Got a splinter in your contentment?

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One of the projects now on the boards (and as yet to be officially named, but springboarding from the Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat we had last spring at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa), is programming (some combination of live events and online/downloadable coursework) geared toward using horses and a series of reflective exercises (including some of those introduced in The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses) to help people in transition to build self-awareness, identify obstacles and solutions, and create a plan for moving forward with authenticity to find the fulfillment they’re looking for.

People ask me all the time exactly how it is that horses, of all things, can help people in this way. For people who haven’t spent much time around horses, it may seem ludicrous that a big “dumb” animal can open such doors to insight in the types of unmounted exercises known as “equine assisted learning (EAL).”

For those who may have heard of equine therapies, including therapeutic riding and equine assisted therapy, their understanding limits this idea to addressing serious physical, mental and emotional challenges. Far different, but in a few ways similar to equine assisted therapy, equine assisted learning is a wonderfully effective tool for developing the self awareness that can help us address any sort of dissatisfaction in our lives — and to help us identify and acquire the tools we need to move forward on whatever brings us joy and contentment — at any age or stage.  “It’s kind of like when you have a splinter, ‘” one friend summarized recently as the distinction became clear to her. “You wouldn’t go to a surgeon to get it removed. You’d go find a mom with a pair of tweezers.”

We’ve decided we want to be that mom with the tweezers.

Pooling the combined wisdom and resources of key members of the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreats team, we want to share what we’re learning to help others get “unstuck” when life shifts happen. And, the more we learn about this process and the results it can yield to shore us up and move us forward through the more ordinary kinds of ennui that besets all of us from time to time —  especially in the face of transition — we’re more convinced than ever of the good horses can do if we’ll just open ourselves to the process.

“True equine therapy occurs when people learn to extend the fundamental principles of horsemanship to the rest of their life,” says Deborah McCormick, PhD, co-author of Horse Sense and the Human Heart and Horses and the Mystical Path. “Horses show us with their behavior how we need to fine-tune in ourselves in order to achieve that balance and internal harmony we’re all looking for.” Deborah, along with her mother, Adele von Rust McCormick, PhD and her late father, Tom McCormick, MD, are the founders of Hacienda Tres Aguilas — The Equine Experience™ and the Institute for Conscious Awareness (ICA), a non-profit organization devoted to human development, advancement and leadership in which they pioneered the use of horses in psychiatric treatment and psychodynamic therapies.

By becoming aware of the basics of herd behavior, and then observing how horses interact with us in a series of non-riding exercises, we see in very concrete terms how we may be getting in our own way without even realizing it. When there’s inconsistency between what we want and how we behave, a horse will make this obvious in very concrete terms. For example, a horse may invade the personal space of someone who struggles with setting and enforcing boundaries; he’ll likely take a much wider circle around someone who is more skilled at holding the line. (When you watch a 1000-pound animal act out what’s going on inside of you, you can’t help but get the point!)  As we learn how to observe and learn from this revealing dynamic, we begin to ask ourselves the important questions:

Why is the horse doing that?

What is my first impulse in response?

How does this interaction (or lack of) mirror other relationships/situations in my life?

From there, we begin to build your toolbox. How you use your tools and what you build from this experience is limited only by the edges of your imagination and your willingness to “go deep” in order to achieve the life satisfaction that may have given you the slip.  If you’d like to know more about this program as it evolves, or if you would like to apply to participate in one of our test groups, please email me at mkfolse@gmail.com.

Horse help for “heavy” lifting — and leverage on life baggage

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I heard an interesting story yesterday that’s too good not to share. It came to me by way of Jennifer Fulton, a trainer and riding instructor in Aledo, Texas, who spends a lot of her time and professional energy working with women on the Midlife Horses trail.

We were discussing our upcoming panel discussion at the AmerEquine Festival of the Horse next weekend, and she told me about one of her students, a 60-year old woman who came to her about three years ago and wanted to learn how to ride.

“This woman had no confidence at all,” Jennifer relates. “Her posture, her body language, her whole demeanor was downcast. She was carrying a lot of “life baggage” and it was clearly weighing her down. And, in the beginning, her horse even tripped a lot!” But for some reason this woman was drawn to horses, and Jennifer noticed something in her spirit that seemed to be asking for a chance to break free of all that downward energy. So slowly but surely, Jennifer told me, the woman has literally lifted herself up by riding and spending time with her horse. “Her posture is now completely straight,” Jennifer says, beaming, “She’ll look you in the eye, and she never would do that before. I’ve watched her confidence is blossom — and it shows in everything she does — and even in how her horse carries himself now, as well.” Jennifer smiles. “You know, this is why I do what I do. I love to say to her, ‘Just look what you can do! Just look at what your horse can do!”

