With each successfully experience  our confidence improves , which should further develop our self-acceptance. I find that the most  difficult part of this aspect of our journey is knowing when to accept what we cannot change, and how to change what we can.  If we try to change something that cannot possibly change, it can lead to defeat and scar our self-confidence.  However, we must try to change what we can change or we will not fulfill our capabilities. I believe, as we advance through the stages of our life we seek to balance ourselves through a positive philosophy, knowing when to accept becomes more clearly defined and more easily enforced.

Change is a key element to acceptance. The ability to change is an important part our uniqueness. Each experience, each personal encounter, as well as what we hear and see, changes us. We are not the same person from one day to the next. Each time we come across an obstacle in our life, we need to evaluate the situation, learn from it,  and hopefully make a positive change in our life.

If we accept the circumstances of life and learn to evaluate them, we discover that experiences combined with positive attitude and a philosophy of betterment can turn many experiences into positive assets. The acceptance and “letting go” that I learned in my riding and horse relationships continues to be an asset to my personal and professional life. I believe the interchange of experiences through open-minded evaluation followed by acceptance or change has a powerful influence on all areas of our life.

People are often afraid of change  because change represents the unknown, and this fear contributes to many people’s unwillingness to make a change. Throughout my life, I have witnessed many people in all areas of my life be driven by fear.  They are unable to change the things that they are capable of changing.  In order for us to reach our full potential we need to learn to  face our fears and take a leap into the unknown so we can grow and learn to accept the things we cannot change.

We can learn some much about acceptance through our equine relationships. Your horse accepts you with your uniqueness. He does not judge that you are too fat, too thin, too tall or too short. If you can accept yourself as your horse does, you will discover a new-found love and acceptance for yourself and your horse. We need to accept our horses as they accept us, with all their strengthens and weaknesses.  Without acceptance, it is easy to get caught up in resentments, self-pity and anger. These resentments can begin to govern your life, and the discoloration can prevent you from enjoying the beauty and the awe that are part of every situation.

However, we should not accept a painful or a negative situation without challenging it. Each time an obstacle is presented, you must investigate it thoroughly, understand it, do what you can do to change it, and then accept the things you can not change. I realize that this is much easier say then done, however I believe the result is well worth the tough part of it.

Everyone of us has obstacles to deal with. Often people feel alone or unacceptable because of their problem. Our uniqueness makes us feel alone with our conflict or problem. Unfortunately, our society does not encourage intimate communication. The difficulty of trusting others with our problems or concerns contributes to our loneliness. Loneliness delays our search for acceptance. During my lonely times I always had horses to turn to. Horses continue to be my counselor, best friend and support, however as I grow older I have developed other ways to resolve internal conflict, obstacles and issues in my life. I love to write and journal writing became a huge part of my life and a safe outlet to express myself freely. This in turn helps me release my anxiety, fears and weaknesses without judgment-just like my horses do! I find that sharing and expressing my ideas and feelings, whether with my horse, a person or a pen and paper, helps me relieve the pressure and loneliness of a problem. It can also help me find a solution to the problem that I am facing.

We are unique human beings and our horses our unique creatures. Each individual horse and each individual human has some weakness to deal with. Understanding this helps us accept ourselves and our horses, the more thoroughly we can look at our environment. The more realistic our goals, the more we can accept the joy and beauty that surrounds us.

They say you never get over your first love. This is definitely a true statement when speaking about my first equine love, Kitty Hawk. Half quarter horse half hackney pony, chestnut mare with 4 white socks and a white blaze running down her face, Kitty Hawk was perfect in my eyes. She even had a heart-shaped spot on her muzzle that I was convinced was there just for me. In the 5 years that Kitty Hawk was in my life I learn far more than my diagonals, leads, and how to spot a jump. Kitty Hawk, was and still is my greatest teacher of life.

I was 9 years old when my mom decided to lease, Kitty Hawk. The joy and excitement that I felt during that time is indescribable. I still remember sitting in middle school writing all over my notebooks, “I love Kitty Hawk”. I was so obsessed I even brought her into school for show and tell one year. To say that I was horse crazy is an understatement. This was the start of my horse obsession and the beginning of my quest for spiritual and physical balance in my personal life as well as my life with my equine partners.

At a very early age I realized the healing power of horses. At three years old I was watching people in wheel chairs experience a moment of freedom while they rode their horse, through the therapeutic riding program at the stable were my mom boarded her horse. I knew back then that there was a connection far beyond what the eye can see and when Kitty Hawk came into my life I was able to experience this connection and healing power first hand.

Kitty Hawk and I trained and showed on the hunter circuit and rode on the state and national level through 4-H. We traveled all over the east coast, showing every weekend that we could. Over those 5 years, my relationship with Kitty Hawk developed into a soulful, spiritual one. A relationship that I can only describe as true love, one of the spirit.

