Episode 151: Life coaching and the riders mind

In this season of the podcast I’m discussing life coaching principals…and how they apply to working with your horse. Life coaching addresses ’The Rider’s Mind’ which shows up in all quadrants. If I expand my intro, take a look at how the riders mind is in each phrase, “I’m here to help you read your horses body language, learn how to interpret the information you get without judgement of yourself or your horse, and learn to adjust your behavior to adjust your horses behavior.”


Episode 151_ Life coaching and the riders mind.mp3
Announcer: Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill, this is the Stacy Westfall podcast, Stacy’s goal is simple: to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

Stacy Westfall: Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses. In this season of the podcast, I’m discussing life coaching principles and how they apply to working with your horse. Today, I’m going to discuss why I chose to become a certified life coach and how I see this information impacting riders. I have a lot of goals that I actually haven’t mentioned when I’m talking about goals on the podcast because many of them aren’t directly related to horses. And so in the past, I haven’t mentioned them. So for a lot of you who have been listening for a while, you’ll remember discussing me discussing my goals for 2021, and I didn’t mention anything about running a 10k. Yet in the last few weeks, you heard me reference achieving that goal of running a 10k and how I also felt like it was related to the horses, meaning being in shape has really helped me with some of my goals with riding and specifically with some of the dressage things I’m studying right now. And so it’s things like that that I have maybe not directly approached because they didn’t fall directly under the horse category. But going forward, I think I would like to include more of those so that you can see a full picture because one thing I’ve always strived for, for as long as I can remember, is just being a student of life, a student for life. I love learning. So I went through the traditional ways of learning, going up through school, going through college, but I’ve done a lot of other things where I remember when I wanted to get better at writing as in with a pen and–pen and pencil, pen and paper. I wanted to get better at writing, and so I found a book that I really liked and then I drove once a month, nine hours, one way, to take a live, in-person class. So I would drive nine hours, go to class, spend the night, drive home the next day because that’s how much I value learning and specifically learning from teachers that really resonate with me because all learning is not equal. I don’t know if you remember that from school. Some teachers just really got you excited for learning and–and maybe it was the subject and the teacher. But for sure, the teacher is a piece of it. So for me, every time I find that in life, I go for it. And I also know that at some point it became more obvious to me, as you know, some of the things that I did like the bareback and bridleless, as things like that reached out, it was directly even stated to me by different people that I was a role model. And I always loved learning for my own personal sake but I also recognize now that I have the opportunity to be an example of what is possible. One of the things that people will tell me all the time is I’m inspired to try such and such because I saw you doing it, and that has been a strange position for me to be in that I could probably do an entire podcast on because it it just brings up different things for me. Like, Who me? What? You’re–why? Me? Because, you know, it’s been an interesting road to get here, but I’m going to leave that for another day.