I don’t know about you, but this story gives me goosebumps — and it is the perfect example of how our midlife horses can help us get “unstuck” in whatever transition we’re facing — and break free of whatever may have been dragging us down for who knows how long — right here in the middles of our lives. And as one of my guest panelists at our upcoming AmerEquine presentation, Jennifer has plenty more to share where that one came from. Come learn more about the transformation in confidence horses can bring — and share your own story of what changes your horse has brought about in you! We’ll be on the John Justin Arena Seminar Stage Friday 5:30 – 6:15 and Saturday 1:30-2:15, and in the Equine Network booth in the exhibit hall all weekend (stop by and say Hi!)

And meanwhile, what in your life builds that kind of uplifting confidence? When you’re facing a transition, what do you need in order to move joyfully forward? How do you prepare yourself to meet challenges and melt obstacles? How do you honor your own uniqueness at every stage of life?

These are among the topics brewing as we plan future events and programming to follow the Dust Off Your Dreams retreat. We’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, comments and suggestions. The dynamic team we’ve assembled is ready, willing, and able to move forward to our next stage — and we’ve even rounded up a few horses to help bring about the awareness and insight to make the goosebump-inducing difference you’ve been longing for.

Let us hear from you! Comment here, e-mail me privately at mkfolse@gmail.com, join our Facebook community, or follow me on Twitter, and we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop for upcoming events and programs!

Dream Dusting Preliminary Report

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I know  you’ve all been waiting on the edge of your seats to find out how last weekend’s first Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat went at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa.

Wellllllll . . . .

If it could have been any better, I couldn’t imagine it. A spectacular setting that turned out to be everything I hoped it would be and more. Leaders and participants whose interactions and explorations created just the right atmosphere of mutual support, spirit of adventure and quiet introspection that, by the final Sunday morning exercise, managed to coax even the most elusive dreams out of the shadows. (Sometimes, it turns out, the dream may be only to have a dream. Good enough!)

Even the questionable weather held off (except for providing us with an apropos dust-blowing-in-your-eyes corral metaphor that, while irritating at the time (literally!), just  bounced happily over to join the growing pile of life-changing metaphors gathering by the fire where we enjoyed our apres-dinner s’mores. (Bet you never thought you’d see “apres dinner” and “s’more” in the same sentence, now did you? Oddly, even this is a metaphor for the diversity of dreams in this group.)

Precious examines the thoughts of guest, DD Holmes, who describes the weekend as "inspiring, with new ideas and ways of successful thinking." "

Yes, this was a pilot group. Not horse people (or pilots, for that matter, although I do think we may have nudged a couple of latent horse dreamers back toward the saddle), and a good enough range of ages and interests to get a solid idea of how well our content and leadership team would gel. Even more important than that, we really got a good, up-close-and-in-person opportunity to see if this event will truly create insight pathways for women in transition to help them discover what’s next in their lives — and take decisive first action steps toward it.

I’ll be posting more (much more!) on the topics and insights dancing naked around the fire with us last wekend. (Oh, get your mind out of the gutter — the only things stripped away this weekend were the obstacles, excuses, fear, doubt, worry, anxiety, insecurities and judgment that keep us from getting more of what we really, really love back into our lives.)

Meanwhile, a question emerges. Do you know what your dream is? If I stopped you in the hallway (and you had only a few seconds to spare) could you state your dream in one quick sentence? Try it! And if you’re brave, send it to me here as a comment, via email to mkfolse@gmail.com , or post it on our Facebook page or Twitter.

One thing we learned for sure this weekend is that there is power in this midlife community that’s out there pulling for you. Gather it close and open your eyes to the marvelous resources all around you, just waiting to be invited to help Dust Off Your Dream!

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Horses are all about pressure. Wait. So are people. Come learn the difference this understanding can make in both worlds.

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Are you getting the results you are looking for in dealing with people? Do you get frustrated — and more insistent (and sometimes even angry) when you meet with resistance? Do you tend to back off  (or lower your expectations) when people ignore or resist your requests or boundaries?

One of the lessons from horses that has impressed me most lately is the concept of pressure. With horses, of course, we’re talking about physical pressure — using body language to make something move that isn’t moving. (This reminds me of the old adage about duct tape and WD-40, but that’s another story for another time)

But with people, the pressure we’re talking about isn’t quite as obvious. We humans tend to deal in emotional pressure: the feelings that get exchanged in a confrontation, for example.  When we watch the dynamics of physical pressure demonstrated in the interactions of horses, and then relate it back to the emotional pressure at play in human interactions, it can be quite the lightbulb moment. At least it was for me.

Kathy Taylor, CEO of HerdWise, one of our Horseplay presenters at the upcoming Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat put the whole pressure thing into perspective for me with a little chart — a few simple rules that seem to apply across the board to horses and people alike. And, after playing with this idea in several personal and business scenarios over the past couple of weeks, I think I’m going to have it laminated and keep it in my sock. Seriously. It works.

