Principles for Time Management

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written a post. We’ve recently moved 1000km and I’m very excited because my horse is currently out the back door and once we’ve bought our first home she will only be five minutes away as opposed to twenty.

I’ve been thinking for some time about writing a post on time management, not your standard time management, but how to do it with a baby so you can have time for yourself. Its taken me some time to work out what to say. My expectations for how easy it was going to be to ride were definitely a little unrealistic.

I had expected to be able to pop baby in the pram or portacot beside the arena and off I go. In fact that was not the case. The longest I got with him happy to sit in the pram alone was about 7 minutes.

Your biggest asset for time management if you want ride with a baby is having a support person.

When I was living 20 minutes away from Essie I had a standing arrangement with my husband that Sunday mornings he would come with me and look after Jack while I rode. Now we’ve moved I have a community of support people willing to help me out and more chances to ride.

If you are fortunate enough to have support people willing to help you I would really recommend setting up a regular day or days and time that you intend to ride. This will not only keep them in the loop of what is happening, it will make sure you follow through with your intention to ride on those days.

Some Sunday mornings I wasn’t feeling it, but as it was my only chance to ride, and I had pre-organised with my husband, I followed through and was grateful I did by the end of the ride.

If you don’t have a support person, or opportunities with your support person to ride often, there are still a lot of things you can do!

My son was happy in the pram for a short time and that gave me enough time to do a lot of other fulfilling activities with my horse.

Every interaction we have with our horses is valuable. The time we spend building connection and confidence on the ground will pay out ten-fold when we get back to riding. It doesn’t have to be hours at a time either, just five minutes will make a big impact.

Here’s a list of a few activities other than riding that you will enrich both you and your horse:

  • Brush up on your groundwork – you can check out the online resources from Warwick Schiller, Katy Negranti, Anna Blake, Finesse Equestrian, and many more to get you going
  • Give your horse a really good groom
  • Try some liberty in the paddock, don’t even put a halter on, just go in and do something for 5 minutes – I loved doing this, I would get her to follow me, we tried Spanish walk, we practiced liberty circles
  • Try something new! I love clicker training, you could try that.
  • Breathe. Just stand or sit in the paddock with your horse and breathe. Check out Anna Blake’s page for more on the benefits of breathing.
  • Watch online training videos when you can’t get out to the paddock
  • Check out ‘3-Minute Horsemanship’ for more ideas on quick things you can do – https://www.booktopia.com.au/3-minute-horsemanship-vanessa-bee/book/9781570766206.html

The most important thing in doing anything if you have limited time is to set the intention and follow through. If when I go to bed the night before or when I wake up in the morning I decide “today I am going to ride”, I am far more likely to do it than if I don’t set the intention.

If it all seems too hard, remember, be kind to yourself. Your horse doesn’t mind spending his days grazing until you have the time and energy to get out there. Most of all enjoy the time with your little one, they’re only this small for a short time and before you know it they won’t need you so much and you can get back out there with your horse!

Lived experiences: Jo

Well, I’m finally back into things after Christmas holidaying. I can now say I’ve travelled 2000km with a baby and 2 dogs and have breastfed with my baby in his car seat as we travelled along…it was ridiculous. Feel free to comment if you’ve also done this to make travelling more efficient!

We’ve got another interview from my lovely JoyRide friend Jo who was kind enough to share with me. I really love reading these responses and finding out how other mum’s have made life work with little ones and horses.

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Q1: Please tell us about your family – both human and horse

My family: I’m English and married a Kiwi. I’ve lived in NZ for last 12 years near Rotorua. We have 2 girls – 10 year old Abbie and 7 year old Holly. I bought my 2 horses over with me (expensive baggage…family). I worked out that it cost 2 years of care in UK so not that much really! My husband did A lot of overtime. 
Molly was a new forest pony and I had her for 20yrs until she died nearly 5 yrs ago. Finn, Anglo Arab, I had rescued really as he was headed for the meat van and was with me for 19yrs. Both Molly and Finn died with the vet at 24yrs old – laminitis and cancer. I miss them, especially Mols every day. Finn only went a few weeks ago and was the first pony the girls rode. 4yrs ago I retired him and 3 yrs ago I bought Mac. We did not do each other any favours and I had a few nasty falls and lost a lot of confidence…hence I joined JoyRide. I then sold him – something I never thought I’d do and he’s going great with a young girl. 

I then bought Blonds October 2018. A Te WaeWae if you’re a kiwi. Blonds is 4, 15.2hh and fab. Also we have a little Welshie called Angel for the girls (she’s nearly 7 and we’ve had her for 4yrs) my neighbour’s pony Summer. 
So, the short story is there’s 4 of us and 3 ponies, a dog, cat, sheep, 2 cows and 2 guinea pigs. 

Q2: How did you manage returning to riding after having a baby? What were the main challenges you faced?

