had. At the top of this list is always a thanks to all of you, who allow me to pursue my passions and give me support in so many ways to continue my journey as a horsewoman and as a person. I hope all of you know that I really listen to the feedback that I get from you and my future will be directly impacted by it. The honesty that the horses and their humans give me about my strengths and weaknesses is really the best compass anyone could have in developing their life and for that gift I am incredibly grateful.
What I love about the new year is all the possibilities it brings. Those of you who know me personally know that I love to set goals in every aspect of my life. My goals range from shifts in my day to day living, to business planning, to horsemanship experiments, to working towards greater understandings in my life.
2014 was the fifth year anniversary of Three Rivers Horse Training, which I celebrated by building this new website. In 2009 I set the crazy goal of building this business for five years and then spending 2014 reflecting in order to begin the next five years. I thought I would take a moment today to let you all in on some of these reflections and on my new 3R plans for the next five years. I imagine none of you who work with me will be surprised by them, because they have all been inspired by my time with you.
My last five years have been spent with a single focus of improving my ability to make a horse feel better. In the process, though, I have realized that I am incredibly interested in working towards having both a horse and a person feel okay. I’m constantly amazed at what horses are able to bring up in their human. I have so many clients that do a wonderful job with their horse and technically have been very successful at learning everything I teach them. I am so proud because these people really have something to offer a horse that will help them feel better. However, some of these people struggle to execute these skills when I am not with them in a lesson format. In turn, both the horse and the person feel worse.
I believe that this phenomenon is due to the fact that when I am around, I can contain all of the worries this person might have, push when necessary, quiet their mind when called for, and simply let the person do their best. This is strikingly similar to what I have learned to do to cultivate a try in a horse. This lets things come out of the person as they engage with the horse that they didn’t even know were there. But, when they leave me, all of the personal issues that I was containing for them come to the front of their mind and the horsemanship deteriorates.
I think that this happens consistently in the work that I do because the focus of my horsemanship is to understand the horse’s experience in order to sort out the issues at hand. This is vastly different from traditional horsemanship, which focuses on making a horse realize a goal, such as a job or a competition. In centering the horse, rather than the human, an incredible thing happens. The person involved cannot hide behind their external goals and expectation, but must purely be there to support the horse. The result is astounding, as without the protection of goals, people feel incredibly exposed and vulnerable. The horse serves as a crack in the person’s protective wall from the world. In these moments, people allow me to see parts of themselves that they rarely share, as they attempt to figure out what issue is holding them back from their ability to support the horse. The issue is often unrelated to horsemanship.
This is why so many of my clients have taken to calling me their Life Coach rather than their Horse Trainer (I definitely didn’t coin this new term, but it’s sure caught on!). I don’t take this comment lightly and I’m really privileged that so many of you have let me so far into your lives. I cannot tell you how appreciative I am that you have this trust in me and I promise I am working hard on improving myself each day so that I continue to deserve your faith. I also have realized that this really is the next chapter for me. I want to continue working with horses as I have been, but grow the human part of my program. I think that this will not only benefit the people involved, but their horses. I do not want to wake up one day as frustrated as so many trainers and behaviorists have before me, disheartened that they cannot teach their clients to be successful with their animals. Instead, I would like to move away from a traditional training model and towards one of wellness in both species.
In 2015 I will begin offering Wellness Coaching as a part of my horsemanship work. This coaching service will allow us to meet separately from the horses to work on the things that are coming up in the horsemanship lessons. Many of you do this with me informally already, but we end up taking time out of the lesson and are often distracted by the horse’s needs. Ultimately, I would like my more serious students to set aside time for us to discuss personal wellness away from the horses so that when we bring a horse into the equation we are ready to support them more fully and focus on the horsemanship.
This will be a preamble to eventually offering a similar program that is insurance billable so that this program will be more accessible to everyone financially. I am currently in the process of applying to Masters of Social Work programs. I will still be taking in training horses and teaching but I will pursue a part time, online program over the next few years. Once I have that licensure I will be able to bill as a therapist providing equine assisted therapy and hopefully those of you with health insurance will be able to use your plans to further your horsemanship and wellness (can we even separate those two?!) with me!
I will be offering this program on a very limited basis for the next year or two, but ultimately once I receive the licensure and have made a few more adjustments to my business, I hope to shift my work more fully towards people and their horses on this full journey towards wellness. This won’t be too big a shift, since I am so lucky to have a group of clients that are as introspective as they are intelligent and I think this will feel like a natural evolution for the business. I am certainly on this journey myself and will continue to work on my mind, soul and horsemanship to offer as much as I possibly can to my wonderful clients who are truly invested in themselves and their horses.
As I make this shift you will see my blog continue to evolve. You may have noticed I’m pretty bad at writing anything close to a “how to” blog, but I have a lot to say! I will always tie things back to horsemanship but I will begin to incorporate the things I am thinking about (almost always inspired by the horses!) about personal wellness outside of the arena into my writing. I hope that you all continue to give me feedback about what you like and don’t like, because as you can see I take it to heart and really make decisions (including a graduate degree!) based on what you are telling me you like and want more of.
Thank you again for this inspiration and your continuing love and support. If you want to talk more about this evolving program, I would love to hear from you! Please call or email and let’s visit. Remember, I am now taking deposits for the 2015 training schedule and horses will be accepted in the order of deposits received. I begin receiving horses back in Montana beginning April 1, so if you are looking for an April or May Three Forks spot, please contact me as soon as possible. Until then, I’m happily down here in Cave Creek, AZ enjoying all of the new faces! I cannot wait to see you all in 2015!