“Horses are all about relationship,” Kathy explains. “Their pecking order in the herd depends on whether or not they can use their body language (or pressure) to move the feet of the other horses. It’s just as simple as that. Horses demonstrate this concept for us physically; and, because horses  mirror us,  once you are aware of this dynamic it’s easy to see that people relate to one another in exactly the same way. The difference is that instead of kicking and biting and laying back our ears, we humans use emotion to create the pressure that we hope will influence the behavior of another. (Well, most people anyway. Some also kick and bite. Trust me on this.)

So here’s the cheat sheet:

If you ask and someone complies, you stop asking (release the pressure)

If you ask and they ignore you, you ask a little louder or in a more direct way (increase the pressure)

If you ask and they resist, you keep the pressure the same.

This last one is much harder than it sounds.

“Sometimes the tough part is recognizing the difference between ignoring and resisting,” Kathy says. “And, while it’s human nature to want to  increase the pressure when someone resists, that only escalates the emotions at play between you toward anger and fear, which are both ultimately destructive to the relationship. If you can manage to step back from your own emotions when you meet with resistance and just keep the pressure (and the boundary) exactly the same, it will change the nature of your interaction.”

“Does it make people any more likely to do what you want them to?” I couldn’t help but ask.

This is where Kathy laughs at my desire for the golden lasso. I hate confrontation more than spiders.

“Sometimes yes, and sometimes no,” she says. “But it does keep the confrontation from escalating into conflict that does more harm than good to the relationship.”

Want to know more about what horses can teach us about improving relationships as we move more in the direction of our goals and dreams?  Want to hear Kathy’s story of how she combined what she loves with what she always wanted to do to create an award-winning business venture? 

Join us for the Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa in Graham, Texas March 13-15. But hurry — registration ends March 15 (Yep, that’s this coming Thursday, but the retreat’s still more than a month away.) and there are 10 spots left. Call us at 1-888-773-8187, email mkfolse@gmail.com, or register online today to claim one of the remaining spots for the weekend that could change Part Two of your life!

Click on the order button to buy this book now! (Free book included with retreat registration)
Want to know more about The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses? Click here to view book trailer!

Where is your moment of midlife clarity hiding? Oh . . .it’s probably somewhere among all the things you used to love.

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For some of us, clarity on our midlife dream can be gradual. For others, like Wildcatter Ranch Owner and General Manager Anne Street Skipper, clarity comes in a single moment.

“I remember it very well,” she told me one day as we talked through the idea and concepts behind the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreats. “It was just before my 20th high school reunion. I was going through some old photos and scrapbooks, and suddenly I realized “that girl” I used to be was gone and I had no idea where she went. ‘What happened to that girl?’ I wondered ‘And what happened to all those things she wanted to do  . . . someday?” That was the beginning, I think, of a serious change in direction for me.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Ten years later, the doors of the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa opened for business, bringing together Anne’s love for the theatre (Anne’s a career actress); her love and desire to do something good for the Graham, Texas community where she was born and raised (Anne’s a direct descendant of one of Graham’s founding families); and her love for the hospitality industry (in addition to a bachelor’s degree in humanities and religion, Anne holds special certifications in hospitality management and tourism from Penn State, Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, and Texas Travel Industry Association).

So how did Anne get from that single moment of clarity to the dazzling expression of her Wildcatter dream?

Come to the Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat April 13-15 a the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa and find out!

We’ll start Friday evening with a panel discussion in which each presenter will share the moment of clarity that changed the course of her life. Then on Saturday, we’ll enter a series of carefully designed mini workshops to help you rediscover the dreams of “that girl” you used to be. Calling upon the wisdom of horses, the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat will help you re-examine all those things you’ve always loved and wanted to do . . .”someday,” clarify your dream through the lens of where you are now, identify and remove obstacles, and craft your first concrete action steps toward its most joyful (and realistic) expression of all you meant to be.

The retreat is all-inclusive (except alcohol, but it is available if you’re so inclined), including legendary Wildcatter accommodations and amenities, award winning cuisine, and a Saturday night dinner, campfire (with s’mores!) and music by Elizabeth Wills to create an experience you’ll never forget.

For more information about this event or to sign up now for the April 13-15 Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat, visit us online at www.dustoffyourdreamsretreats.com or call 1-888-773-8187. (Only 10 spots left and registration deadline is March 15!)

What are you waiting for? Those dreams don’t dust themselves, you know — and like Anne, when you go back and re-examine all the things you used to love in the light of where you are now, you may be amazed at the unexpected joy you could call into Part Two of your life. Register today and make one of those last remaining spots in the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreats your first step toward your moment of clarity!

