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At the barn and beyond, leaving behind the familiar and the comfortable requires hard work and a bit of letting go.
It was one of those riding lessons where nothing goes right. Or left: My horse Lady had decided she had no interest in turning. She made it quite clear that, no matter what I asked, she wished to go straight ahead. If I made even the tiniest mistake in how I used my rein or leg to cue for a turn, she snatched the opportunity to do anything she could to avoid changing course---including running me into the arena wall.
I’ll admit I got really frustrated and then a bit angry. I’m a beginning rider and Lady is not especially well schooled, but I really thought the ability to turn should have been a given for us at this point. I’m not saying the turns were just late and sloppy. I mean---seriously!---we hit the dang wall!
Yet, driving home that day, I found myself laughing. Once again, I saw my life struggles laid bare at the barn. From time to time I realize that a particularly difficult challenge I’m having with my horse is actually the same issue I’m navigating in my life.
Recently, I’d been evaluating whether the trajectory I’m on in life is still doing it for me. And I’d been trying to get my head around how to change direction. I wanted to reorient my priorities so I’ll have the flexibility to spend more time pursuing a dream.
Yet, like Lady, I kept looking for a reason to just keep heading straight ahead. I’d take any excuse to stay in the groove of the path I’ve been on. Because, let’s face it, turning is hard. Lady resists because she’s stiff, and it is physically difficult some days for her to make a nice soft bend while carrying my weight. I resist because I also don’t always feel flexible enough to reorganize the hours of my day.
People, like horses, are creatures of habit. We have so much potential, and we can run in so many different directions, yet we stick to the familiar and the comfortable---afraid of the monsters that might be lurking if we branch out and go somewhere new. When asked to change, our first instinct is to resist.
Lady’s resistance to turning made me aware of all of the ways that I’m also resisting signals that it’s time to change course. In working through her refusals to turn I had to remember to INSIGHTS: For keep the reins soft Tamar Charney, on her mouth so riding lessons she wouldn’t brace with her mare against my aids. Lady have been Yet I needed to be instructive in clear about what I surprising ways. wanted her to do.
And I had to avoid letting her maneuver me into using too much inside rein, which would give her the leverage to swing out rather than turning in.
I, too, have to stay flexible so I can give in to the new ways of being. I need to be clear with myself about what I’m trying to do differently. And I need to not take the bait of the people around me who might prefer I stay the course.
The day after my difficult lesson, I saddled up for another ride. This time, Lady was soft and supple, a willing partner who went wherever I asked her to go. The hard work of the previous day had paid off in the grace of things going just as they should.
Lady had offered me a well-timed lesson that changing course requires hard work and a bit of letting go--a lesson to be applied at the barn and beyond.
From time to time I realize that a particularly difficult challenge I’m having with my horse is actually the same issue I’m navigating in my life.