Stacy Westfall: Let’s go back to the idea of, why did I decide to become a life coach and what do I see? And so first of all, it was a super easy decision for me to make to become a certified life coach because I love learning, and it was a deep dive into the subject of understanding how our thoughts create our feelings and our feelings are going to drive our actions and our actions are going to create our results. And if you remember hearing any of my podcasts with Ginny Telego, you’ll recognize some of this phrasing because it’s very similar to some of the things that she does. And so life coaching was fascinating to me is that it is so about what I call the rider’s mind and with it being so much about the rider’s mind it has helped me clarify some of the things that I’ve done in my past. For example, like the Road to the Horse and, you know, the bareback bridleless ride and being on Ellen and–and doing some of these things that, you know, go to Road to the Horse for a minute where people thought, Oh my gosh, like, she’s the first woman that’s ever been invited. How much pressure is that going to be? What’s it going to be like? And then I won it. And it was like, Oh my gosh, like, what’s it like to, you know–I had reporters saying, What’s it like to represent all women? That–that feels like pressure, by the way, when you get asked that question. And so it’s interesting…so I knew that in my past, I had been doing a lot of thought work, but I’d never really tried to directly teach it in a way that I felt like was super clear to people. Because for me, I experience it and I can feel it and I can, I can replicate it. But being able to teach it is going to be so fun to be able to make it more clear for you guys. Because I know I’m doing it and now I can teach it. And I also do it in other areas of my life. I’ve used these skills in my business and with my children, in my marriage, and all kinds of different places. And studying to become a life coach made me see how I’ve done these different roles more clearly and how I can teach it in a framework where I think you’ll be able to understand it more clearly. And then what’s so interesting to me is that it has made me feel more free to discuss subjects that maybe aren’t as directly related to the horse. For example, running that 10k and–and some of the while going to school to become a life coach and all these different things that to me are always circling back to horses, which is why I’ve been so comfortable saying that I’m teaching about horses. Because to me, the lens I view life through is so rooted in horses that it kind of always does feel like it circles back. But I really think from a teaching perspective, it’s going to help me when I’m working with clients, because if you’ve, well, you’ve I’m sure you’ve noticed it on the podcast and if you’ve ever worked with me one on one, what you’ll notice is that I like to use lots of examples from life because how we do life, there’s a lot of overlap in how we do things with our horses and how we do things with our dogs or our, you know, children or our spouses or our business or our work or all these different things. There’s lots of areas that overlap because how we do life, how we think and the emotions that we go to frequently, they–they impact us. And so I think that having this certification and being able to talk about this in a different way is going to be a beautiful addition to what I already teach about horses because it’s basically going to equip me to speak even more clearly about the rider’s mind, which is actually just the human mind.

Stacy Westfall: So let’s take a little closer look at something you’ve heard me say very frequently so that we can discuss this from a different angle. Basically, every week, I say to you. Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses. But have you ever slowed down to think about what that means? I have, because I wrote it out and I wrote it in a much greater detail and I shrunk it all the way down to there. But now I’m going to give you a slightly more expanded version of it so that you can hear it in more detail. Let me say it like this. Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall. I’m here to help you read your horse’s body language, learn how to interpret the information that you get without judgment of yourself or your horse, and learn to adjust your behavior so you can adjust your horse’s behavior. Now, what I want you to notice is that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite the same way that the one I say every week does, but it does offer clarification. It is a little more clear in each of those phrases what I’m trying to do here on the podcast. So let’s slow it down and look even more closely. So when I say I’m here to help you read your horse’s body language, when I say understand, one of the things that I’m doing is I’m really helping riders understand the horse’s body language because to me, what I see oftentimes is that when riders watch–and this can be riding or on the ground–I’m just going to call you a rider. Either way, the story that you have about your horse, it might be coming from a lack of experience with horses. It might be coming from previous experience with horses. It might be coming from just kind of a general view in life. But the way that you read the horse’s body language, what you make it mean is going to change how you show up. So when you understand, you have to understand how to look at it from a non-judgmental spot. So when I say understand and enjoy to me, the understanding is this understanding of this, this dance between you reading the horse’s body language, how you interpret it, what you make it mean, and the enjoy part for me comes when I’m able to drop the judgment of myself and the judgment of my horse. So I see this all the time with students. I’ll be working with them and I’ll be watching a video of them working with their horse and we’ll be discussing what’s going on and the interpretation they’re reading of the body language and the choices that the horse made is interpreted through the information that they have right now. And a lot of times what happens is as they’re interpreting it, they’re putting on layers of judgment about how they should have been different and how the horse should have been different and–and how this should have come out different. And–and, you know, they’re making interpretations as to what the future is going to look like based off from what they’re doing today with the horse and what’s working or what’s not working. Spoiler alert, there’s lots of times that it’s a bumpy road before it smooths out. And so if you say it’s bumpy now and it’s always going to be bumpy, that’s not necessarily true. Look at the rest of your life. Like you could hit bumpy patches and you can come out better or you can come out, you know, more, you know, withdrawn and unhappy, and maybe even leave that whole situation. So when I say understand, enjoy, and successfully train and when and I’m translating it now into, help you reading your horse’s body language, help you interpret the information that you get, and then adjust your behavior so you can adjust your horse’s behavior, what I want you to think about is what would it be like to interact with the horse and not feel a judgment of the horse or yourself? Depending on your level of awareness, I definitely know that there are times I do both and my awareness of it is what gives me power over it.

