Episode 163- A Year End Review

Do you pause each year to reflect back on the things you did…or didn’t…accomplish?
In this conversation my good friend Suzi Vlietstra helps me do just that. As you listen, I hope you reflect and can hear how we are cleaning up our thinking before starting the next. I find that bouncing ideas off a good friend, or listening in to someone doing this, can help me think about things from a new perspective. I hope this conversation does that for you.


Stacy Westfall: [00:00:23] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I help riders become confident, communicate clearly, and get better results with their horses. This is part one of a two-part series. I thought the best way to unpack these two topics was by inviting a friend to help me with the process. In this episode, I’m doing my year-end review, and in the next episode, I’ll be talking about my plans for 2022. Let’s jump into the conversation. This episode requires some untangling of my mind, and so I have asked my good friend, Suzi Vlietstra to come and help me untangle myself, so thank you, Suzi, for joining me.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:01:09] My pleasure. Glad to be here and I don’t know if I’m going to untangle you or tangle you up more, but let’s try it.

Stacy Westfall: [00:01:14] It’ll be entertaining, either way, we’ll get into something.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:01:17] Absolutely, as we do.

Stacy Westfall: [00:01:19] Yeah, and that’s that’s actually why I called you because we always do. And I imagine that when people are listening to this podcast, especially an episode like this one, I imagine them listening and kind of learning from my mistakes kind of being like, Oh, why did you do that? Ok, yeah, OK, I can see where that worked. I can see where you’re going with that. I imagine them kind of like doing a little bit of that. Maybe that’s because what I do when I’m listening to podcasts and then also like them hearing the way that I’m thinking about it and that will kind of push on the way that they think about it. And that’s actually what I love about our conversations is I love talking to you about something and then having you tell me how you think about it. And I can feel that push and pull of the conversation, which to me is perfect illustration of what I want with the horse. I want the horse interacting with me. And so I love having you join me because it’s like, I’m going to present some stuff and have you kind of like, put your spin on it and it always spins my brain. And as you well know from our multi-hour conversations that like start out like a quick hello, you know, I don’t even know the direction that these all go. So in this podcast, I really want to review 2021. I’m saying last year, even though technically like it’s still this year, but like I want, I want to review 2021. So in the next podcast, it can be like, OK, here’s what I have coming up in 2022. Like what I’m doing for setting goals and–and it’s interesting because of where my mind is. Even my goal review is feeling a little like, ooh. And so I thought, if if I want the listeners to be able to follow this at all, I’m going to need a little help.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:03:01] Well, we have some great sessions of what I–what I think of in my mind as verbal volleyball, but we kind of lobbed these thoughts over some invisible net of–of experience at each other. And then we–and then we hit them back, not necessarily trying to score points, but just trying to get the ball back to the other person. And it’s a cumulative effect and some of the balls go way out of bounds. And–and sometimes we get some really great volleys going back and forth, swerving back and forth. And I–that’s an image I have in great conversations with you and with other folks that you–you build a cumulative game together of listening and adding and reflecting. And I find it a great way to kind of unlock my brain, too. So I hope together we can help each other with this.

Stacy Westfall: [00:03:47] Yes, it sounds amazing because I definitely want to hear any parts of yours that resonate back and forth and–and anything you want to share. So just to kind of like rewind a little bit back in Episode 112 and 113 of this podcast, I did two episodes, one that was about like–it wasthe title was, Can You Have Relationship and Results With Your Horse? And in that one, I talked a lot about relationship. It ended up a very relationship-heavy is actually what I called it in one of my things like–And–and to me, the whole point of that one, I–I went back and pulled out a little clip and it basically said–it said that–like, I like to make the big things the little things and the little things are the big things, meaning that like when I’m working with the horses, the relationship is the big thing, which is actually the really tiny little things that you’re doing with the horse. So like the way that you’re leading it, the way that you’re showing up, the way that you’re being in each moment, which is a very little thing, is the big thing. And then what a lot of people see me doing is setting show goals. They see me setting pretty good size show goals sometimes. Like this year involved the AQHA World Show, the WD Online International Show. Like, I set some of what a lot of people would consider big goals, but to me, those are the little things. Those are the littler ones, and the big one is the relationship. So I spent one podcast unpacking that. Then I turned around and spent another podcast unpacking like my goals for the year. So, what I want to do is go through and review some of those goals and the ones I hit and the ones I didn’t and what I learned and just kind of all of that, so that by the end of the podcast, my brain is like kind of like declutter and rearrange. I’ve been watching too many of those shows on Netflix right now, too, like on the whole home thing, I guess. So like, I just want to like clean up my whole thoughts about 2021 so that I can turn around and go into 2022 with this really clean feeling. What is the process? Because I know you do processes like this. What is the process that you use for kind of like wrapping up a year?

