Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mirror, Mirror...

"Mirror, mirror, tell me true. I see me when I see you. Am I patient? Am I kind? You'll tell me, 'cause you don't lie...Horses don't lie!"
~Mary Ann Kennedy in "Mirror, Mirror"

In Parelli, we are all taught early on that our horse is our mirror. Most of the time (at least in a lot of cases) we hear it, we say we understand, and we probably do, to a point. But usually we really realize it when some experience comes and slaps us in the face, and we go "Oh my GOD, reflection of myself much?". I've had several big experiences like that, and a lot of little ones, and they're sometimes exciting, and other times a little bitter to swallow. Today, I had a really blinding one. A "how-the-hell-could-I-have-missed-it?!" type of experience. But before I explain, I need to give some background information.

My mom and I do not get along. It's not something I'm going to whine about, I've accepted it. But it's important to know that, and also to know why for this story. I am a very strong-willed person. I don't take no for an answer, I'm stubborn as a mule, I am overly-sensitive and easily offended, and am often viewed as arrogant, defiant and self-centered. My mom is very structured and has a very clear image of what she wants in life. She's quieter, and a lot of times, is motivated to do things out of the fear of losing that structure. She comes off a lot of times as judgmental, and especially around me, has extremely high standards and sometimes overlooks everything that is well done, because she gets tunnel vision toward a goal (gee, she doesn't sound human, does she?). I don't blame her for it at all, but I end up very frustrated, unmotivated and asking "Why should I?" around her a lot of the time, particularly recently, for reasons that I won't get into.

Anyway, today I set out to play with Prin. I pulled out my 45' line, and we went off into the slop (yay for 50 and sunny!) to play with some things. The session started out okay, but not nearly what I had hoped for. She was a bit unresponsive, but ever more so, she lacked draw entirely. Now, being that I've totally adjusted my focus to the relationship, I stopped as soon as the backward S pattern wasn't effective, and went "Why isn't she wanting to draw?"...the obvious answer is "I'm doing something that makes her not want to be around me." But WHAT?! Hmmm...

So I decided to play a bit more, and examine my behavior while I did it. I sent her out on a circle, with my goal to just have her trot loosely toward the end of the 45' line. Now, by all standards, my horse did it. But she wasn't trotting with biomechanical correctness, so I asked her ribs over. She swished her tail and leaned into the halter. "How RUDE!" I I asked her to go sideways "Fine, go sideways then!" More tail swishing, and then she SHOT sideways away from me, and about pulled me off my feet. My exact thought process was laughable: "MY GOD, Prin, don't take that so PERSONALLY, I merely suggested that you might be more comfortable if...OH MY GOD...PRIN IS REACTING LIKE ME AND I AM ACTING JUST LIKE MY MOTHER!" How about THAT for a self-imposed knife in the gut?! Could I get any more nit-picky?! I mean, Prin and I are at a point where it's okay for me to focus on the physical, but to not even acknowledge the try first and let her settle in? That couldn't be more like my mother's relationship with me!

I stopped, brought my horse in, and proceeded to burst out laughing. I couldn't be mad at that! It was so simple! My horse is my mirror. Of course. How could I have missed it? Even the defiant looks she was giving ME were ones I was familiar with from doing them myself! (Talk about an interesting attitude shift on the thought "WIPE THAT LOOK OFF YOUR FACE!") I had been nit-picking the ENTIRE session, not allowing and recognizing a try, and certainly not thinking about what would make her feel good and excited about performing for me. And the more I thought, the more I realized why prior sessions had gone well or not. All my good sessions in recent times have been when I've sacrificed my leadership and given Prin "The 51%" so to speak, and let her choose what she wanted to do, and then I had just slipped in and molded it a little. All the ones that had gone poorly were like this one; my critic persona and I had taken over the session. No wonder Prin's feedback had gotten more outspoken. You should hear the things I've said to my mother recently! OH BOY!

I had been talking to one of my instructors last night, and she suggested (since my mom and I have been fighting) that I stick close to my horse, because her feedback could be trusted to be honest and unbiased. Honest and unbiased indeed (and slice of humble pie too, while you're at it!). While it was alarming, and a bit amusing, I know it was the key I needed, because of course, it worked! Immediately that I realized what I was doing, and consciously went "Wow, I'm not fond of that image, how do I change?", Prin said "THANK YOU!" and let all the tension and brace out of her mind and body. We proceeded to finish up with some of the best long-line driving we've ever had, both with smiles on our faces.

Now, what's interesting to me about this discovery is that I've always called myself an LBE. Prin is an LBI with Extroverted traits, and now that I read back on this, I'm realizing I've got a lot more Introverted traits than I had originally charted. "Defiant, stubborn, unmotivated"? That's not LBE! And the more I study this realization, the more I realize we're more alike than I thought, my horse and I. It's almost comforting, and that's why I've taken this feedback so well, because I now realize just how easy it'll be for me to communicate. All I have to do is think about how I'd want my mother to motivate me, and then translate it into equine terms! Maybe easier said than done, but it's a skeleton for progress at least!

So. I'd like to firstly thank Kristi Smith for reminding me that my horse will give me the feedback I need and can trust. Secondly, I'd like to thank Linda, who's little voice in my head totally motivated me to see the humor in this experience. (Not to mention, inspired me to write about it!) and thirdly, I'd like to thank my large, spotted mirror. How I managed to miss it for so long, I do not know. This will be an interesting transformation to go through. I'll keep posting as we go along here.

Savvy on!


Lucy said...

BRILLIANT post, Fran. It takes a lot of courage to be able to notice your mistakes, let alone make them public knowledge. It's very admirable and has given me a lot to lick and chew on, thanks. :)

Aleesha said...


wildmagic said...

how very interesting...
Now that I think about it, when ever I'm bored, unmotivated and crabby my horses are bored, unmotivated and crabby :P I will have to pay closer attention to my emotions and that of my horses next time I'm out in the pasture.

and yes, thanks for posting.


coc_parelli said...

What an interesting revelation!! Sounds like you have definitely stumbled onto something. I can't wait to see how it benefits you and Prinny!! Great post.

Savvy Out,
Olivia, Cocoa, and Dixie

P.S. 50 degrees there?? No way NO fair! It's blizzarding here!!

Tina said... interesting! My horse is definitely my mirror, and it's interesting to watch her attitude change as I change mine. When I remember to notice it, that is!

Good luck and thanks for sharing!