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Less is more

Updated: Aug 14, 2021

We are all familiar with this concept but, how often do we apply it skillfully in our lives? My approach to life is to try and try harder if necessary. I grew up believing that hard work led to success.

I was born with dyslexia. My learning disability first showed up when I began reading and writing. I wrote my letters backward and spelled my name E N A I D. I also read from right to left. Dyslexia affected my hand-eye coordination as well. For example, it was challenging for me to catch a ball.

I struggled to keep up in first grade, and at the teacher's recommendation, I repeated it. My parents also enrolled me in Special Education classes. In these classes, I worked on reading, writing, and coordination skills.

My memories from this time are mostly happy ones. I loved my first-grade teacher, so spending another year with her felt like a bonus. I was supported and liked the individual attention of Special Ed. In the end, I emerged a much more confident kid.

I'm rarely aware of my learning disability today. Over the years, I proved myself to be a good student, but I had to work harder than other kids to achieve A's and B's.

This experience, and others, led me to develop the habit of giving things my all. I brought this attitude into my relationship with Rudy. Unfortunately, our strengths can also be our weaknesses when they are overused.

Giving everything you've got, being persistent and tenacious are great qualities. These personality characteristics are often associated with successful people. I've achieved many things by showing up and not giving up.

Early on, I ran into problems with Rudy. My definition of success, or a good session, wasn't necessarily his idea of a good session. I tended to ask for "another" when he had just done his best. When he became resistant, I asked for more, and it became a battle of wills. Things often escalated quickly, and Rudy was always willing to go bigger.

A year into my relationship with him, I was introduced to Horse Speak by Sharon Wilsie. I devoured her book and immediately tried her techniques with him. Almost instantaneously, things improved. Rudy appreciated the new approach, and as if by magic, the relationship softened. The resistance was gone, and we accomplished things with ease that I didn't think was possible.

Over the years, I've continued on this path but occasionally slip back into my human ways. I ask one too many times; I decide I need to win or forget that soft is better. When this happens, Rudy reminds me of the rules and gives me another chance.

I try to think, "lighter-lighter-lighter, less-less-less" and apply this to everything I do with him. When I ride, I practice using the lightest, most minor cue. Sometimes, I start by thinking about the action, and then I wait for a response. Like the tendency to use too much pressure, I think it's common for horse owners to expect an immediate response.

I get so excited when Rudy walks when I think "walk" or when he comes down to a walk from a trot when I exhale. I love doing groundwork with him; a mere glance at his left flank results in him yielding over or with the lightest touch on his shoulder, he backs.

I thoroughly enjoy doing bodywork with him because he loves it. It's a great way to bond as well as to hone the communication between us. It's so cool to watch my breathing patterns influence his. I take a deep breath in expanding my ribcage, and then Rudy does the same.

The other day after doing some bodywork with him, I left his stall. Standing a few feet away, I used Sharon Wilsie's "O" posture. I dropped my head, gave a little shuffle on the floor with my foot, and let out a sigh. In response, Rudy yawned, the kind where his eyes roll back in his head as he released tension. It tickled me to help him in this way. (Horse Speak, The Equine-Human Translation Guide, Sharon Wilsie & Gretchen Vogel).

It's the nuance in life that makes it rich. It's tuning in and slowing down, listening instead of talking. Life is about connection. We can't connect if we dictate forcing our will on another soul creates resistance. Where there is resistance, the partnership will be elusive.

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