It was slow and not that easy. Mike works 40hrs a week away from home, sometimes more, so I don’t have anyone around really. I was tired and probably didn’t push enough that I have time to ride. I just flagged it often for the ease of family life. No one probably appreciated that it would have done me good to have gone out to ride. Sometimes I would take them all, kids and ponies. Mike’s not horsey which doesn’t help. 

It was harder when I had 2 kids. I didn’t really have the kids who could just be left somewhere in a buggy while I did stuff, so it took me a long time to get back into it. Really so long that Finn was closer to retirement by the time I did. 

I don’t have an arena or anything so I had to have Mike home to hack out. I tried riding with Abbie in the front pack and felt too unsafe so hate to admit I sort of gave up a bit. It went in the too hard pile often in the early days. 

But I did get back out and since having Blondie I have pushed ‘my’ time much more. I really feel I’ve done giving and it’s my time more now. But I do enjoy the girls riding too. They’ve been fun times…mostly! 

Q3: How have you been able to indulge your horse passion in your life since having children? Has the picture changed much? Have there been any compromises or new opportunities? 

Really, I didn’t indulge in many ways for a while. My ponies are at home though so I did see them every day at some point and the girls have grown up knowing we have to do the horses no matter what! 

I have enjoyed being a Mum too and do feel they are small for such a little time I mostly was happy to have it that way. I wouldn’t want them to be with someone else heaps while I rode. I wanted to prioritise the girls. Now they’re older we share the time more. I get my time and they get theirs. I love seeing them ride Angel. The joy when it works is fab. The successes are so cool. Angel was unstarted when we got her and we really just hopped on and went. She’s been fab but is also learning to be from a lead rein to ridden pony. Sometimes it works. We went to our first show in June. I couldn’t have been prouder and I love the horsewomen they are turning into. 

I’m looking forward to them having more fun and another pony coming one day soon I hope. Sharing is getting harder! 

Q4: What is your number one piece of advice for managing having a young family and your equine goals, dreams and aspirations?

Advice…. remember babies are tiny for a short time. It’s not long to sacrifice really. But also balance that with time for you to stay sane. Set lower expectations so there is joy in seeing your horse. Turn them out over winter, whatever makes life easier. Don’t burn out trying to be it all. You’re no good to anyone like that. Being a Mum is tiring, be kind to yourself. Keep the goals, take away the time to achieve them. I’m still working on mine. I will do that cross-country one day.

3 Reasons to Banish Mum Guilt

I’ve been noticing a lot recently that there are a lot of mum’s out there feeling guilty for taking time away from the kids to do something they enjoy. It’s something that is really common in the equestrian world (well everywhere really), and too often our dreams and goals as mums fall by the wayside as our focus turns towards our children.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad to focus on our children. However, as with all things, there is a balance that needs to be present for us and our children to stay at our healthiest.

So here are 3 reasons to banish that mum guilt and get out doing the things that you love!

  1. SELF CARE
    You need to take care of yourself so you can take care of your children

    So often mums put themselves last, too busy taking care of everyone else to put much effort into their own needs. There is always some self sacrifice needed when looking after little people. However, this tendency towards 100% self sacrifice isn’t healthy for mums or their kids. It just leaves mum feeling ragged and worn out, short tempered and not feeling their best. Even further than that, constantly focusing on the care of others and not looking after yourself can lead to things like postnatal depression, anxiety and burnout.
    If you take time out to fill up your own bucket this can only have a positive flow on effect to the rest of your family. You will be happier, lighter and more able to meet everybody else’s needs, and your family will be happier for it.
  2. KEEPING YOUR IDENTITY
    Many women state that after they’ve had children they feel they’ve lost themselves and just become “mum”.
    It’s important to do the things you love. By continuing your passions and hobbies you can hopefully prevent that lost feeling.
    I know I’ve certainly felt invigorated and just like my old self when I’ve taken time away to go and ride my horse alone.
    When the kids eventually leave the nest, as they inevitably will (we hope), you won’t feel as at sea because you’ve still got passion and direction doing the things that you love.
  3. TEACHING YOUR KIDS IMPORTANT LESSONS
    You’ve most likely heard the saying ‘children are to be seen and not heard’. This was the attitude of many towards children in bygone eras. This was obviously not a great attitude to have, however in trying to correct it we’ve sometimes swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction, almost treating kids as little kings and queens, pandering to every want.
    It’s good for kids to learn that they are not the centre of the universe.
    By making time for yourself, telling your children that mummy is going to go and do her own thing now, can teach important skills to your children such as:
    – how to wait
    – how to deal with boredom
    – how to manage frustration
    – to make allowances for others
    It’s also important that you keep your partner or spouse first, then come the kids. Your partner was there first and will be there after. You will also be able to model what a strong relationship looks like to your children. If you’re doing the single mum thing though, you’re a superhero, that’s really hard hey.

I hope these reasons have helped to free you up to get out there and start doing the things you love – guilt free!

Happy horsing! x

Check out jeanequ.com for beautiful riding wear! Definitely treated myself with this one.

Is there anybody out there?

