Beauty is Everywhere and in Everything

Ive spent a lot of time over the last year thinking a lot about how grateful I am. This practice has come in handy several times over the sharp peaks and valleys of 2018. I have tried hard to find the beauty in “everywhere and everything”.

With the horses its just easy. They are so stunning to look at. They have such generous dispositions. I find myself rapt when they trot off marveling at how they move out freely in the field. The heron who makes his daily appearance just makes my heart sing. His approach into the pond here on the farm is such a beautiful sight. I hope to catch it on video one of these days. The herd of deer that lives on the edges of the field that surround that farm are such a welcome group of visitors in the late afternoon. They have become so comfortable with the daily riding routine. Its as if they are part of our whole training program here, now.

It is so easy to list these things. They are almost always top of mind.

But, then, shit can go sideways.

Ive completely changed my life in the last year and a half. So much has been amazing and exactly the right thing. But, I didn’t anticipate the parts that would be unbelievably trying.

As I continue to charge ahead, I find some old patterns that I still need to change. And, yet, I am trying to approach them differently.

I am allowed to feel what I am feeling.

I have realized that while gratitude is essential to my well being, I sometimes minimize and dismiss how I am feeling. This is something I am working on changing by admitting when things feel hard and I feel scared and overwhelmed.

I don’t always have to be productive.

Rest has proven to be a useful strategy. I have to constantly remind myself that “pushing through” isn’t always the right answer.

I am not alone.

I am most convinced of this when I take a risk and share. Even if someone cant relate to the exact thing I am going through, they are always caring and glad to offer what form of support they can.

This last bit of frigid January has, once again, reminded me to take a minute and look at the beauty that is everywhere. Whether I see it or feel it, I am constantly reminded that it is here for me, in its many forms, to experience.

Id love to know what ways you experience beauty and how it enhances your life!

Leave me a comment or shoot me an email

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I was ill equipped to train a horse like Ripley. I had no experience with horses that had the type of fear response that he did.

Every single thing that he was even slightly concerned about rendered an over the top flight response. Fear as expressed from the horses' perspective is really something to watch. I had a really clear picture of what he was capable of and the danger I was subjecting myself to. 

What I wanted was for him to feel safe with me. And, me with him.

The elusive part of all of this was the "HOW". I had the problem, I had the goal, but the way to achieve what I was after was a mystery.

This is where all of the angels in my life come in. I had connected with some folks who knew about how to help horses like mine and I was a willing student. Their partnership with me and Ripley has been the foundation I really needed. I showed up when asked and for the most part, did what I was told. Learning the mechanics of setting things up to have Ripley develop confidence was my new religion. 

The piece that didn't come forward for some time was the concept of bravery. I spent so much time learning and trying hard to get things right. Trying to be neutral when Ripley was panicked. I systematically tucked away my fear. There didn't seem like a good time to acknowledge that I felt scared. What might happen? Would Ripley feel the fear and be afraid, too? And, then, what? I had been on his back enough times to know that when things got scary, they got REALLY scary.

Its only been in the last month or so that Ive been aware of that hidden fear.  For the first time I really let myself say out loud that I was afraid. I had been holding on to it and hiding it for what I saw as the good of us both (me and Ripley) . But, what I realized, is that it cost me.

It was fake bravery and pretend courage.

What I have realized is that the real bravery came from saying how I felt and asking for some help. I can't say that the sky parted or a rainbow shone down, but I can say that Im no longer carrying around a secret and that I feel lighter. Being honest with myself and with people who care about me created an opening for me to ask myself what is REALLY required for me to exhibit bravery and give my horse an opportunity to be brave, too.

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A lesson in herd dynamics

I spend a lot of time watching my horses interact. This brings me great joy, but also informs me about how they are at rest, without my or another humans influence. 

When I brought Ripley home 6 years ago, I only had Othello and Stormy. They were a perfectly happy married couple. And, then, I went and brought home a baby that neither of them were interested in. 

The first 24 hours were harrowing, to say the least. They broke down every fence and stall gate I had in place to keep them separated. I saw a side of Othello I didn't know existed. He was protecting his mare and would not let Ripley anywhere near her. This was war. 

To Ripley's credit, he was small and quick. A lucky counterpoint to Othello's size and lack of speed. In addition, Ripley was not interested in any type of escalation. He spent an entire 24 hours out of harms way. 

Slowly, Othello became more settled. He began to see that Ripley was not interested in challenging him for his position as Stormy's guy. 

In 48 hours, everyone was grazing peacefully and it appeared that all had been sorted out.

 The three became a perfectly balanced family. They were a group that had such magic and synergy together it was a joy to watch. Stormy became the quiet leader, Othello her devoted partner, and Ripley, the third wheel that injected fun and play into everything they did.  It was common to look out in the morning and see Ripley and Othello playing the game I called " Clash of the Titans" both on their hind legs and then racing each other down the field.

I made ALL of the mistakes when I introduced the new herd member. The fence wasn't strong enough. The stall gates weren't sturdy enough. I didn't anticipate the experience that Othello had. I only thought about the newest member, Ripley. Nor, did I even consider how Stormy might fare in the mix.

This was long before I spent time watching horses' behavior. Ive learned a lot since then about how to introduce a new herd member. But, I also walked away from that experience with the understanding that there are just some things that have to run their course. 

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How can working with horses help me become a better leader?

This question has come up a lot in the process of developing Sincerus Leadership and its framework. Its something that I really have had to think through communicating about. How the horses have helped me become a better leader has been a no brainier for me. They give me instant feedback. I ask and then give them the opportunity to answer. How they answer tells me if I am being clear or not in my way of asking. 

Its the instant feedback that I find the most helpful. And, then, the practice of being honest with myself about the answer they are giving me. We humans have practiced dishonesty with ourselves so much that its hard to tell what is true and what is not. The horses do not operate this way. So, its this honest self appraisal that helps me to evaluate how effective I am with those I am leading. 

Take, for example, the exercise of leading a horse over a tarp. This may or may not be concerning to the horse. How I ask them to accomplish this task may or may not allow them the opportunity to perform the task in a way that works best for THEM. Am I willing to allow the horse to solve this problem in THEIR way? Am I so attached to the outcome that I miss the process? Do I guarantee that my equine partner is going to fail before I even begin because Ive communicated fear? Or, am I willing to ask my equine partner what they need in order to accomplish the task and then give it to them? Its most important for me to be more willing to inventory my part. How the horse responds is a reflection of how Ive asked.

These types of questions are exactly the kinds of questions that we need to be asking of our team. How can we become facilitators as a leadership style instead of "bosses" stuck in our limited way of doing things? How can a new and collaborative way bring us to a better than intended outcome?

This is, after all, what we all want.

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