We often wonder why when we walk into a room, building, or conversation we can feel the air of what is going on before we actually know what’s going on. People carry presence, we carry intention with every breath, and we shape the atmosphere around us by what we carry. Are we carrying joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, etc into the places we go, activities we participate in, and interactions with others? Or are we carrying their opposites? Anger, bitterness, fear, anxiety, stress, control, you name it, they all effect the spaces we occupy and the people around us. We all desire those atmospheres where you can be at your best, but we are all participants in providing places where each of us can thrive. Everyone knows it is hard to thrive when you can’t find peace, understanding, patience, and kindness. Well the same goes for our horses too. We are all trying to find a place for our horse to find peace and understanding in our riding. Much of that journey to find peace and understanding requires us to carry clear and direct communication that often times requires the pressure we talked about last week. Horses seek peace and comfort, where they find that, they learn. They seek that spot in the ride where you gave them a space to find peace. First you usually have to get through the pressure part where you’re constantly redirecting them to the path they need to be on.

A question of each of us in the saddle and in life is how are we applying the pressure? What kind of presence is carried with it? Is our presence with anger, frustration, pride, anxiety, fear or any other negative? If we want our horses to find peace on the other side of pressure we have to carry the right presence. Our presence in the saddle and on the ground requires us to be direct with them, carrying a firm, but kind presence, seeking out their benefit on the other side of the pressure. We are indeed contending for our equine partners with every ride, but this requires us being intentional with our presence. An example this week is with Rocks. Rocks has come a long way, but he despises the flag touching his ears and upper neck. He throws a fit and acts like you’ve offended him for a lifetime when you go to pet him with the flag on the ears. I’m in the process of creatively attempting to work through this area with him. Every session with the flag requires that my presence and the presence with the flag is carried with thoughtful attention. Shayne made a comment as he worked Rocks the other day that there was a lack of feel with the flag. I was lacking correct presence.

The next ride I came out with a different idea of how to approach the issues of the flag. Similarly to how Rocks improved with the poles the previous week, I thought to expand on the idea. The hope was to ride with the flag on his upper neck and near his ears while doing all of his progressions warming up. For the ride, the idea required two forms of presence from me actively. My legs had better mean something and be firm when necessary in asking for him to maneuver around the arena and my flag needed to remain in a comforting manner when he despised its presence. The primary goal was to focus him on the task of whatever I was asking him to do, so that the flag just became an inert part of the ride that was constantly present. At first he was bothered, distracted, and upset with the flag being in that spot. My presence remained consistent and the same no matter how many times he chucked it off his neck, threw his head, or hopped around. I kept directing him with a kind firmness to the task at hand with my legs and seat, occasionally plucking a rein to redirect his flexion. Every step of the ride required presence, peace, patience, and kindness while being direct and unwavering with the mission. Fear, impatience, annoyance, none of that could interrupt the ride, otherwise the atmosphere of what was attempting to be achieved would have probably gone nowhere. Rocks needed to know that the person directing him is the same, flag or no flag. The end goal at some point being that the flag is a place of comfort and pets when he’s on the right path. We were able to get to a few spaces where I let his feet rest and was rubbed with the flag on the upper neck and he would drop is head and neck. Maybe yawn, relax for a breath. I needed him to see that this place of rest he always gets in the rides that he loves is still the same space, even with the flag. We had some moments and I’ll count those as building blocks to the hopeful end result. The right presence had to be the foundation of the pressure being applied.

If we apply pressure in any area to people or horses with the wrong presence or many times the wrong ‘tone’ we generally get further from the desired result. Just like the grapes and coal transforming, our end result can be ruined by the wrong atmosphere. Your grapes can sour, coal can crumble, and in the end you start all over. The presence we carry in every situation, conversation, and ride either hinders or helps us and those around us to the desired outcome. Resistance is normal when change is in the air. But can we manage the most direct route to the end result desired by carrying peace, patience, and kindness as the foundation of the pressure we are applying? I think many of us, if we can prioritize the quality of the foundation of what’s driving us towards our goal, we may find more diamonds than lumps of coal on the journey.