Loneliness. It’s a state that is on the rise in many towns and countries. It is also something that is on the rise amongst different age groups. Typically it is something I would have associated with the elderly, but I am learning that it is also an issue for young mums.

When you’ve had a baby and the whirlwind settles down, you start to get a handle on things and your partner goes back to work, it’s easy to slide into a feeling of loneliness.

You might have an activity planned for the day, but really that only takes an hour or two. Then what are you going to do for the remaining six hours before your partner gets home?

Entertaining the baby takes up time, but I’ve come to find that its so much harder to entertain the baby when its just me at home with him. To be honest, I think I’m starting to bore him. He’s definitely sick of the lounge room, and the other rooms in the house are starting to lose their charm. As soon as we go out he’s so much happier. But where do we go? Who do we go with? All my friends work.

I’ve met some wonderful ladies at mother’s group and made a wonderful friend through our horses who also has young children, but as we feel our way into new friendships I don’t want to bombard them with requests to hang out everyday. On the other hand, maybe they are feeling the same way too?

When I do get together with adults I feel like I talk a hundred miles a minute, trying to express and share all of the experiences I’ve had alone. Then I feel guilty because I feel like I’ve spent the bulk of our time together talking and missed out on listening to their stories too.

Caring for my baby is a true joy, I am so grateful every day for him. It’s so much fun to watch him grow and discover the world. I just wish I had others to share it with throughout the day, that there were others to share my delight.

Our Western societies have become more and more individualistic, until we are where we are today without real community and support in our lives. People don’t know their neighbours, we spend our days too busy to stop and check in with others. I know I have been guilty of this.

We’ve lost the village that it takes to raise a child. How do we get it back?

I would just like to encourage you, when you see a young mum, or anyone who might be isolated or alone, don’t hustle on by in your busy haze. Take the time to stop and check in. Organise a visit or an outing, or even a phone call.

Let’s get our villages back!

Lived Experiences: Sally

Since having a baby I have loved connecting with and listening to other mothers. It is such a special experience being a mum and I believe the shared experience brings us closer together as women. Another powerful thing that has united me with countless others is a love of horses. Combining the two seemed a no-brainer.

As I have gathered these answers from different ladies I feel so privileged to be allowed a little glimpse into their lives. Their words of wisdom and authenticity have been so encouraging to me, and I hope they are to you too. Here is Sally.

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Q1: Please tell us about your family – both human and horse 

My human family consist of myself Sally, husband Andrew, daughter Kloe 13 years and son Luke 7 years.  

My horse family consists of a total of 7!  Starting with our Quarter Horses we have Sammi, an 8 year old chestnut Mare, Nigel 6 year old Chestnut gelding (both have previously been a Western Performance Horses) and Gem a 3 year old Bay Roan Mare whom we bred.  Sammi had a foal who we named Mack, he is now just turning 2 and his daddy is a stockhorse.  We then go to Kloe’s Welsh Cremello Galloway Yuki who is also 6 years old.  Kloe takes him off to Pony Club and events and then we have Kloe’s little grey Welsh A pony mare who she has well and truly grown out of, but we couldn’t part with named Dali.  Luke now rides her a little but primarily he rides his gorgeous Shetland Goldie.  

Q2: How did you manage returning to riding after having a baby? What were the main challenges you faced? How have you been able to indulge your horse passion in your life since having children? Has the picture changed much? Have there been any compromises or new opportunities?

The truth is I have only just pottered with my riding since having the kids.  Prior to having the kids my husband and I were heavily involved in the Western Performance Industry, hence the number of Quarter Horses we have.  After the kids were born the importance of the show industry and ‘achieving results’ really changed big time for us.  When I was pregnant with Kloe we actually visited a stud that we’d always wanted to purchase one of their progeny from and the majority of their stock all went as youngsters (or at least the ones in our budget) and we picked (or she picked us) the most glorious little mousey brown filly.  Considering that we were going up for a chestnut gelding it was quite the surprise to be purchasing her.  We named her Megs as she had the most gorgeous brown speckles throughout a glorious blaze on her face.  Megs was weaned and made the trip interstate to come to live with us when Kloe was just 7 weeks old.  This doesn’t sound an ideal combination, but I effectively had a new baby and a weanling to play with at the same time!  

Megs was the most divine natured horse and we had so much fun just hanging out.  It was so lovely to just go and hang out with her to get a sanity break, she listened intently to all my stories and became so quiet she’d walk along with me pushing the stroller and I felt totally safe to be doing so.  I showed Megs a few times and another older gelding we had in ridden events but was surprised to find that I really didn’t enjoy it like I used to.  I was far more focused on what was going on with Kloe in the stands or thinking about what time it was in relation to her next feed, nappy change, sleep ect and have I got everything organised, what have I forgotten and left at home!  I felt like I was half-arsing both my horses and mum duties so I kind of just petered out with it and preferred to just go along to support Andrew.  Although once Megs was old enough to ride, she did spark my interest again and I enjoyed showing her at some smaller events, but Andrew would go as Kloe’s carer and not ride.  I could feel ok if Andrew had Kloe but if he wasn’t able to care for her, I was terrible at letting anyone else do it.     

