A guest blog by Tessa (15), from Texas USA, after the Positively Together clinic on March 7-8, 2020, hosted in Austin by The Willing Equine.
During the Positively Together Clinic with Bex Tasker in Texas during March, I took away some very deep and interesting points that have really been settling well with me and that I have already seen beautifully improving me and my horse’s flow of training.
First of all, I just want to say what an incredible trainer and person Bex is. She truly has an amazing gift of being able to teach others with such a profound mindset that is expressed through her deep passion in helping people and their horses create a connection in their training. I am so grateful that I was able to spend several days learning from her and having fun; it truly was very eye opening seeing what an incredible community she is building.
One of the main focuses throughout the clinic was the concept of “breathing and being.” Breathing to create a connection and calmness that leads to being present in the mind; being in the moment of the training and focusing on that connection between the human and horse.
“Breathe and be.” As I continued to think about it throughout the entire clinic, it continued to resonate more and more within me; as I put it to use during my training sessions with Arrow in the clinic, my eyes were opened.
It has helped both of us so much in the fact that it has reminded me to be in the moment during the training session which has allowed us to train more efficiently and improves my ability to asses the situation with a clearer mind. It reminds me to relax my body and focus on the present moment and what I’m positively looking for instead of focusing on what could go wrong or what I “should” be doing instead (more on the whole “should concept" later in this post).
Therefore with all of that being said about how it has been improving my mental state, it has helped Arrow so much because I am clearer in my communication in the training, I am relaxed and focused, which therefore helps Arrow because he can clearly feel safe in the training because he is perceiving clear communication from me. Our training is even more fluent and connected. Whenever one of us feels a little worried or unsure, we can always return to the “breathe and be” behavior and get re-grounded. I can also always keep the “breathe and be” thought process in my head as a reminder to stay calm and joyful in the entire training process.
Thank you so much Bex for sharing such an amazing concept with me to improve our training and connection that is built between myself and my horses. Whenever I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed in the presence of training, all I have to do to remind myself to put these words to use is to simply stop, place my hand on my belly and breathe as I reinforce Arrow for being in his “default” or “breathe and be” position. It has already been helping us immensely and I just have to remind myself to breathe and realize that everything is going to be ok even if something little unexpected happens — I have to challenge myself to stay relaxed and present.
Whenever one of us feels a little worried or unsure, we can always return to the “breathe and be” behavior and get re-grounded. I can also always keep the “breathe and be” thought process in my head as a reminder to stay calm and joyful in the entire training process.
Another very profound topic that was discussed is the meaning behind the word should. “I should have done this in that training session” or “I should be doing this instead of this.” — the list goes on and on and on… But Bex brought to my attention that “should" is a word that really puts a hole in our chest because it seriously causes us to question ourselves and regret the decisions we make and have made. When I think back on things, this word was the cause of so much self-doubt, frustration, sadness, and regret for me when I was switching over to R+. It has really caused some setbacks in me and my horse’s training in the past because I allowed it to get the better of me.
Over many discussions during the clinic days I opened my eyes in realizing that the word should is simply misused and overlooked in most cases. Who cares about what happened in the past because we can’t change that. I can’t go back in time and change something in the session that I just had with one of my horses. But what I can do instead is realize what went wrong, realize why it happened, notice that everything is going to be ok, my horse will forgive me, and then move on and start fresh with a new perspective and try again. Nobody is perfect and all we can do is try our best, we all make mistakes because it’s just part of the learning process. But Bex reminded me and refreshed my brain again to not let my words take over my mind; this is something that I have really been working on lately and Bex really helped me further my skill to improve it… the word “should” can’t overtake my thoughts because I will redirect my thoughts onto new priorities.
Instead of using the word should, I am looking and redirecting the circumstances as learning curves, reflections, and priorities. I have chosen to take that moment as a learning experience, reflect back on it to see what I can do different next time, and then create and choose new priorities that will alter depending on the horse so that I can avoid thinking of the past and future, and instead will help me create goals and accurate training plans for in the moment.
This thinking process has been helping me for several months now, but Bex helped me determine the word that was causing the triggering thoughts. Instead of dwelling in the past, I have been able to continue my steady mindset and thinking and have been able to continue and improve. This concept from Bex has deepened and, in a way, finalized my ability to get past certain events and continue to confidently move forward. Now of course I have moments when I do feel frustrated or sad from certain situations because that’s life, but for the majority of things, I try to continue to have this mindset and portray these positive thoughts.
I could write for hours about how much Bex has taught me these past several days, but these two things are what currently really stood out for me. I am so incredibly thankful for Bex and her teaching skills — her clinic was laid out beautifully and she has an incredible way of teaching people. She has created, grown, and is sharing such an amazing community with her wonderful business of Positively Together. I am so thankful for this wonderful trip and I hope to learn from her again during many experiences together in the future. Thank you for everything Bex.
by Tessa (15), Texas USA.
It was such a pleasure getting to know Tessa during the clinic and over the following week. She is bright, articulate, passionate, and an extremely talented horsewoman. It is youth like this that make me feel inspired and hopeful for the future of positive reinforcement training in the equestrian world. Thank YOU Tessa xx
Also another big shout out to Adele of The Willing Equine for making this clinic happen, and hosting it at her beautiful barn. Make sure you check out her website and follow her on social media if you don't already. I hope we can do it again soon!
If you haven't heard, I've been invited to be a clinician at Equidays, New Zealand's biggest equestrian festival. This is pretty huge for me, and I'm super pumped to bring positive reinforcement training to Equidays in a really practical and accessible way. My goal is to show the audience that this is something they can (and should!) all implement to some degree into their training programmes, no matter their chosen discipline or level of experience.
But wait! There's more. On the last night of Equidays there is a new night show, called Equidays Top Talent. So the OTHER thing that's happened, is that Hokey Pokey and I have been selected as one of the finalists to perform on the night. This involves a performance in the indoor arena, in front of grandstands full of people, complete with lights and music. ("Woooah nelly!" thinks me, while lying awake at 3am. This is waaay outside my comfort zone!) I am by nature a teacher, not a performer. However, I have discovered that I harbour a deeply stubborn streak that makes an appearance when I'm scared of something, insists that I won't give in and makes me dig my heels in and do it anyway. Who knew. But yeah, suffice to say this is not a small thing for me. So as there's little to be gained by putting on a show of confident nonchalance, I will be blogging about the process between now and then. That will hopefully help me to work through my feelings and also might provide some interesting reading or learning for you guys.
As I break through my comfort zones ("stretching" is for sissies! (just kidding)) I am, according to the wonderful Jane Pike from Confident Rider, "a Neural Highway Ninja". Who am I to disagree with that?! She says, "Basically, all those neural networks in your body are connecting up new pathways, joining the dots together and building both your mental and physical muscles in ways that will allow you to get out there and repeat the same task much more ease-fully in the future. You getting out there and actually doing it- not thinking about it, talking about it, or drinking coffee about it- is the only way that you are going to make this happen. The only way." (Yes ma'am).
The main reason I'm nervous is that this is all rather last minute and I have not had the chance to prepare Hokey by getting him out and about much. He has hardly been in an indoor arena before, let alone a huge enclosed arena at night with packed grandstands, lighting and sound systems! So I am not really abiding by the clicker trainers mantra of "set them up for success", by any stretch.