Of course, my relationship with Kitty Hawk taught me responsibility, discipline, and a level of dedication that is needed when caring for a horse. More importantly it also taught me things far beyond the care of an animal. Kitty Hawk, became my counselor, my best friend, during a time in my life that was very difficult and painful. She helped me to trust and to be confident in who I was and follow my truth. As we both grew together, both physically and spiritually, I learned about compassion, calmness, acceptance and inner peace through her nature. I believe horses naturally exhibit theses qualities and I believe this is seen in their strength, power, simplicity, and purity.

Kitty Hawk, was the first of many horses that came into my life and was a great teacher. I am thankful to have had the success we shared together and the accepting, trusting and awe-inspiring relationship that can only be described as my first love.

Humility is an essential ingredient to be in proper balance with our horse and the world. We can recognize humility by its unselfishness, thoughtfulness, gentleness, unpretentious spirit, and desire to help others. A horse outshines humans in unselfishness, has an unpretentious spirit and desire to please. A horse also possesses strength, power, agility, and presence. We can learn the lessons of humility by recognizing the attributes of humility in our horse and strive to be humble everyday.

Humility can affect the way we learn, select professionals, and relate to others. Humility can make the difference between mediocre and a superior performance. We can ride, perform, and even win without humility. However, humility changes the focus of our ride toward the horse’s energy, by allowing us to surrender ourselves to the horse. When we are able to let go we become a partner in the performance with our horse. We share the in the horse’s brilliance, we do not produce his brilliance through control.

By controlling our horse’s energy mentally through quiet humility we can out-think him and direct his power and majesty. We can allow him to perform at his best. I believe really love our horse we need to put his betterment ahead of our needs and be humble to our own.

By understanding our horse, his strengthens and weaknesses, we will be able to create and develop a humble relationship with him. We need to be realistic about our goals and our role in performing with our horse. We assume the role of a leader, guiding the performance or ride of the day to maximize your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses. Focus on what you what to accomplish and produce, and be responsible for the harmonic wholeness of the ride.

The best horse people are those who can remain humble by remembering it is the horse that wins and performs. We need to enjoy our role in the relationship and take pride in directing the majesty of our horse. I have learned that if I understand my horse and encourage him, maintain a positive attitude while defining our roles in the relationship I can stay humble. As long as we can think of our horse first and his needs we will have humility in our relationship. The horses in my life teach me about humility on a daily basis and help me develop and maintain humility in other areas of my life.

Remember, whatever your goal, approaching it with humility will enhance its value and magnify the joy it attaining it. You will have a better appreciation for your horse’s role in the accomplishment, but you will also attain a more honest perception of your own contribution.

Trust is Imperative

Trust is build on reliable, consistent, decisive, and loving actions over time. For a lasting relationship, trust must be present between horse and man, between man and horse professionals, and between professionals and horses. True trust allows us to relax in the partnership. Relaxation in relationships and help set the stage for closer, more efficient and effective interaction, and thus for better results as well.

Horses will do almost anything for humans they trust. Their trust is conditioned by the love and compassion they feel from us, as well as the regular care given to them. We have a responsiblity to uphold the human-horse relationship by always maintaining a horses trust by doing what is in the best interest of our horse.

With each horse relationship I enter I know that I need to earn that animals’ trust by my actions and reactions to every situation that we come across. As a horse person your awareness of yourself, your horse and surrounding have a great effect on your horses’ trust in you as the leader in the relationship. Your horse is looking to you to guide him in a direction that is safe and secure. Once that trust is established your relationship with your horse with become one of true trust.

Trust is a product of love and consistency that is clear and reliable. There is no miracle way to develop trust during your life journey, but I feel that the first place to look for a trusting experience is with your horse. If you can learn to accept the fundamental elements of a trusting relationship with your horse, it may help you with the people in your life.

Lessons in Love

Love is a feeling that motivates us to appreciate life with joy, enchantment, awe and wonder. It is an emotion that allows us to be aware, appreciative, open-minded and accepting unconditionally what is less than perfect, and willing to change what can be changed.

Each one of us is born with the capacity to love ourselves, others and life and it is inherent to our being. I believe that learning to love ourselves, others and life is a function of our soul. Often times we think we love but, most importantly, we need to be able to feel love and act in a loving way. Understanding what love is will help us understand our self, others, our horse and our life.

Simple delight in life’s experiences is a characteristic of love that is shared in both horses and humans. Horses express this daily and show their love through gratitude and appreciation. One example is the food and care that we give them. Almost all horses enthusiastically accept their food. They hear the feed door open, perk up their ears, whinny and sometimes bang on their stall door. Once a horse is fed, his eagerness is replaced by the joyful sound of munching on his grain or hay. The horse’s ears are relaxed, eyes soften, and he is solely focused on the joy of eating.

How often do we appreciate our food? The provider of the food? Or even the purchaser of the food? Even if you pay all those roles, do you take the time to appreciate yourself? How often do we take the time to really enjoy, be present and thankful for the meal we are eating? Maybe, we should take a tip from our horse by being thankful of each one of our meals and appreciate how and where it came from.