Luke was a totally different experience, born premature at just 28 weeks and spent 5&1/2 months in hospital 1 hour away from home.  During this time horses where just on basic maintenance, fed, check water, no-one’s bleeding, no-one’s lame, rugs are ok…have a good day pony’s, I best describe it as being in survival mode!  I was missing time with my beloved Megs and once Luke came home, I was keen to get back to making time in my week to be with her.  I had kept riding Megs throughout my shortened pregnancy with Luke which I found some folk to be quite judgemental of, it’s a topic that really divides opinions, most supported my riding but I did receive a bit of a shaming about it from someone I considered a close friend at the time that really took me by surprise.  Megs was an extremely quiet horse and sometimes I’d just go for a walk, I honestly felt safer riding her than driving my car on a busy road!  

Tragically only a couple of months after Luke came home, Megs got extremely sick and developed laminitis.  I could barely breathe at times throughout the ordeal, it’s such a horrendous condition and she was affected badly.  I couldn’t understand how after enduring what we’d gone through with Luke that life could be this unkind?  Megs valiantly stayed with us for just over 12months and in that time we successfully got an embryo transfer which resulted in Gem.  Her condition deteriorated and I had to say goodbye to my horse soul mate which was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  I was then so grateful for the rides I’d had during my pregnancy.    

Kloe has been a very keen rider from about 6 years of age which has kept me busy and being around her little mare Dali helped me to deal with loosing Megs.  I had thoughts of perhaps it’s time that I grew up and gave my own horse aspirations away, after all they cost a lot to keep and I’d had my turn!  But I found the more I distanced myself from my own horse aspirations the sadder I felt.  There was something inside me that just couldn’t give them up.  Sammi just came out of the blue, advertised on her breading value, she’d been trained for Western Performance but not shown but was bred by the stud that we had purchased Megs from, and she was by the same sire.  Although Sammi looks quite different to Megs, there were some similarities in a gorgeous disposition.  Sammi hadn’t enjoyed her training and I wasn’t looking to show so I have explored my love of horsemanship with her which has led me on this current journey of self-discovery and a new level of awareness of ‘horsekind’.  Kloe also inspired me to get back into it as I realised it was far more important for me to be a good role model to her than be telling her how to ride and what to do all the time.  

I am really happy to be getting back into it and I currently ride both Nigel who is incredibly sweet and Sammi and my mission is to join both the local Working Equitation (with Kloe) and Western Dressage Clubs.  

Q4: What is your number one piece of advice for managing having a young family and your equine goals, dreams and aspirations?

# 1 piece of advice is to not try to take on the world with our horsing endeavours as we get back into it!  I don’t believe it’s a good time to be stretching ourselves even further at a time that we are already quite emotionally stretched.  Be kind to yourself and enjoy the time you have with your kids, spend time just hanging out with your horses and take the expectations out of the equation.  I believe if we go coincidingly putting crazy expectations on ourselves with our parenting and equine achievements, then we risk taking our emotional states into our horse interactions and challenging parenting times which isn’t healthy for either relationships.  Ease back into it as it is doable and ask trusted others to help with the kids.  If you don’t have that help available, just enjoy what you can do without judging yourself as not doing enough.  You’re growing an adult, a hugely important job so you are doing more than enough already!   

Anna Blake Clinic – With a Baby

When I found out that Anna Blake was coming to Australia to do some clinics, and not only that, but coming within a 3 hour drive of me, I had to go.

Anna is the genius of horse communication, learning and using the horse’s own language – calming signals. She is also a dressage trainer and works in horse rescue. She leaves at Infinity Farm in the USA and runs The Barn, an online group where calming signals are learned and horse’s lives are made better. You can find out more about her here.

My wonderful mum travelled 1000km to come with me, both to support me as I brought Jack along, and to do some learning of her own.

Leading up to the clinic I was doing some pretty high level worrying. We would have to drive two and a half hours there and back. Jack would need to sleep in a different environment in his portacot, and be a quiet baby while we listened in at the clinic, and this was our first time away from my husband.

And then, disaster struck, my husband got a cold the weekend before. We went into hyper vigilant cold prevention mode – Alex wore a face mask while he was at home, we had the Glen-20 going and I even had my friend drop around her essential oils and diffuser (I am not yet fully convinced as to whether the effect of essential oils is not just placebo). Then I became ill, but thankfully only very mildly (Alex was in the throes of a severe form of man flu – is there any other kind?). And miraculously little Jack did not catch the cold at all – praise the Lord!

So we set off, arrived at our destination without too much trouble, and set ourselves up in the barn loft. The venue was a beautiful private property, with the most beautiful old style home you have ever seen, and grassy paddocks.

The next morning we met Anna Blake herself and she couldn’t have been more welcoming to me and Jack. As she held Jack’s hand she looked me in the eye and made a point of saying that my baby was welcome, that he would not be a disruption if he cried, and that if any of the other participants had a problem with him they would have to answer to her. I can’t express how grateful I am that she did this.

