Wobbly confrontation skills? Practice with a horse!

One of the most popular sessions at last week’s Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat was the “fill your toolbox” session conducted by Denise Barrows of Practical Equine Solutions. Her assistant, you see pictured here, was a wise old horse they call General. And believe me, when those beautiful blue eyes look right through you like you’re not even there, you know you’re going to have to dig much deeper to get his attention. (He’s actually kind of an old fart about this, but that’s what made him so perfect for this exercise. It does help that he’s so handsome!)

Meet General and his co-educator, Denise Barrows. Can your "inner lead mare" move his feet?

So here’s the exercise: gather up your core conviction  (or as Deborah McCormick, PhD, explains in Chapter Two of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses) engage your “inner lead mare.” And calmly but with all the inner force you can muster, walk straight toward the horse, asking him to move out of your space. All you want here is to see the horse recognize and honor your “inner lead mare” — and respond by taking a step back. Eyes and ears on you and a single step is plenty good enough.

This is where little bitty Denise showed the retreat participants how to “get as big as you need to” (and keep at it as long as you have to) to get the result you want. General, who oddly enough is not a therapy horse at all, but “just” one of the 20-something horses in the Wildcatter’s trail string refused to move until each woman got frustrated enough to dig deep enough in her core to find that inner lead mare who, in some cases, made her debut in that afternoon light of awareness (even though she’s been there all along, just waiting to be called!).

This was a fascinating thing to watch, and, judging from an email we received from one of our participants on Wednesday after the retreat, works as well on snarky supervisors in the workplace as it does on obstinate old horses in a dusty roundpen:

“I got to use some of my newfound “horse sense/confidence” already this week! Yesterday I had [a difficult meeting with my supervisor] (details and participant identity omitted for the obvious reason)  . . .She is very stubborn and non-flexible, a lot like Precious. . . I knew she would be rigid to [the change I was suggesting] and have some ridiculous excuse as to why.

So [just like Denise taught us in the calm courage exercise], I did my research and “scoped” out the situation before going in  . . .then, even though she caught me a little off-guard, I was still able to use my body language and just tell her that this is what needs to happen…She kind of huffed and puffed a little…. stomped her foot a couple of times… swatted a few flies, then agreed to [make the requested change] and get back to me next week. I walked away feeling good about [the confrontation] and knowing that it will be okay.”

Do you know how to summon your inner lead mare? Test your ability to project your energy from your core by practicing it with a horse (any horse will do!) . . . and even if this doesn’t work as well as you’d like at first, the more you practice, the quicker and easier it is to get her to come when you call her (and stay happily grazing in the background until the next time you need her! [If you’re curious about this exercise, check out Chapter Two of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses and my interviews with Deborah McCormick of The Institute of Conscious Awareness at Tres Aguilas Ranch just outside San Antonio, Texas (I also highly recommend their retreats as a next step for anyone wanting to go deeper in these concepts and explore specific issues and goals), as well as the McCormicks’ two books, Horse Sense and the Human Heart and Horses and the Mystical Path)

Try it and share what happens! Comment here, on our Facebook community, Twitter, show us on YouTube (believe me, I wish the camera had been running when I tried this at my first retreat — it had to be hysterical the way that horse looked at me and ignored me like I wasn’t even there. But it got better. And it would have been fun to see the progression!) I can’t wait to see how practicing this exercise with a horse impacts your interactions and effectiveness in other areas of your life.

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