Never, ever, give on a BRACE! (Natural Horsemanship people should understand).
I am currently in the middle of a six week long trip to Scotland. I networked through the Parelli Savvy Forum, (now offline), and then through Facebook. I made new friends and a plan was put into place of whom and where I would stay throughout the country for these six weeks. I offered to trade my knowledge as a Parelli Natural Horsemanship level 4 student, colt starter, dressage trainer and all around general idiot savant in the world of horses. I looked at pictures and I chatted with all the gals that I was planning on staying with, and we became friends. Close friends in fact! My original, couple to three weeks request was immediately stretched out to six weeks. There were so many that wanted to meet me, or ride with me, or this and that. Great plans were hatched and I followed through with my part by doing some fundraising to afford to the airfare and misc expenses.
Through donations of either money or stuff I could sell in my EBay store, I earned enough for my part of the trip, which was to get to Scotland, and just barely enough to move about and eat the occasional meal on my own. I didn’t have much more than that, I was doing this on a shoestring and was fully aware that I would be at the mercy of whomever I was going to stay with. The year passed, I finished editing my first novel, and before I knew it I was on the plane and strapped in for my big adventure. My newest mantra was, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Needless to say, after my previous two years, my comfort zone had grown quite small, and here I was on an international flight and putting myself at the mercy of strangers.
I will back up this story for just a second. My previous two years consisted mainly of me recovering from a deep pit of depression that started when my life of twenty five years as a horse trainer/ idiot savant in all things horse, came to an abrupt end. It was the epitome of the final straw scenario. I lost everything I’d worked towards all those previous years; I gave away my horses and magically managed to sell my prize filly. I gave all my tack away and all the equipment I had gathered. I left the facility where I had hung my placard as a colt starter of English sport horse types for the last twenty years, (sometimes the most difficult and misunderstood equines on the planet). I went home and I cried for a year. I didn’t get off the couch unless it was absolutely necessary. When the shit all went down, my plethora of ‘friends’ offered to help me through donations of money; not many offered much else. Most wanted to come and see me and no doubt stroke my hair and tell me it was going to be okay. This is where I drew the line. I was having a tantrum you see, it might have been inside and I wasn’t being loud about it, but nevertheless, I was throwing a fit.
I am pretty advanced in the ways of animal psychology and I am the first one to say, “Don’t ever, under any circumstance, offer the release during a brace! EVER!” What I knew, and what I was preaching each and every day was the timing of the release, and that was when and how the animals learn, humans too for that matter. The problem with humans is that we have language so we are able to lie. We lie to all around us, and even worse, to ourselves on a daily basis. I knew, behind the haze of my depression, that what I was doing was a big time BRACE! It was an introverted brace, but a brace nonetheless. I call it my time of insanity, my year on the couch, the year I watched streaming series on the TV and played spider solitaire. When I went out to help in the yard, under great strain and duress I might add, I called it nature walks at the institution, or when I painted stuff on the house, I called it arts and crafts day. Thank God that my husband heard me in the beginning and didn’t pressure me to, ‘knock it off, and get the fuck over it.’ If he had, I think I might have gotten worse. Inside I was reveling in the fact that for the very first time in my existence, I was feeling what a true introvert feels when they are, ‘running away inside.’ I say reveling in it because I had never been depressed before, never felt what a true introvert ever feels, so I was wallowing in this strange land, experiencing it for all it was worth. I’d managed to coherently tell my hubby of ten plus years that I was in here, I was working on myself, don’t pressure me, let me be, trust that I will figure it out and eventually I would be okay. He did just that, and through his none pressure, gentle coaxing to go out and attend the arts and crafts symposium at the far end of the house, I started coming back alive, but it took a solid year!
So, back to when it all went bad in my life, all these friends of mine wanted to come and confirm that my brace was okay, that it would all be okay in the end etc. As is with human nature, our sympathy or pity or whatever it is, seems to come out when we are under the most duress. For me, it was entirely emotional and what i needed was to be left alone, not forever, just for awhile. Even i knew this, and i was technically so out of it i didn’t know anything else. Duh, of course I knew that eventually I would come out of it; I just didn’t want anyone confirming with me that what I was doing in that moment was okay, I didn’t want any validation that my brace was a good thing. I didn’t want the release at that moment, I didn’t want the allow, and most of all I didn’t want them all to fill my head with lie’s! I know they were all good intentioned, none meant to harm my evolution through the muck, they were ignorant of what attention in that moment might mean to my brain, and i know it would have made all of them feel better, just not me. It’s about the same in as they are ignorant to how they create all the problems in their horses that they would come to me to help fix.