These were my top take-home messages from the clinic, the experience of taking a baby along I have written down afterwards if you’re interested.

  • Calming signals are things horses do to either tell others to calm down or to soothe themselves, they include:
    • Looking away
    • Narrowing eyes (turning inwards, shutting down)
    • Freezing
    • Different ear signs
    • Stretching down, rubbing nose on leg, sniffing ground
    • Eating (often done to calm themselves)
    • Licking, chewing, yawning, champing
  • The only way horses have to tell us something is wrong is with their behaviour
  • Don’t interrupt them when they show calming signals – give them a chance to say something
  • Notice the “volume” of the calming signals – are they relaxed or frantic? Make sure you look at them in context
  • If you are asking your horse to do something and they give a calming signal, STOP and listen, then ask again
  • A horse’s senses are so much better than ours, we can ask with a whisper
  • I cannot stop anxiety – it is part of life – but I can develop a training plan to increase my horse’s confidence
  • Less correction, more direction
    • Aim for curiosity in your horse – saying YES to them does this, then redirect with another question if it wasn’t quite what you wanted
  • There is nothing to be gained by punishing a horse
  • Use your breath – it is the most powerful calming cue we have
    • Connect to your horse with meditative slow and deep breathing
    • Inhale for energy, exhale for calming
  • When riding:
    • Rhythm is everything – keep your body in rhythm with your horse
    • Be present in your body
    • You must teach yourself to breathe
  • When doing something new have lots of rest breaks to allow your horse to think

The day started off well with Anna giving a talk in the barn about what calming signals were. Jack coped well and napped in his pram. Later in the morning we went out to the paddocks to halter the horses and watch what they were telling us with their body language. Jack started to come a bit undone at this point and it was difficult to settle him. Mum and I went back to the barn and I had a tiny meltdown, feeling like we shouldn’t have come. Mum asked if I wanted to go home but we had come this far and what we were learning was really fantastic, how could I just give up?

In the afternoon a thunderstorm had us running back inside and Anna talked to us some more and demonstrated some of the principles of affirmative training while riding. I really enjoyed this and Jack was able to nap in his portacot upstairs in the loft. When the storm had ended Tracy, the clinic host, recorded a podcast episode with Anna and we were able to join in asking questions. Check it out here, it was really great.

By the end of the day I was really glad we had come and stayed, despite how hard it felt.

The next day we went home early as the wet weather had set in so standing out in the open watching the riding lessons wasn’t really feasible with Jack. That was ok, as the lessons we had learnt in just the one day were invaluable.

What I learnt about parenting and horsing from going to the clinic was that things will be hard. There isn’t any other way to look at it. It will be hard to ride regularly, it will be hard to attend events such as shows and clinics and trail rides. But in spite of the difficulty it is still worth doing these things. It is worth the effort to pursue my passion and I’m glad I did this weekend.

First Rides

Well! I have had my first rides back in the saddle at last.

Essie went on a jaunt with Hayley from Outback Equines for almost 4 weeks. While she was there she did some showjumping (walking over the jump was her preferred method of attack), helped Hayley teach at a 4 day camp amidst the hustle and bustle of horses galore, went on trails rides and saw some cows, and demanded treats while Hayley was teaching another horse to float load.

The report was that Essie is awesome. She didn’t put a foot wrong and she coped with all of the new experiences well. In short I don’t have to worry, I can trust her.

Essie came home last Sunday, 9 weeks since Jack was born. Hayley stayed while I had my first ride.

Heading down to the paddock I had the jitters of nerves swirling in my tummy, but I reframed them as excitement at getting back into riding after 6 months!

I asked Hayley if she would get on first. As I watched her walking around those jitters started to settle and my confidence started increasing. We talked about the best way to approach riding Essie and Hayley praised the training she has received so far.

It was my turn and can I say it was the best feeling ever. Sliding into the saddle felt like sliding on an old glove that has been worn over and over until it fits perfectly and is soft and malleable in your hand. My body instantly recognised Essie’s and my muscles remembered the feel of riding her. I had had the irrational worry that I’d forgotten how to ride, but it was all there.

Walk, trot and canter with a smile. My innards felt very wobbly, my core is gone, and I had a stitch after about 10 minutes but I couldn’t be happier.

After getting off I was filled with so much joy, I was excited, ecstatic even. I couldn’t stop smiling. My new mantra beating around my head – I can trust my horse 100%.

Two days later, with my mum visiting, I had a chance to ride again. This time without the supportive presence of a trainer. It was a bit of a different ride. We started off fine however she was running in the trot and I lost my nerve and stopped trusting her. This resulted in very short reins which caused some head shaking. Afterwards I was stuck on that 30 seconds of headshaking and kicking myself for my nerves and the lost trust.

How easy is it to focus on what went wrong? Out of 20 minutes of riding all I could think about was the bad 30 seconds. The rest of the 19 minutes and 30 seconds was great.

After hashing it out a bit with mum and my husband, I tried to remember the positives from the ride and to make a plan for my next ride.