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:06:08] Well, you hit the end of the year and think you better get your act together, basically. I tend to do this stuff while driving or before I try to fall asleep at night. And I’m a notorious insomniac at this point. So you know you have to–I think Marie Kondo would say that we are—that we’re purging or that we’re thinking things that we experienced and letting them go. And as you mentioned, we need to create room, emotional room, sometimes physical room, whatever we need to create room or space or opportunity or possibility for new things to happen by putting some old things away, either donating them to the Goodwill, which is not really what we do with the emotional things, but–but letting them go or packing them away and just safely putting them away for another time because we can’t deal with them now. So maybe a way to start this would be if you could maybe share with me a couple of your–of your goals, both relationship and competitive that you had for 2021. Maybe share a couple of those and let’s see how you did with them and how you feel about them now.

Stacy Westfall: [00:07:15] Yeah. So one thing that came up that was really interesting was that when I was looking back at these two different–different podcasts that I recorded, I really blocked. I kind of blocked apart the two different–I did the podcasts on the relationship idea, the concept, the way of being, which for me is like, it’s super. It’s a super-strong feeling, but I kind of want to practice getting it more into words because I still feel I feel it much stronger than I present it.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:07:46] So then tell me, tell me what those feelings were, and if you can tell me that will probably clarify it in your own mind a little bit. So let’s talk about the relationship side first and kind of keep the two groupings that you started with. You want to try that?

Stacy Westfall: [00:08:01] Sure.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:08:02] Ok.

Stacy Westfall: [00:08:03] So I think that with–I’ll go through the horses, and so I think that with Presto, I think that he–I think that I totally hit the nail on the head. I think the goals that I had for him, which were the idea that I would ride him on the trails as much as possible, weather permitting that kind of stuff, and then show him once at a live show and do everything that–that took to get to there, which involved hauling him places and hauling him to other shows where I rode him but didn’t show him and doing all that stuff. That one, I gave myself a green checkmark on my computer screen that you can’t see. But I think I nailed it from both the action standpoint of like having done all of those actions, but also from the relationship standpoint that–that also built because a lot of the trail riding was spent just one on one, just the two of us out in the woods and–and just and then the and then the process of doing everything to get him ready to be able to go to that live show and then even going to that show. It was kind of funny when I hauled him to that show. It was the first time I didn’t realize until I was doing it that it was the first time he had ever been hauled alone. Just because I’m usually like multitasking. So there’s all kinds of other horses and I’m like, Oh, I’ll just keep it simple and I’m like, Wow, you’re doing really good because I’m pretty sure you’ve made it five years without having this experience. And he was a total rock star. He was like, Hey, no big deal,

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:09:35] Because you–because you had him ready. So it sounds like your–your relationship aspirations for Presto came out really good. So let’s–let’s set him aside. We don’t need to spend a lot of emotional energy on that one right now. So let’s talk about–

