Thursday, September 8, 2011

The scary blue tarp....

“I have an empathy for horses, when something is scared for their life, I understand that.” - Buck Brannaman

The last few months have afforded me some really amazing experiences. It is hard to believe how many different horses I have ridden in just a few months, the things I have accomplished and how far I have come. It still stops me cold when I think about it. But last night trumps them all. While overall the event I was participating in, a trail riding clinic, was nothing unique or awe inspiring. I found in the middle of it a truly life altering moment.

The clinic was based around learning how to help your horse deal with the challenges they might encouter on a trail ride...crossing obstacles, needing to ground tie, moving objects tied to their saddle and packing.

One of the stations involved working with the horse until they would easily walk across a blue tarp on the ground. Until you've done it it sounds easy.

What few people realize, and what I am still coming to appreciate, is that despite the size of these mighty creatures, they are big babies. As prey animals they see the world as out to get them, their instinct is to flee first and ask questions later, everything is the enemy and safety trumps all. Emotions I get!

To a horse a blue tarp lying on the ground has the potential to be a mortal enemy. It is a different texture and feels weird on their feet, the color stands out against the brown sand, it makes noise and when you step on moves. Death for sure! And when Cody saw it that was his first thought. Him being a school horse I actually thought this might be easier, he's pretty bombproof, but at heart he is still a horse. He saw it and he wanted to be anywhere but there. He started his natural behavior of turning, backing and activating his escape plan. My job, help him realize that this is safe, that we can do this and to trust me enough to not put him in harms way. This is where the moment became magical.

Watching Cody work through his fears gave me real insight into myself. After I worked him into at least checking it out, he sniffed it, he moved it with his foot, he took a tenative step on it. But between each of these he tried to flee. He was getting more comfortable but still wasnt ready to put his safety on the line. It might be ok, but why take the chance it isn't? Even 1% risk was more than made sense to him. Throughout it all I could see him thinking, processing, trying to make sense of it all, trying to understand why he should take the risk. And why was I asking him to do this.

Cody wasnt the only one facing a "blue tarp" yesterday. Like I said, in watching Cody face down his fears I saw a lot of my own. But in my case the blue tarp is food, and my goal of getting through 30 days of consistently eating the right foods and meeting my calorie goals!

I have been doing an awful lot of fleeing lately when it comes to eating, my weight and my fears. I wake up every day saying today I will face it down, I take a tenative step, but each time something spooks me I run, I go back to what is comfortable for me, either not eating or eating the wrong things. Like Cody, each step bring me closer, I try to learn from it, but in the end my need for safety overcomes the lesson. I want to succeed, I want to overcome this, I dont want to live in fear, I dont want to let down the people around me who keep telling me it is ok, that I need to do it, but somehow we still havent found the trick to keep me facing the goal like I have been taught to do with the horse.

I want the same success Cody found. By the end of our work he was not only walking, trotting and backing across the tarp, but did it with confidence and almost a look of "why was I so freaked over this, it's fun". A look I have had many times!

I just hope the people around me will come at this with me the way I did with Cody, with patience yet persistence. Letting him have his room to take those tenative steps, but never letting him give up and never giving up on him. Realizing that fleeing isnt quitting, it is just trying to find the courage to take the next step. Understanding that what seems a simple blue tarp sometimes feels like a dragon waiting to strike.

 I would like to believe someday I can get there with food and my body, but for now, I am still sniffing the edges and ready to bolt!

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