Do you do this too? Hone in on the small bit of negative when there is a plethora of positive floating about also? I know I am a sucker for this in my horsing life and I’ve also noticed it in the short time I’ve been parenting too. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Here’s to choosing to focus our attention on what went well, and to using what went not so well as a learning tool to make us better next time.

Journal 2: Orientation

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

The task given to me this week on the Comeback pathway is to reflect on where my thoughts and feelings naturally orient to in the everyday and in challenging situations. What patterns of behaviour do I habitually turn to when things get a bit tough, where does my attention go?

As I read through the activity I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I’m a pretty positive person’. However, as I purposefully took note of how I respond to challenges, it’s different to what I expected.

My list of observations:

  • If I have applied a set of preconceived expectations to how things should pan out and something happens to derail that, I find that I am quick to orient towards the negative ~
    • my attention turns towards the things I, or others, have lost because of the challenge ~ example: Alex’s birthday wasn’t super fun because our little boy was having a bad day; I felt like I’d failed to make the day special and was upset about that, when all Alex wanted was to be with me and Jack
  • It may not be the actual challenge that really upsets me, but my response to it ~
    • if I respond negatively to a challenge, I am able to step back and see that, but then I go on a path of self-flagellation that I shouldn’t have responded that way, which is far worse than the challenge itself
    • I think this is a symptom of perfectionism – I have seen my response to the challenge as imperfect and thus I beat myself up for that
    • an example: Jack was having a really trying day during a growth spurt, we went out for a walk up the road to a cafe, I asked my husband to take Jack’s long pants off because it was getting quite warm, this woke Jack up from his nap and then he cried…a lot…I then blamed myself for waking him up and then I felt the entire day was “ruined” because of my poor choice
  • I use the word “ruined” A LOT
    • Usually to describe what I’ve done to a day by reacting poorly to things going badly
    • Sometimes to things going awry outside my control but more often than not it’s because I feel I’ve made a mistake, and that is definitely not OK
  • I find it hard to let go of what has happened and return to a light and happy mood for the remainder of the day; I let the experience mar the whole day rather than keeping it in the small window of time that it actually affected
  • When I am working with my horse I tend to follow this pattern of self-recrimination too ~
    • If we have a bad session I will often hone in on the things I did wrong and then feel very guilty about them for some time ~ usually if I was to get angry at Essie or if I was insensitive to her needs (even if I didn’t realise it at the time)
  • If my attention has gone towards feelings of anger at myself, physically I notice a tightness or heaviness in my chest, like there’s a stone sitting there pulling me downwards; I also notice a tension in my arms and legs, like they need to be really active to release it
  • A one word description of what I’ve noticed about my responses to challenges: GUILT

I think when it comes down to it, the problem I face is being kind to myself. I would never blame other’s like I blame myself. I would never hold a grudge on others like I hold against myself if I make a mistake. Mistakes are part of life, and often they are the very best way to learn a lesson well.

I’m looking forward to the next stages of this comeback journey ~ gaining the resources to re-pattern my responses and reset and move forwards.

Great Expectations

I made a mistake. I read a book. Well not a book exactly, but I started following a “sleeping program” for my baby. I had always said I wasn’t going to read any how to baby books, but I thought this was different. It lured me in and I expected to have the great results that all the reviews were touting. I mean I didn’t know exactly how much sleep a baby needs. I didn’t know that I needed white noise and side patting and correct swaddling and a million other things to make sure my baby sleeps well, this program was the key to sleep filled nights and dream filled days right?

But here’s the thing: My baby hasn’t read the book [or sleep programme]. My baby is an individual who has individual needs. Here I was thinking I was doing the right thing keeping him up for an hour and a half at a time, only to end up with an extremely overtired baby. Because when I actually looked at him as an individual and his own particular needs, he was showing tired signs at the 45 minute to an hour mark! I had been keeping him awake far too long until it all fell apart one sunny day and we had a screaming, exhausted baby.

It made me think back to when I started following a training method with my horse. I was hooked, this was going to have us leaping over rainbows in no time! But I felt like such a failure when I wasn’t seeing the results that so many others apparently were! Things started to change when I stopped being so religious with following the steps exactly, and instead looked at my horse as an individual and used my own creativity to try doing things differently. And then we started to have breakthroughs.

You see, no one can create a step by step program that will work for everyone when you are dealing with individuals, beings with unique personalities. It’s great to take information from them and look at the principles underlying. But if you need to go off script, that’s ok too, in fact its probably good! Feel the freedom to use your imagination and creativity.

It’s important to educate yourself, but it’s also important to follow your intuition. If something isn’t working, try something else.

Tell me about any of the horse or child methods you’ve tried – did it work or did you veer off on your own?

Lived Experiences: Annyka

While I am just starting out on my journey of juggling motherhood and my equestrian dreams, there are many who have gone before me who we can learn from. It is so important to share with others both the highs and the lows. When we talk openly with one another we don’t feel so alone and we often find hope and confidence that we too can do the hard things.