I love when I clean my horse’s stall and put new bedding down only to have him lie down and roll, oblivious to my presence, completely absorbed in the scratching of his body in the fresh, clean bedding. He is immersed in the absolute enjoyment of scratching his back. I can hear him saying to himself, “Ahhh, right there. That’s the spot”. It always makes me laugh to myself and at that moment I know that he is taking full advantage and is thankful for his clean, fresh stall. It is his way of thanking me for taking care of him. How often do we show thankfulness to the people who take care of us?

These are the little ways that a horse reminds us to be aware, thankful and present in each moment, no matter how little or insignificant they might seem. Now, every time I clean my bed sheets and climb into bed I enjoy the smell of the fresh dried sheets and take a moment to feel the cleanliness and softness of my bed. I try to really enjoy the sensation of how my body feels and enjoy the slowing down and relaxation I feel as each one of my muscles relaxes into the mattress. I owe all this to the horses in my life.

I believe that taking several minutes a day to enjoy the total sensation of your bedroom, your living room, your yard and yourself could be a great learning tool for appreciating more aspects of your being. I feel this concept directly relates to you, your horse and your riding. Successful riding requires awareness, and awareness is enhanced when we learn to be aware, know and love ourselves and our surroundings. Love of life experienced through all of our senses adds to the fullness of life.

Unconditional acceptance of yourself and others is another manifestation of love. Our horse accepts us as we are. He tries his best to do what we ask. His nature allows him to love and accept himself and you, free of judgment. This is just another way we can learn to love ourselves and others, void of judgment through the way of our horse. By emulating our horses’ ability to accept their conditions with out judgment we can learn how to love unconditionally. How has your horse taught you about love?

Cross-country equestrian jumping is an endurance test, and is one of the three phases of the sport of eventing; it may also be a stand alone competition known as hunter trials or simply “cross-country”, however these tend to be lower level, local competitions.

The object of the endurance test is to prove the speed, endurance and jumping ability of the true cross-country horse when he is well trained and brought to the peak of condition. At the same time, it demonstrates the rider’s knowledge of pace and the use of this horse across country.

The cross-country test takes place on the second day of an eventing competition.  It is usually the most appealing to spectators and riders. The object of this test is to prove the speed, endurance, and jumping ability of the horse over varied terrain and obstacles.  In order to accomplish this task, the horse and rider must be at peak condition. The horse must be brave and obedient, and the rider must use knowledge of pace in order to expend only as much of the horse’s energy as necessary.

The cross-country course covers approximately 2.75 to 4 miles and consists of approximately 12-20 fences (lower levels), or 30-40 at the higher levels, placed on a long outdoor circuit. These fences consist of very solidly built natural objects (telephone poles, stone walls, etc.) as well as various obstacles such as ponds and streams, ditches, drops and banks, and combinations including several jumping efforts based on objects that would commonly occur in the countryside.   The cross-country phase is ridden at a gallop, with exact speed requirements depending on the level of competition. The aim of each team of horse and rider is to complete the course on time and with as few penalties as possible. Penalties can be accrued through jumping errors (horse refuses or runs out at an obstacle, rider falls off on course, etc.) or by exceeding the optimum time allowed. Cross-country is the only sport where two minds and bodies are working together, pitted against the clock, to cross the finish line.

Cross-country riding, and indeed eventing in general, is a fun and exciting sport but is certainly not for inexperienced or unfit. Horses and riders need to be comfortable with each other, confident and well-trained. Riders in particular must be used to riding for long periods of time before they even start to attempt cross country circuits. But, for those who are brave enough to try it, and talented enough to master it, cross country riding is an exhilarating and rewarding sport. It will certainly keep both rider and horse fit, and improve their work as a team, which in turn, will help them excel in all areas of riding.

Show jumping is a relatively new equestrian sport. Until the Enclosure Acts which came into force in England in the 18th century there had been little need for horses to jump fences routinely, but with this act of parliament came new challenges for those who followed fox hounds.

The enclosures act brought fencing and boundaries to many parts of the country as common ground was dispersed among the wealthy landowners. This meant that those wishing to pursue their sport now needed horses that were capable of jumping these obstacles.

Today, Show Jumping, comprises of a series of typically brightly colored fences usually made up of lightweight rails that are easily knocked down. The test takes place in an enclosed ring and the course must be negotiated through a variety of fences of differing heights, widths, and technicality, in order for the horse and rider to successfully complete the event.  This requires the horse be balanced and supple for tight turns and short distances between fences. He must be able to lengthen or shorten his stride in an instant. Therefore, the rider must know exactly where he is on the approach to a fence, with an obedient horse that will respond to his commands.

The show jumping course requires very exact riding; it consists of between 12 and 15 show jumping obstacles, which normally include at least one combination, two spread fences, and in some cases a ditch. This phase is also timed, with penalties being given for every second over the required time.  Jumping skills,  like eventing,  tests the fitness and stamina of the horse and rider. The winner is the horse and rider with the fewest penalties. Awards are usually presented while mounted, before the placed riders take a lap of honor around the arena.

For the spectator, this sport is both exciting and breathtaking to watch, as just one single rail knocked down can change the final standings dramatically.