Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Never has there been a little girl turned horsewoman without that mildly obnoxious quality known as persistence. You know the type- the ones that show up at the barn one day and never leave, the ones that ride their bike down the road in the rain to pull you out of your cozy house so that they can get their riding lesson, the ones that at 65 years old, after family and kids finds their way back to the barn to finally fulfill their childhood dreams. I know the type well, because I am one. I am not sure where this quality stems from, though I must say that I continue to learn its value, and this year has brought me a great many lessons in persistence.

There are many types of persistence, ranging from pesky to downright stubborn, and the variations in quality get different results. Horses will teach you the difference. Go ahead and get stubborn with a big dominant gelding. Try exasperating a mare. Horses' best survival quality is to out-persist predators. Perhaps the term second wind came from watching a horse run on a longe line to be "worn out" then find the gumption to still buck his impertinent rider to the ground.

These types of persistence have no feel, no thought, and no balance. However there is much to be said for the type of persistence that pays off. Pat Parelli talks about horsemen needing to be Passively Persistent in the Proper Position - meaning that a person needs to be able to maintain their goal, thought, and intention in a way that offers some freedom of movement. The "passive" part indicates an allowing for things to go as they will. The persistence will continue to revisit the intended goal no matter what, and the proper position will allow for the person to be ready and aligned for optimum influence, when the time in right. Because horses are so good at reading intention, and reacting to it, we learn that too much push can send a horse over the edge, and too little may mean that you are the one hanging on for dear life.

While the events of this past year have taught me a lot about passive persistence in the proper position in realms of business building, as a therapist, and as a rider, the space that I am most grateful to have learned in is in my relationship with my mare Lucy. And by relationship, I do not mean simply how we feel about one another. I mean relationship in the terms of the connected influence we share on each others lives and behavior.

Lucy has been, shall we call it, my "ride or die" for quite some time. And sometime around the late fall of 2015, the riding stopped. She had become progressively more lame, and despite my general attempts at helping her heal, a more complete diagnosis indicated navicular syndrome. This is a disease typically caused by some old impact or injury which damages the functioning of the bones in the hoof, causing pain and lameness. I began with the usual protocols of special shoeing and anti-inflammatory medications, with limited success. Persistence, but not in the proper position. In early spring of 2016, there were several changes to the herd, and my first horse and partner of over 20 years passed away. My world was rocked, and the instability I felt in my core must have been reflected in my mare, as she shortly thereafter became ill. She was laying down for hours a day at a steadily increasing rate. While my focus was on burying my grief, and she seemed otherwise fine, it took me a while to recognize that something was not right.

She began to have some strange nerve and muscle spasms which got my attention. My wheels turning, I had already begun to suspect ulcers, and my thoughts confirmed by knowledgeable friends led to continued research. And my mind continued to churn. Proper position perhaps, but too passive. One day, during a therapy session I heard a thud on a stall wall in the barn, and my horseman's instinct told me a horse was cast in their stall. Finishing off the session in a semi-professional manner, I then turned my attention to Lucy who was laying in her stall, rightly concerned. I assisted her up which was not difficult, but she immediately started to twitch all over her body. Not wanting her to go down again in the stall and feeling movement a good option, I brought her outside. The twitching continued and her lips began to turn blue. In those moments following- maybe 20 minutes feeling like a lifetime- I summoned all the persistence in the proper position that I had. I ran for my phone and redlight, called the vet, and willed her to come. I redlighted the shock points I recalled and kept Lucy standing. I expressed to her in my most clear, leaderly, and not so passive way, that she was not going to die today. And she did not. The following hours, I played with decisions of treatment, though not sure what I was treating.

The good news was that Lucy seemed to feel like her old self after a shot of Banamine. We took blood and tested for those ulcers, which then were treated, morning and night, for 5 months. Lucy's gut condition improved and I continued to play with formulations of feed and herbs and energy work to support her. But every morning I would drive to the barn with a knot in my throat. For at least 5 months. But we continued, passive persistence in the proper position. Slow moving, that. In the meantime of gut healing, we saw ups and downs in her lameness, as well as an eye scarring/ blindness that she had been nursing for a time becoming more and more ugly.

Many days, my irritability was rampant, others, I kept a tight lid on. But with the recollection of the day when I swore I was not going to lose her, the level of my discouragement over my lost riding mare was not as overwhelming as the gratefulness that I felt for having my mare, however she was. Lord knows she has me however I am.

I began to find my feet, and a proper position. But first I had to wrap my mind around passivity. I had to allow my horse to be as weak as she was, not just in her present state but in my future mind. I had to give up the psychological pressure that I put on myself and her to be how we used to. I had wrap my mind around not riding her. Now I had not ridden her in nearly a year, but the thought of never riding her again, was pretty icky. However in present tense, there is no never. But today, we were not riding. My goal continued to be to get her strong and healthy and happy. Passive Persistence.

Horse Folk is Poor Folk, but I was gratefully able to set my proper position on "Get $500: Go to the vet". I say that because I could have made the statement, got the money, and paid bills, bought Christmas presents, or went shopping. But the proper position that I set in my mind had my action button tuned to dial the vet's number, when the right moment appeared. With a further course of action pursued, Lucy is feeling a bit better on her feet. But the work is not done. All of the work of the past year would fall apart if my persistence lapsed. Now is the time for me to help her find her proper position.

As we work to train her body to be well, I continue to try to be present where we are. Being present is a passive state, it is not a pushing state. Persistence continues to be there as a presence itself, an influence only had by taking up space. It continues to remind one of the goal, of the desired state. It also does not push hard, because it is in for the long haul. Finding ones proper position can be a challenge. All there is to do is keep checking. Not the results, or the goal, but your position. Are you where you need to be? Are you doing what you need to do? I got a fortune cookie about a year ago that still sticks on my fridge and in my mind. "Do not be upset with the results that you didn't get, from the work that you didn't do." In other words, check your position.

I am deeply grateful for the results that I have right now, and I know that in a moment it could all change. But my passive persistence in the proper position does not need to change. Not all that much.