I will periodically be posting interviews with beautiful mothers who are a little further along in the journey than I am and I hope that you will enjoy reading about their experiences and learn as much as I have from them.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

~ A chat with the lovely Annyka ~

Q1: Please tell us about your family – both human and horse

My husband and I have three children aged 12 (Oliver),13 (Charlotte) and 14yrs (Lachie). We live on a 10,00acre farm which we manage. My husband is into training and competing working stock dogs so we have about 12 working dogs and I have 8 horses varying from yearlings to older brood mares, riding horses including two kids ponies and a couple of sitting in the paddock annoying my husband favourites.

My youngest son is also into training animals, and my daughter competes and loves natural horsemanship. The discussion around our dinner table can get pretty wild with training stories and ideas as we are all big picture thinkers and love discussing training and mindset. Most weekends we have people over training with us so there is always something happening at our house. My oldest son is the most academic, not animal orientated at all. He prefers mechanics, flying lessons, sports and keeping us organised. He makes up for our lack of structure. We love him to bits. He reminds us there is a world outside of farming and animals

Q2: How did you manage returning to riding after having a baby? What were the main challenges you faced?

I rode right up to the day before I had my first child and was back competing after 5 weeks. I still remember galloping to the finish line on cross country and heard my son crying. Immediately my milk came in and I started leaking milk all over my shirt. My husband virtually threw Lachie at me saying ‘feed him, he is starving’ while I was still leading my horse back. He took the horse and I had to undress as quickly as possible to feed him all sticky and sweaty. It was the weirdest feeling.

I did notice though I became less confident starting horses under saddle after I had one throw me and knocked me unconscious. I lost a heap of nerve and got to the point where even mounting my young horses became terrifying. There was a whole year where it took all of my might, shaking madly just to get on, wait a minute before getting back off again. I had to just keep riding the quiet ones, and talk myself through it.

Thankfully, I was still doing a lot of ground work with the horses, which really helped, as it kept me connected with the horses. Being able to still be out there and working with them without having to get on was a life saver. I came up with a plan where I got the young horses ready to ride, and then sent them away to a friend of mine who starts young horses who gives them the first two weeks riding then I take them back and continue their education. It works well. I now know what standards he needs from the horses before I send them there, and he knows what I need before they come back. We work well together. I figured rather than stop starting young horses, which I love dearly, I just need to adapt, be OK with what I was no longer confident doing and come up with a plan to continue. This has turned out to be a real win/win for both of us.

In a practical sense being able to ride when the kids were sleeping was always a challenge. Luckily my horses live at the house so I could bring one in and tack up, then as soon as the kids were asleep I’d shoot out and ride. I knew exactly how far the baby monitor could reach. I used to attach it to the breastplate which always worked well, until one day I put it on a young horse and one of the kids woke up screaming, which I could hear on the baby monitor. My horse freaked out at the sound and took off bucking. I remember trying to reach the monitor to turn it off while still trying to stay on and get the horse back under control. Thankfully it all ended well but I did make sure the horses were used to it on the ground before I rode with it on again.

The kids always came to competitions with me, and I would park them in a pram next to the warm up. They seemed to know and were always well behaved. I remember one competition a lady asked my why my kids were always so well behaved in the pram. I joked and said, rum, lots of rum in the milk. She took me seriously and nearly died. I had to correct her pretty quick and let her know it was only a joke.

That same weekend I had just parked the pram and was leading my horse away when the blanket I had in the pram blew off and into my horses back legs. My horse kicked out, hitting the edge of the pram only inches from Lachie’s head and sent the pram flying. I thought my horse had killed him. Turns out he was fine, a bit shaken up, but a quick cuddle and he was all good so I parked him again and went back to the warm up.

My other biggest issue was my lack of, or let’s be honest complete failure of any bladder control. I have been doing some pelvic floor exercises and it is improving but I always have to ride with the biggest pad ever. There was a time when going cross-country I had to wear an adult nappy. No one noticed but I was always embarrassed. However, it was that or not ride and I decided not riding because of it was much worse.

As they got older my issue became logistics. With all three playing sport and living in a little country town where everything was at least an hour away we had to start budgeting our weekends. My husband and I always had a joke that whoever got their date up on the calendar in the toilet (the best place ever to have a calendar. Everyone has to look at it at least once a day) got the rights to the weekend.

Once the kids started playing sport we had to factor that in too. Some weekends it is a crazy juggling act, but having many wonderful friends help us out where possible has been amazing.We couldn’t do what we do without them. I was once afraid of asking for help, but now I realise people love helping out and we return the favour wherever possible. We never know if we are going to have no children or 9 children travelling with us to sports and competitions. Somehow, we just find a way to make it work. I remember once my husband took our youngest and most chilled human with him to a dog trial where he was judging. Oliver was on a blanket chilling with a toy next to the arena when a woman came over all stressed saying there was an abandoned child and did the know where the parents were. He had to own up that it was his son and Oliver was in fact very loved and cared for. The kids just got used to cruising about with us and rarely caused a fuss. It was just the way things are.

