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Focus, feel and an invitation – a livery client's story

Having bought a young mare last year, I’ve been focusing upon groundwork to forge our friendship, and of course to build really strong foundations upon which all our ridden work will rest. We’ve been enjoying walks in hand around beautiful country lanes whilst I’ve been working on my leadership skills, decision making, road craft and so on. This also gives my horse, Mahogany, a chance to become familiar with me and everything out in the world, without the demand of being ridden whilst she becomes accustomed to it all.

In the early days, Pip and her dogs came along with us, but then it was time to practise all that I had learned. Sure enough, every scenario Pip had prepared me for came to pass….cars coming too fast around country lane bends, for example. Knowing how to judge their speed, assess conditions and respond appropriately was a godsend!

Initially, I was quite pleased with how things were going, but over time it became clear I was making mistakes. Pip has taught me how horses communicate, so whilst I was trying to do all the “right things” I knew my horse was telling me that I was getting something wrong. I asked Pip if I could book a lesson where she observed me bring Mahogany in from the field, groom and then come on a walk with us, so that she could spot my mistakes and help me to rectify them, as I knew things were not right, but couldn’t figure out why.

Before we went to get Mahogany, Pip asked me what I wanted to achieve. I explained that Mahogany was looking backwards a lot on our walks and I was concerned that over time, if we didn’t address whatever was going on, she may begin to nap. Also, we had three speeds….walk, a jog for her to catch up with me when she fell behind, and a trot when I jogged, but only at one speed that she was dictating…...I wasn’t able to keep her at my pace. She would fall back, I would call her on….she would catch up and then fall back and so on. Pip also asked what I was presently doing on our walks and I explained that I was focusing upon my breathing, posture, being aware rather than lost in thoughts, giving leadership, having belief in Mahogany and our partnership, picturing in my mind what I wanted her to do whilst having that forward impetus, all the while trying to feel lighthearted. I said “of course it’s like spinning plates at the moment, as I find it hard to maintain my focus…”

Pip did as I had asked and about 10 minutes into our walk we stopped and she asked me how I thought it was going. I said that things felt very different. I could feel Pip’s energy coming up behind us, and rather than having to encourage Mahogany forwards, I was having to keep her back, that I knew things weren’t going well but I didn’t know why. Pip explained that as an observer she was keeping her energy passive, but that naturally her energy is very forward and the fact I could feel that, perhaps suggested that mine wasn’t forwards enough! She explained that all my focus should be upon where we are going, and going forwards. “But I thought I was meant to be focusing on Mahogany.” I said. “No. You should feel Mahogany, whilst you focus upon where you are going. Also, I think that you’re missing an element. Whenever I work with a horse I invite it to join me in what we are doing, and only give a correction if necessary. There are some horses where you do have to tell them what to do, but only when you’ve invited them to do something, and they haven’t listened. That is not true of Mahogany, she is so keen to do as you ask.”

This was a revelation! I had been getting it all wrong! 85% (at least!) of my energy had been going over my left shoulder, focusing on Mahogany, this was why she kept looking over her shoulder…..wondering what on earth was going on back there!!! I was telling her what I wanted her to do all the time, and, what little attention was left, was focused upon where we were going.

So! I focused all my attention on where we were going, felt Mahogany and had the energy of “this is where we are going and I’d like you to come with me, because it’s fun!” Like I would with a friend that I wanted to join me in an endeavour. What a transformation! Mahogany jogged alongside me exactly where I wanted her to be, she didn’t look back at all and when I jogged, she kept pace whatever my speed. Importantly, the feeling between us was entirely different! I can only imagine the intensity of concentration I’d been engaging in before! Trying to spin all those plates! Now, I was of course checking in on those things, but in a noticing way, rather than in an intense, focused way. Instead of being this very hard task of remembering all this stuff, and encouraging my horse to come with me, it all felt very light and easy.

Pip has said to me before “if it feels hard, you’re doing it wrong!”.

Since then, Mahogany and I have been out on our own. My jaw ached, I was smiling so much as I jogged along, because my little horse was right with me all the way. I look forward to our jog/walks out even more than before, and I also find it much easier to jog and move forwards myself, because that’s where all my energy is going!

Having a trainer who can see, and feel, exactly what is going on, and who always knows just what to do to resolve any issues, is such a gift! Pippsway Horse Connection Clinics begin next weekend and I’m just so excited! The transformation that was achieved in one lesson has blown my mind. I cannot wait to see where this next year takes the partnership between me and my horse. Horsemanship can be so much more than it is for many people and their horses. Pip can take you there….to the place that you dreamed of when you were a child, and you wanted that ultimate connection and friendship with your horse. It’s not a dream, it’s a reality and Pippsway is the way to experience it!


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