Stacy Westfall: For some of you listening, you might be like, I never judge my horse, but I definitely judge myself all the time. And then sometimes I’ll be coaching a rider and they’ll be joking with me. I’ll be like, What do you mean it’s me? Isn’t it always the horse? Because they’re saying it like tongue in cheek as in like, they understand how much they are–they are in charge of this. But I just want you to become aware of the idea that that could be showing up when you’re working with the horse, this– this some kind of judgment. And when that happens, it becomes very muddy. It becomes very hard to continue the cycle. So understand, enjoy, and successfully train you kind of 10x the difficulty level if you keep these judgments when you can’t see each other clearly as separate things, even though you’re the one in charge. Because when it comes to adjusting your behavior to then be able to adjust the horse’s behavior so that we can stair-step this training, so that we can–can achieve some of these goals that we have the horses, it’s really interesting for me to take a deeper dive into the “understand.” To me, the enjoyment comes when you can start getting into this more neutral space and dropping that judgment about who should be doing what and what should be working and why it shouldn’t have gone like that and that’s when the real training can begin. Let me slow this down for a minute and put it into yet another context so I can make sure that you can really understand it. I have been round penning my minis. It is the cutest thing ever, by the way. Yes, I did set up a mini round pen to round pen my minis in. And this cycle is alive and well and happening when I am taking actions in the round pen with the mini or minis. And so when I go in there and I start sending Mocha around me, around in the circle, the–when I go in and I approach, there is so much opportunity for story and interpretation. So I go in there and I’ve had Mocha for about three months now. So his body language is different than Nugget, who I think I’m approaching the three-week mark with. And so when I go in, I could tell a story that you know, well, Mocha likes me because this is what I see in him. And really, it’s Mocha, you know, is looking to me and understands me more. And I could have a different story with Nugget. I could be like, well, Nugget doesn’t like me. Nugget is, you know, more interested in this over here. And so it’s just really interesting when you go out to work with your horse, just start noticing some of those stories because if I can go into the round pen and I can approach the horse–and this works anywhere, I’m just using the round pen as an example. When I go in and I start asking the mini to move around and reading the body language, the more neutral I can keep it, or even positive. I find that one is–is helpful if you find that you’re slipping into a negative thing. But if I can keep this as like an observation, then it’s way easier for me to be able to see the path to modifying the behavior, to making adjustments in my behavior. I can start to see each of us separately and more clearly. And so the interesting thing is that–that adjusting of my behavior. All of this stuff is happening in my mind. All–so much of this–when I talk about the rider’s mind and the rider’s body, the horse’s mind and the horse’s body, when I talk about, understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses, can you hear how much of this is happening in the rider’s mind? When I say, I’m here to help you understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses or if I say I’m here to help you read your horse’s body language and you’re going to interpret that with your mind, adjust your horse’s behavior, and you’re going to need to be coming from a clean place so that you can make these adjustments because they’re all happening in your mind first. So when you’re out there and you’re working the horse, whether you’re riding it and you’re working on something ridden or whether you’re round penning like I’m talking about in this example, all of these main changes begin in your mind because that thought that you have, like feeling guilty, a lot of people, when they work minis or when I post videos inside of my courses and–and private coaching sessions, when I post in there and I post with using the minis, it’s actually interesting to me how many people feel guilty or feel bad for the mini working. It’s actually one of my favorite things about having people work with minis when they come to my place is that they feel guilty about making the mini work. And I think what goes on there a lot of times if you slow down and look at it is like their small size makes people feel more triggered about them being like babies or young or immature or some of these different things. So the emotions, the thoughts that people are approaching them with are impacting the way that they approach the mini. Now