Of course, I wasn’t going to die, although I really, really wanted too. I wanted too because I was bracing against becoming someone new. I was forty six and had managed to follow my bliss my entire existence. I really didn’t have the energy to become someone new. But on the other hand, I was getting too old to keep doing what I’d always done. I was bracing against this fact, change was upon me and I really didn’t like it. I was acting like a spoiled little brat and whining about all I’d lost, and if any of my so called friends offered to make it better I was going to scream. I knew all this inside my head, from deep down inside my own self imposed pit. I knew it all and I eventually told them all to consider me dead and leave me the fuck alone. I was not going to let any of them train me that what I was doing was okay through offering me comfort or solace. What I was doing was not in any way okay and I knew it.
“NEVER, EVER, release on a BRACE!!”
Okay, so back to my story about this trip. I got over here in Scotland, (I am writing this from Scotland!), and I spent my first ten days with the most wonderful couple in Glasgow. Great conversation, great food, good times, wonderful horse, same mindset of, Good-Better-Best, Never let it rest! Willing and enthusiastic student to say the least, we call it, ‘addicted to learning.’ I was back in my horseygirl mode of operations. Ideas were clicking, and my eye for detail was back in full force. I helped this lady with her four year old horse, over and over with little tiny suggestions; her face lit up as each little blinding flash of the obvious hit her. I was so happy! All my talents were working, and all my years of knowledge were not being wasted. That is what I love about teaching and I gotta say it is a huge amount of validation to see the students face light up with revelation! YAY!
Second part of trip was to head up north, to the highlands, and this was the place I was supposed to stay almost the entire month. Fifteen or so horses and sled dogs! Wow that was something on my bucket list; mushing with sled dogs! I couldn’t wait! The pictures I had in my head, from the host’s descriptions, were the stuff of legend. I was finally here, up in the Highlands of Scotland at the infamous Fairy Glen where I was going to see Scotland from the back of a Gypsy Cob and swish through the arctic air with the bray of huskies in my ears. HA!!!!!! Aside from the physical discomforts and poverty level accommodations, (that’s okay, I’m tuff, I’ve slept on the ground at the barn many times), the lack of privacy, the lack of food—for me, for her child, for her animals, for her poor injured husband—the idea that I was trapped out in the middle of nowhere, at the edge of the arctic circle without hope of transportation out, and even aside from the fact that the horses were in such poor condition I wouldn’t have considered riding them at all, let alone asking them to learn new things. All that crap aside, the host was living her life in one big huge brace!
She is youngish, younger than me by a good twelve years. She has a seventeen month old baby that requires constant attention, no fault of the babies, but how did my host think we would be doing all these things she’d promised we’d do when all her time was consumed with the baby? And aside from the fact that I wasn’t sure how she could afford fuel to get to the store, let alone to buy provisions? And to add more to the pile of misery, I wanted to sight see and get out, she was a good hour from anything interesting, and petrol is over ten dollars a gallon in this part of the world! So, I sat on the couch in the living room which also folded down as my bed at night and the room itself was also her small day care in the mornings. I was so trapped it wasn’t even funny, and I slowly retreated back down into my pit. The sound of my own voice seemed strange and as if it weren’t me. It was echoish and it would take me moments to comprehend that I’d said something. Damn it, I’d promised myself to not go back down in there, and there I was where I was most comfortable. I’m not a candy ass by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, if you ask any of my friends, old or new, they will all tell you that Kelly is one of the toughest people they know. I can suck it up with the big boys and power through. Only problem, the new Kelly was only able to do this by running away inside, and I really didn’t want to allow myself that luxury for any stretch of time.
I’m very proud of my teaching and training abilities with the horses and the humans. I make it fun, I simplify, I’m creative and I’m fairly empathic so I can translate how we are affecting the animals. My eye is stellar for the timing of the release. I’ve worked on that one aspect of my training over everything else. After all, if the release is what teaches, then nothing else is all that important. My host and I had a few conversations, enough for me to know that there was nothing I could do to help her, or even anything I could teach her. Her first words out of her mouth were so direct line that all I could manage was to blink at her for a second. Direct line you ask? Well, we humans are predators, and those there quadrupeds out grazing in the field are prey animals. Predators think direct line and are competitive. Prey animals play to feel safe and think laterally. Never the twain will meet; it’s kinda like the lion and the lamb lying down together, and I pretty much see any relationship between humans and horses as simply that miraculous. Predators don’t learn how to think laterally, and prey animals are adept at staying alive by frustrating predators. How in the world can we make the relationships the most important things when everything we instinctually want to do is in complete and utter contradiction?
How? Well, through natural horsemanship, and especially within the world of Parelli Natural Horsemanship, we all go on about the never ending journey of self discovery. Emotional fitness is one of our top three things to work on alongside mental and physical. Really? Emotional fitness as a directive? Wow, that’s so cool! And, I’ve found it to play out quite nicely among any others that share this path with me. Any in this world that are actually striving to do it right, to do it through a new lateral mindset and never close our claws around that rope, well, they are my sisters and brothers and this is my church of the horse! Instant connections and shared language and walla, we are friends for life! So, in my planning and prep with my hosts, I asked questions, watched their online stuff, listened to their posts and replies and felt I had a pretty good handle on who was walking the walk and who wasn’t. Don’t forget though, we can lie. Horses can’t! My poor host had obviously been lying to herself for most of the past ten years, maybe longer. She spewed great stuff and she had all the answers.