Q3: How have you been able to indulge your horse passion in your life since having children? Has the picture changed much? Have there been any compromises or new opportunities?

My horsey image certainly has changed since having children. Beforehand, weekends were free to travel the country competing, mornings meant getting up early and riding 3 horses before breakfast and leaving for work, and evenings were all about staying outside feeding and spending time with the horses.

You can all image how that changed once little people came around. I still worked full time but we employed a nanny from when the children were around 5 to 9yrs. That worked really well for several years, well until I noticed the children were become more disengaged and my daughter’s school teacher told me Charlotte was following her in to the staff room wanting cuddles and being very clingy.

I decided that I needed to spend more time with them so left my job of 13 years and decided to start a business from home so I could keep riding, be there for the kids and still have an income. That in itself was very challenging but the best decision I ever made, for me, my husband and my children. They were all at school by this stage so it has allowed me to focus on the business and horses during the day and still be able to attend assemblies and take to them and from after school sports as well as be there to talk through troubles at school with friends and to help nurture their resilience and creativity.

I don’t have the competition aspirations I once did, I get so much more out of coaching and training young horses now. I have really delved into the personal development and mindset realm, and had to adapt my lifestyle to work for me. The best thing is that in making that decision alone, opportunities have opened up to me that would not ever arisen had I stayed working in my 9 – 5 job. Opportunities that have taken me all over the world and because my husband is awesome and the kids now very self-reliant I can go and chase my own dreams.

Horses are and will always be my main focus. No, I don’t mean my family isn’t. They are my world, my rocks and my loves. They always came first without question but I continue to put my focus on my goals in life that invigorate and inspire me to continue being the best that I can be which helps my little people to do the same. My kids need to know that I will always be there for them, no matter what, but dreams don’t stop when you have a family.My dreams drive me to be able to create wealth and opportunities for my family to thrive. By keeping my dreams alive I am helping them to do the same for themselves.

Q4: What is your number one piece of advice for managing having a young family and your equine goals, dreams and aspirations?

Stay focussed on the big picture and then take things day by day from there.With little people in the house it in near impossible to have rigid plans and schedules, so have an ideal outcome for any given day, including riding horses etc and then adapt to suit, and accept as OK what you weren’t able to achieve and celebrate that what you were.

The other most important thing we found that it is important to keep focussing on our needs, and pleasures in life. It is easy to get caught up doing everything for the kids but we only end up resentful and exhausted. Allowing ourselves as parents to have a break away every now and then doing something with and that we love, allows us to stay fresh and inspired when we are home.

It takes work to organise getting away for the weekends competing or just having a break but it is totally worth it. My husband and I will often alternate weekends, he goes off dog trialling every couple of weeks and I go off playing with horses once a month, while the other stays home with the kids managing the barrage of sporting and schooling commitments. The rest we enjoy at home. spending time with the little people or having a family weekend doing something fun. We both love our time away and we are so much happier at home for it!

My equine dreams and passions never stopped while my children were small, they certainly changed and evolved to suit my new family lifestyle but the overarching big dreams were still there spurring me on to keep ticking on and doing anything I could to make some sort of progress towards that each day. Even if it was reading a book to update my knowledge, or watching inspirational videos and DVD’s while the children slept in my arms or were feeding. Going out and riding or playing with the horses for 5 mins max was still progress. I painted jump rails, fixed fences, went through and organised all my gear while the kids were playing beside me or on my back. It kept me inspired while still connecting with and looking after our little humans. As they got older they became more involved in what we were doing. We were able to still have our own passions, but then introduce our little ones to the joys we find in those passions. 

We also had to become more involved in our little people’s own passions outside of dogs and horses. I became a gymnastic judge so I could help out with Charlottes gymnastics. I now know the in’s and out of Rugby after driving often 6 hours to carnivals, to then turn around, load the horses and get to another event or carnival before midnight. Lachie has taught me all about pulling apart engines, and how planes fly. By the end of the year he will take me up with him while he is flying, that is going to take some advice from Jane [Jane Pike – Confident Rider] as to how to handle that without freaking out!

All in all, I think we did the best that we could. We all have big goals in our family, and do whatever we can to achieve those. That doesn’t mean there were many times I felt like giving it all up, there were tons of those! It doesn’t mean we never got it wrong…. we make tons of mistakes and it doesn’t mean we get everything achieved we want to and that’s OK. We are only doing the best we can with what we have, and what we know. I find any progress is good progress, no matter how small. I don’t berate myself (much) when I have days where I just sit by the fire and pat the cat. The cat sure doesn’t mind. The horses don’t get ridden every day, and the house isn’t always clean. OK, I’ll be honest….it’s rarely clean but it is full of love!

All I can do is love my family, what I do and most importantly love myself. Not in an arrogant egotistical way, but in a way where I care for myself as much as I do anyone else. When I am full of love, I am then overflowing and can share it all around. I’m just a big ball of loveeeee…hahaha Oh, and a fair bit of crazy!

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