Stacy Westfall: [00:09:50] Gabby was a bit of a mess. Like my goal was to–my goal was to show her in reining and win money, win reining money, and I took her to the first show and felt like I was totally on track. Took her to the second show and, just the very condensed version, I had turned her out the day before when I brought her in, when I loaded it in the trailer, I didn’t check her feet. She’d pulled a shoe, got to the show and tried to figure out like, Oh, can she go barefoot? Pulled the other front shoe. She has a very different shoe. So the farrier that was there didn’t have the shoe, didn’t have even the style of shoe, so it was going to have to be replacing both. Replace both the way that he did it did not work for her. And so I lost three months because of the whole thing. So it was kind of interesting because actually it was super educational because I felt rush-y during the decision-making about changing her shoes. Like, I would never do that pattern again because I was aware of this grasp-y, rush-y, Oh, I want to show her. I want to ride her. I’m here. And I made–and I made decisions from that place and it didn’t go well. And so, I mean, so from an action standpoint, it didn’t turn out great. And of course, I was like really disappointed that she and I both had to experience months of, you know, just kind of babying her around and waiting for her feet to grow and all that kind of stuff. So I think beyond that, like, you know, I pivoted and ended up doing some–like we actually won the Level 3 overall, like on the international online western dressage show. But–and relationship-wise, I would say we were completely fine. We just like results-wise we didn’t even get in the show arena in that discipline, so it was kind of like…eh.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:12:01] So let’s– let’s talk about that for a second, because as you describe it to me, and by the way, I’m clearly understanding these–these aspects with your words. You’re doing fine and trying to bring me into what your thought process was. But I want to go back to–and I remember speaking to you kind of at the time–I think the emotional side of it, the relationship side of it is, I mean, you pivoted and you ended up having some really neat experiences and competitive success with her. But let’s go back to before that, when the wheels came off kind of literally.

Stacy Westfall: [00:12:32] Yeah.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:12:33] So to speak. I guess I would ask. One thing is the second question is going to be what did you learn from that? The first question is, do you feel any sort of sense of guilt or bad horse mommy-ness from letting your excitement about competition overrule what was maybe in your horse’s best interest? Or was it just a thing that happened? How are you with that?

Stacy Westfall: [00:12:59] You know, I think there was there was guilt in the yes and no. I mean, like afterwards it was like, you know, what could I have done to do different? And I was like, I should have just stood her in the stall and not even touched her. But at the same time, like it wasn’t really what–what, what happened with her, it was more like she’s got kind of a unique build. And so the farrier did more of like the regular thing, you know? But he changed a couple of things thinking like he was helping me. So but it was, it’s minor, but she’s super sensitive. So it didn’t feel like a huge risk when I did it. You know, it really didn’t feel like a huge risk when I did it. So it didn’t feel like–it didn’t feel like a bad decision, as–it felt like, Oh, you know, she might be like, you know, you change, like, even with the farrier you know, you change shoes and you’re like, Oh, this one has a little bit more of this influence. This one has a little bit more of influence. Like, I totally didn’t see because he’s a reputable guy and she’s a tricky horse. And I underestimated that combination, but not really from like a–like, I don’t feel like I was in a position where I overdid something, if that makes sense, like-

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:14:15] Yeah.

Stacy Westfall: [00:14:16] We actually–we’d had another customer who owns a horse that we’d sold to her and she’d had him, you know, she’d pulled the shoe. He put it back on, different customer who uses this farrier all the time and has great success. So I think I was with–within–I guess I would judge myself more harshly if I’d been like on a–n like sliding out to an edge of a risk taking scale, and I would think I was right in the middle. Like, I think most people would be like, that wasn’t even a risk at all, like that was–But she’s tricky, and I do know that. Yeah.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:14:49] So well, so let’s let’s take that instance. So I think that’s–I think that’s something that might really resonate with a lot of listeners. You know, we’re all–we’re all so attached to our horses and they’re such– they’re such emotional mirrors for us. I think it’s worth thinking about, you know, we make management mistakes. And I don’t think anybody does it on purpose. But things go wrong with horses. They’re so fragile. I mean, it’s kind of a miracle that we get anything done with them. And they really humor us. And, you know, they can certainly take a joke and all these tricks we teach them and make them perform to entertain us. But I would just say, because your year took such a detour with her and again was ultimately successful, competition-wise. But–but something just smacked you alongside the head that you never saw. I would just encourage you to say, you know what? That is done, and that is over. And I have learned from that, and it will remind me to treat each horse as an individual, et cetera, et cetera. But I–I encourage you and listeners to say, I don’t want to repeat that experience, but I didn’t do it on purpose. And I’m going to forgive myself and move forward and not put any more emotional energy into the should have, would have, could haves, because it’s done and it’s over. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had any luck, no luck at all changing the past, no matter how much I thought about it or beat myself up over it. So I’m going to give you a little benediction here and just say, I bet some other really neat things came out of that experience that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. And your mare is OK and you’ve learned from it. Set that in a little box up in the equestrian experience closet. Put a bow on it and let it be.