She knew her horses were in poor shape, she had multitude of various yet substantial and legitimate excuses. She didn’t need anyone else telling her that she needed to change her circumstances because she offered volumes out her own mouth. She knew exactly what was wrong with her life, her husband, her animals, her existence; how and where it all went wrong and what she needed to change. If I did offer anything, even through metaphor or comparison to what I’d gone through in my life, she could explain away anything that might have hit home in her life.
Most of all, all I could see was the brace, the resistance, the extremeness of her denial and her unwillingness and inability to change. She was technically the exact definition of insane according to Mr. Einstein. If I’d stayed there, I would have had to release on a brace. I would have attempted to help her and I would have ended up making it okay that what she was doing was okay. Which it wasn’t. I am never willing to allow during a brace, in myself or in anyone I am around. There was nothing I could do, and my words were already falling on deaf ears. Even after I left, she accused me of being a bully. I’m still not sure how she came up with that since I rarely spoke and attempted to be as small and quiet as I possibly could. I’d come to know a few of her other friends online and all had said how much they loved her place, and visiting there was like akin to going to heaven. I really don’t know what they all see when they go there, and I wonder if they are trying to help said host feel as if what she is doing is okay. I wasn’t there long enough to see it in the sunshine or spend too much time outside because of the rain, but I’m old enough to know that a place is just a place, and it’s the people that are the most important thing. The people are what define the land and how the animals will be. It doesn’t really matter where I am if the people are of the same mindset. What I see is how they influence their land and their animals, and all I could see in this instant was the repetition of sameness with the expectation of something different happening, and I just can’t abide that when I see it because I do not allow it in myself. I can’t stand by and say its okay, or what you’re doing is okay. I might manage to be silent, but even that is a stretch for me.
Another friend that I hardly knew from Facebook offered to come and get me. I’d been posting on Facebook everyday because of the donations an expectant friends wanting to know about my famous trip to Scotland. I’d been as diplomatic as possible about the situation at the top of the Fairy Glen, I in fact just re-read my posts and they were totally innocuous and I have no idea how she read between my lines. Never the less, said Facebook only friend offered to come and get me, I took her up on it and have ended up staying with her for the past ten days. She isn’t even a Parelli person, but she has horses and a great dog and within minutes I knew she had the whole thing right. She understands that the relationship is the most important thing, that pressure can only motivate and the only thing that truly teaches is the allow. I can’t really trade anything with her, like lessons or horsey time, she is too busy raising her kids and now being generous by taking care of me. She’s a transplant up here in the Highlands as well so she is also into the sightseeing. So, in the end, it’s all worked out just fine, better than fine as a matter of fact.
Now, lest any of my former hosts defenders feel the need to call me more names or consider me ungrateful, let it be known that I offered to go back and play with the horses, but that I didn’t want to stay there. We could have met half way and transferred me over a few times and maybe I could have stayed a night or two. And for me, that felt like I was offering a lot, it was after all my free time, which I normally get paid quite a bit for. Oddly enough, the host refused my offer flat out. She listed all the drama and turmoil in her life yet again. I was fully aware of all this and so much more, and all that was my main motivation in leaving. She whined that all the things that new host wanted to do with me, were things previous host wanted to do. I asked her how she thought we could do all that, what with her financial issues, injured hubby and sick baby in tow? I only had three weeks left, and the chances of me getting to travel for this many weeks in a row, ever again, were slim to nothing and not worth me sitting in her day care as an introverted lump.
I never got an answer to that question. I in fact have not heard a peep from her. I don’t like how it all went down. Although I gotta say it ended up fairly painless, for me at least, and I think it could have been a lot worse. I don’t owe her a thing; I’d in fact paid for the one meal we ate out because her card was declined. I don’t feel as if I’ve compromised myself or my principles in anyway. She was braced against life, teetering on the precipice of a big breakdown, which in all honesty I think she might need. Sometimes destruction is all that can happen before new construction can begin. I’m not ashamed of my behavior as a few of her friends have suggested I should be. She however has a very high level of tolerance for the insane way she is living her life, and in training horses I would say she is an extreme example and her flight path is much longer than most. Even if I had stayed there, and beaten my head against that wall of refusal, I don’t think I could have reached the end of her flight path. And besides, I’m not the one that would be able to effect change, only she can do that, and only if everyone else around her stops telling her that everything she is doing is okay and fine. It’s not, there is a better way to live, a more spiritually evolved way to live and definitely a much softer, brace less path that is available to any of us that truly want it.
This is just a snippet of my travels in Scotland. Stay tuned for more.