Click on the order button to buy this book now! (Free book included with retreat registration)

Want to know more about The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses? Click here to view book trailer!

“This I am today, that I shall be tomorrow.’ The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds.”

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This quote underscores what I believe to be the critical difference between Dust Off Your Dreams and other women’s retreats: the action plan we’ll help you develop from all this introspection and insight.

While there are a lot of retreats that call upon the wisdom of horses to reveal and explore the things that may be holding you back from your dreams, the Dust off Your Dreams Retreat then takes it all a crucial step further. By placing its focus on how to use and apply this information, this retreat will help you clarify your dream — and then take decisive action. (And, as they say, “Goals are nothing more than dreams with a plan and a timetable.”)

The “so what?” edge this retreat is designed to offer will equip its participants to leave the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat with a plan and a mental toolbox stocked with specific strategies and action steps for moving forward on their freshly clarified dream.

Sometimes, it turns out, what blocks us most from our dreams is the fuzzy, more generalized picture we have of them. To shape our dreams to fit the realities of our lives takes courage, confidence and commitment (and often, the kind of gentle nudging we’ll be providing in our discussions, journaling and meditation exercises).  In fact, we’ve built our mission around Anne’s favorite quote:

“Up to a point a man’s life is shaped by environment, heredity and movement and changes in the world about him; then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say, ‘this I am today, that I shall be tomorrow.’ The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds.” –Louis L’Amour

Now I’m sure Louis, being the cowboy sort, had no idea how well this wisdom would also apply to women — and the special opportunity midlife gives us to reinvent our lives to be “the sort of thing (we) wish it to be” for our own Second Act. Somewhere, I hope Louis is smiling at his unsung brilliance in the art of inspiring women. There’s something just right about this quote being at the center of what we’re doing in the heart of the Old West to help midlife women round up stray dreams and push them toward their own north star.

For more information or to sign up (only 10 spots left!) for the Dust off Your Dreams Retreat April 13-15 at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa in Graham, Texas (less than an hour’s drive west of DFW International Airport), go to www.dustoffyourdreamsretreats.com or call 1-888-773-8187.

Click here to order the book that started it all!

 Want to know more about The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses? Click here to view book trailer!

This retreat captures the magic of putting a horse in the middle of your life.

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Here’s a little background on the Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat you won’t find on its website.

The premise is built on what we on the Midlife Horses journey already know happens when you put a horse in the middle of your life. We know very well how the issues that get called front and center — and all the wonderful breakthroughs that happen with the help of our equine teachers — lead to opening doors to a whole new, unstuck sort of life and awareness. So I and a few like-minded friends began to wonder, what if we could distill this Midlife Horses experience somehow and make its most valuable lessons and insights available to other women—the ones who won’t be traveling the midlife horse trail for whatever reason—and offer the same kinds of breakthrough thinking that will help them change Part Two of their lives in many of the same ways our horses have changed ours? What if we could open these mystical doors for them in a single weekend?

The presenters  for this event will help bring to light the primary facets of the Midlife Horses journey, along with specific tools, resources, and strategies you can use to transform this weekend of insight into the concrete first steps of your own journey to making your midlife dreams a reality. And, although this special weekend of experiences calls upon the wisdom of horses, no riding or horse experience is required.

Picture this. At the top of the bluff there sits s a glass-walled pavilion that offers up a panoramic view of the surrounding Texas terrain. This is where the meditations and Pilates will be. There is also a fire pit right there for our after-dinner gathering on Saturday night. And I’ve heard talk of S’mores. I’m just sayin’  . . . I really don’t think it can get much better than this as a place to attach new wings to our midlife dreams. (And for those so inclined, there will also be opportunity to test my theory that 14-Hands cabernet is the perfect s’more pairing.)

The Dust Off Your Dreams Women’t Retreat is a perfect storm of the right people, the right ideas and the right intent coming together to produce the amazing, life-changing content and setting that has become the brain trust now known as the Dust off Your Dreams Retreat at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa. We’ve set the half-price pilot for this program for April 1 3-15 (Register by March 15 to get this special rate!), and we welcome all women age 35-65 (horse crazy or not!) to come join the fun and life-changing introspection that this pivotal weekend in a spectacular setting promises each and everyone in attendance.

Get all the details and sign up at www.dustoffyourdreamsretreats.com. The registration deadline is coming fast and space is limited, so grab a friend (it’s an even better rate if you bring a friend) and sign up today. For more information or to sign up by phone with your credit card (we use PayPal on the site, but you do not need a PayPal account to use this secure payment service; just click on the credit card icons and follow the prompts), please feel free to give us a call at 1-888-773-8187.

Click on the order button to buy this book now! (Free book included with retreat registration)

 Want to know more about The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses? Click here to view book trailer!