Stacy Westfall: [00:16:30] Yep, yep. Yeah. And I think that one, I think that one is good. You should–you should really see my screen. I’ve got a little red x next to the goal, but then I have a lemon for the lemonade that was like the pivot into the–into, you know, kind of returning back to the Western Dressage and.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:16:49] Yeah.

Stacy Westfall: [00:16:50] You know, when she got sound, and so. And then it’s a good reminder. I love that you’re kind of like challenging me to put the two together because I don’t feel like there was any relationship loss there at all. You know, I don’t feel like–and it was interesting that even that I kind of broke the two apart in the two podcasts and that you’re kind of challenging me to put the two together and I’m like, Oh, interesting. Like it didn’t affect anything at all, like it–like relationship-wise, because all the little things were still going on.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:17:20] Yeah. Well, I mean, I’m just saying that was–and I–and I think we’ve all had this experience. We get these detours and we agonize over them. And you were able to literally, as you said on your computer screen icon, make lemonade out of something. And I hope that maybe that will encourage other people, listeners, other horse people to say, I didn’t get what I was after, but I got something else. And let’s just look carefully and–and look high and low and look with optimism and hope for what that other is. When our plan goes, goes astray because you ended up again with–with really neat things happening with her and she wasn’t, you know, permanently injured, although she could have been. And let it be, you know, just let that–let that sit. And that gives you the opportunity to revisit that goal for next year if you want to. You just get, let’s say, back in the saddle. But it sounds like you’re-you’re year with Gabby was–was really gratifying. Just wasn’t what you planned. Maybe, maybe we should talk a little bit about Miss Willow, who, you know, miss short stuff, who is always there for you. You know what a good friend she is, isn’t she? You know?

Stacy Westfall: [00:18:42] The poor–the poor little pony, her her little–her list is ridiculously long compared to the other two.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:18:48] Yeah.

Stacy Westfall: [00:18:49] So like going into there, I had one, two, three, four, five, six things written down for her going into the year. And so, so I’ll go through them quickly and then we can revisit the ones that look interesting. There’s a red x next to earning the silver medal in traditional dressage. There’s a green checkmark next to earn the reining money, earn NRHA reining money. There’s a red x next to ride in a working equitation clinic. There’s a green checkmark for trail riding. There’s a rainbow, because that means I made a twist on it because I ultimately–and so this one was enter an online show for feedback. And although I didn’t enter the show, I actually started taking online lessons from a judge so I got the feedback with the online thing. So kind of giving myself the checkmark with a rainbow. And then showing fourth level Western dressage, and it’s got another rainbow next to it because right below that is another lemon, because I basically–here’s the very condensed version. I had said that I wanted to earn my silver medal in traditional dressage and show in reining. Basically, I started down the road of reining and had calendared out the dressage stuff and when I got to the point in the year when I went to pivot, I realized I hadn’t kept up with it and there were shows that didn’t get repeated because of changes due to COVID. There were shows that were canceled. There were shows that were like, I didn’t even realize that sometimes there would be shows that didn’t have the judges that I needed to go at the higher-level ones. I didn’t know that was a thing. So when I’d been checking, I didn’t check the right things like–like, Oh, there’s a show. Not like there’s the right kind of show, didn’t know that. So my lack of knowledge when I went to pivot was like, Oh, oh. And so I was able to show in fourth level, you know, at a schooling show, but it, you know, it’s a schooling show, not a recognized show, so. So I kind of started to touch it, but that’s about the time, as you know, because I talked to you around this time, that’s when I pivoted, which is why I have another lemon on this list. That’s when I pivoted and went to the AQHA World Show and did the traditional and the western dressage. Both. So.