me, I’m like giggling and laughing because I think it’s just the funniest thing to like, be round penning a mini. It’s just so ridiculously cute to watch their little legs go around. But I do a good job of keeping them, you know, in this adult horse role because I’ve got some plans for them, like hooking them up to a cart and driving them. That means I need to be able to give them a fair amount of responsibility and feel safe. Because when I get into the cart and I start driving them up the road and there are cars around, I’m going to be in the same situation with this mini that people are when they’re on top of a horse and they’re riding down the side of the road. And you can feel that there’s more risk there in certain situations with horses. So when I think about this mini and I think about my future goals, I want to make sure that I treat this mini in a way that it actually has the work ethic and the responsibility that any of my other horses do because I want that level of understanding with the mini. And a little side note, it’s been super fun to do the round penning because the mini’s, again I–I just cycle back to like the idea that people don’t often treat them like big horses. And one of the most interesting things about that is that minis tend to be just kind of dragged around because it’s more possible than with an adult, like big, full-grown thousand pound. Or let’s just take it all the way to the other extreme and go to a draft horse. There are some of these horses and it’s like, well, obviously you can’t drag the horse around, so people tend to train it, train the mind. To me, it’s fascinating how often these minis don’t consider being considered because they’re not used to that interaction with people where people treat them like they’re capable of making decisions, they literally just drag them around. It’s a little bit like imagining just taking a child and just holding onto their hand and just pulling them around everywhere, you know, 30 days straight, like never letting go. Just, this is the only way that when we, when we move around together, I’m just dragging you around versus the idea of, yes, there may be moments that you’re doing that, but there are moments when you’re also teaching and educating that child because you–you don’t want to be dragging them around as a–as an adult. And so what’s so interesting is that both of these minis, because they are five and seven years old and both of these minis just have come with this assumption that they’re just going to be dragged around. And so it was really fun to put them in the round pen and do some very true liberty training with them because that opened up their minds so quickly because I changed the dynamic that they were used to interacting with humans in. And when I changed that dynamic, they had different questions. And then I was able to answer using the language that I do and bringing them into that conversation. And it’s so cute to have the mini who was at first, you know, just trying to stay away from me and trying to be near the round pen panel. And then he sees he’s invited into this conversation, so cute to have him like wrapping himself around me and trotting these little bitty circles with these little bitty legs going around me and seeing his mind engage. Because to me, the most interesting thing about this is that they can buy in just as strongly as the full-grown horses. They are no less than and they’re adorable.

Stacy Westfall: So I wanted to record this podcast to kick off this new season of the podcast, where I really want to bring in some of the different themes, some of these different coaching tools that I was taught while I was going through coach training, and I want to bring them up in a way that shows you how some of your thoughts are impacting the results that you’re getting. And I’m excited to bring this to you on the podcast, and I’m going to bring you into all the other teaches that are–teaching that I do in courses and in private coaching in the future. And if you have any questions about this, feel free to call in and leave it as a voicemail or email me. I do read the emails and thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Links mentioned in podcast:


  1. Jennifer Falls, PhD on October 6, 2021 at 7:54 am

    Awesome. My first podcast! So interested in who you studied with for life coaching. My introduction to ontological coaching in 1990 is by far the most valuable education of my 73 years of life. My human teachers then were Julio Olalla and Rahael Escheveria. My teachers the last four years have been my horses and the wisdom of horsewomen. I loved listening to this my first podcast (#151) and look foward to more.

    • Stacy Westfall on October 28, 2021 at 4:05 pm

      Good news! I forgot to say which school in episode 151 but I remembered in 152! Brooke Castillo, The Life Coach School.

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