Stacy Westfall: [00:21:20] Right.

Stacy Westfall: [00:21:20] Willow–Willow has a lot going on there. A lot of good stuff, but a lot, a lot of pivoting kind of stuff and like super educational for me in a couple of different ways. Because I basically learned what I didn’t know about calendaring in a different discipline. I learned a lot about what I didn’t know, but I actually when I go back what I remember–because if I look at this list I can go back and I can say I’m going to use,–I’m going to use the word I should have, you know, done the dressage first if it was primary. But this is a really interesting thing that I didn’t realize until I was in it. Like I’d set this goal in January and in January I was like, I can afford to ride with the reining stuff, you know, for a few months and then, you know, and then pivot back. I want to see how they play together. I want to see what this does. And I kind of sort of was fascinated with reining again because I haven’t done it for a while, and so I kind of kept going when there was this little piece of my brain, it was like, you know, you’re supposed to pivot towards the dressage. And I was like, We can go in the reining longer, you know? And so even looking back now, it’s kind of interesting to try to look all the way back at me in 20–in January 2021, setting the goal for the silver medal and really questioning how strongly I wanted that versus whether it was a–I now believe I had come off from earning my bronze and kind of just been like two things. Well, naturally, I should go for my silver. And then, of course, it should be Willow because she’s the one that’s closest to it.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:23:09] Mm hmm.

Stacy Westfall: [00:23:10] It’s kind of interesting because neither one of those is very passion-driven. They’re both sort of…

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:23:16] Well, now I think that’s very interesting, you mention that and this really–this really has to do with with our next conversation about forward-looking goal-setting. But boy, have I been thinking about that one myself, which is a lot of the sports that we participate in are like ladders and they have rungs on the ladder and you do one rung and then you climb up and you do the next rung. And I’ve allowed myself in thinking about next year, I’ve allowed myself the–the luxury of making a decision that I may not want to take the next rung. And it feels funny to realize that, but there’s a very logical progression on a lot of this and a lot of these horse sports of how you move up the levels. And I’m not sure I want to. And I’m really kind of–I’m really kind of tussling with that decision because it makes perfect sense. And my horses are capable of moving up the levels, but I think I might want to do some different stuff. And it sounds like you had that. In hindsight, you had that happen where you’re talking about being passion-driven or not. And I will go back to something you said earlier about you basically messed up by not quite understanding all the rules and intricacies. I had that exact same experience this year because we were showing my two boys. We’re showing in Western Dressage quite a bit at the beginning of the year. And I mean, this is a dumb one, but I didn’t realize we had to report our own scores to our California Western Dressage affiliate. And there’s a time frame you have to report them. So we just flat out missed some pretty good scores at the beginning of the year. They just didn’t count because I didn’t know how to turn them in in time. And you know, I guess that’s a reminder for your listeners that if you are doing some competitive thing, really at the beginning of the year when you’re setting goals is the time to do it, but make sure you understand all the rules and intricacies, especially if you haven’t done it before because you can trip yourself up pretty bad. And you know it ended up OK for us and it ended up OK for you. But you know, for example, we showed Working Equitation and Western dressage this year with our horses. And Western Dressage you self self-report a lot of your scores and Working Equitation they–it’s–they use some software, a lot of software that’s an international software scheme where your scores will be recorded like, you know, 15 minutes after you compete. And then that’s a permanent record for the year and you don’t have to do any scorekeeping of your own. Know what’s going on in case there’s an error, but–but radically different ways of tracking your accomplishments. And boy, you better just refresh your–your brain or learn them for the first time if you’re doing something new, and that would definitely be part of a planning process. How lovely that you have such a nice mare that you can pivot from one to the other. And I will add for your listeners as well, some of you listening may not be familiar with some of the intricacies of what Stacy’s talking about. But let me just say to have this, I’m going to say super audacious goal to show her Willow in traditional dressage and Western dressage and NRHA money-earning reining competitions in the same year is like a freak athlete of the universe territory. And–and it works because Stacy’s super-competent rider and because she’s got a mare that’s just, you know, happy to do anything, she asks her. But a comparison of this would be something like–like a person playing in the NBA and the NFL and–and being very high level in both of them. Super competent in multiple, very high-level sports. So it’s–it’s an amazing accomplishment and it’s an audacious goal for sure, which–which you pulled off in–with stunning success. But just so people know the goals that you set for Willow, you went down that list of six things, the goals that you set for her and the sort of sidestepping you had to do occasionally here or there, and the conflict that came up between the the the scheduling of the different sports and stuff, that’s a big deal. A really big deal. And I think a lot of people don’t quite understand that. That’s phenomenal. And I hope you take a really–a great sense of pride and joy in your little mare who says, let’s go play and she doesn’t really care what game it is. You’ve got her that ready and that confident and that sound and that happy to go do whatever sport you feel like doing that day. And it’s a huge accomplishment. So congratulations on it, regardless.

Stacy Westfall: [00:27:44] Well, thank you for saying all that, and thanks for the recap. And–and it’s actually listening to you say it is like–it’s–it is a really good reminder to me that the relationship is there. You know, to me, that’s what I mean. Like, the relationship is there. So I mean, when the judge is right, you know that her lengthening could be more lengthened and I’m like, she’s 14 hands. I mean, there’s a length–you know, she’s–I get it. But it’s kind of funny because her little legs are like doing everything they can do, and she has her limitations. But I love that her–the relationship is there because she will kind of pivot back and forth. And it was really funny when I was showing at the–at the World Show and I was like, by the time we got to day four, I was like Up, up, up. And she was like, I know some of the other options. How about the slow-down one? You like that. Some days you like the slow-down one, and it’s really funny to be in the middle of something that big and be literally having that conversation where she’s offering me, you know, like some of the things that she knows I like on other days, that would also be conveniently easier because I’m getting a little tired.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:28:50] So just the fact that you had–you, you came into that show, for example, which was towards the end of the year after having done all sorts of things with Willow and I think probably put a few little emotional hopes on her that had been transferred off of Gabby. Not for the specific items, but–but you showed her more as Gabby was, was, you know, laid up a bit and all that kind of stuff. But you and Willow have this bond created through years and years and–and tears and tears and all of this time and all of this experiences together. You have this bond and you’re just–you’re just great friends, which I think is what almost everybody listening would ever want with their horse, no matter what, no matter how it is proven in competition or proven in sport or something. You and Willow just say, Let’s go have fun today. Let’s go play. What are we going to do today? I have confidence in you. You have confidence in me. We’re going to go do some combination of the things that we have learned together, and we are going to have a wonderful time. That is a rare and unique relationship with a horse, and I will add that I started to develop that with a new horse this year, and I don’t think I’ve had it since I was a little kid. And what a delight. And I didn’t go seeking it, but I bought last year–I have–I have halflinger horses in thy’re–they’re very funny and they’re just sort of silly people and I adore them but last year, in the fall, I bought a 19-year-old–18-year-old at the time gelding off of a Facebook ad, and he has ended up being, you know, the phrase that we use is a heart horse. And I just thought he was going to be a trail pony to cruise around on. But his name is Wisely, and I call him, Wise Let’s Go Lee, because he has that. He has that enthusiasm for life like Willow does. To say, I’ve been well trained and I’ve been well cared for and I’m a confident soul, What are we going to go do to have fun together today? And what a delight that is. And I think that becomes actually the–the emotional when we’re talking about the emotional or the relationship goal with our horse is to have a horse that’s a buddy like that. And aren’t you lucky that you’ve got Willow and other horses that you’re developing that way? But Willow for now. And aren’t I lucky that I have Wisely that says, what should we go do for fun today? And it’s the neatest feeling to have that, that–that comfort and confidence and I keep coming up with the word fun, but, you know, if you decided to go play polo on Willow, she’d say, OK. She just really wouldn’t care. And if you decided, you know, any other thing you might want to do with her and if you wanted to just go sit in her stall while she ate hay she’d be happy with that too. And that is that human-animal bond, that girl-horse bond, to be more specific, that is–that is rare and beautiful and precious. And aren’t we lucky that we experience it?

Stacy Westfall: [00:31:54] Mm hmm.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:31:55] Congratulations.

Stacy Westfall: [00:31:56] Well, thank you. I always think of Wisely as your donut pony because I think when you say trail ride, I know that you can ride to the donut store and I think, Oh–

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:32:04] Yes, oh yes, he is. He is the ultimate donut fetching machine guy. And not only for me, but pretty much anybody. I have a good-sized boarding stable here, and pretty much if somebody needs to go to the donut store, they could pretty much hop on Wisely and off he’d go. And he’s cheerful about it. And I think that’s a characteristic that I associate with Willow, too. And having been around her a little bit, she’s cheerful. And you know, gosh, a lot of our horses are stressed as we are and–and and struggling or some anxiousness and when you meet a person or an animal, when you meet another soul that’s cheerful life just gets better.

Stacy Westfall: [00:32:48] Well, I’m super glad that you have Wisely your donut pony. I mean Wise Let’s Go Lee.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:32:54] Yeah, that’s–that’s what he says, Wise Let’s Go Lee. My only regret for that horse is I wish I would have met him years earlier because, you know, he’s a little long in the tooth and I’m a little long in the tooth. But we shall enjoy what we what time we have left to play together.

Stacy Westfall: [00:33:10] There you go. Well, this is pretty much perfectly–it’s really helped me kind of wrap up my year because, you know, it was interesting. I–I pulled out another sentence that–that I had had in one of the earlier podcasts. And basically, I had written that I wanted to see, touch, experience the dance between the disciplines. I wanted to get feedback from one horse while doing all of these, so I could see from their point of view what’s similar and what’s different. And you’re right, that’s because Willow–Jesse pointed out to me like–and I just did again. I didn’t know the rules because I wasn’t playing for that purpose, but I showed her in ranch riding this year, and if I’d shown her in one more class–because I wasn’t eligible because I didn’t show in 50 percent of the shows, I would have won a year-end buckle if I’d just like, like, met the minimum requirement. But I was just showing for fun and she was just doing really well. So she did ranch and she did reining and she did the traditional and she did the Western and like–and we did a bunch of trail riding. So, you know, at the end of the day, the relationship. Yeah.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:34:16] Per your sentence that you said earlier, you said you wanted the feedback from the horse.

Stacy Westfall: [00:34:20] Yeah.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:34:20] So talk to me about Willow’s feedback. What did Willow have to say about all this?

Stacy Westfall: [00:34:24] Yeah, it was–well, it was awesome. I mean, it’s super funny. She says that she can remember more than I can about the cue system that I’ve trained her to do. She says that if we come down centerline and I give her a sliding stop cue from a trot, she’ll do a sliding stop from a trot. Or if I give her a halt cue, she’ll halt, you know, whichever one I throw at her, even though I’m the one that trained her and I make the mistake. And–and then she also said that four days of dressage is hard, and I’d like to slow down and do that real slow thing that you like to do sometimes, which she doesn’t know is like it’s part of the bridleless riding stuff that I do where I play with, like drawing them back and bringing them like back to me and letting them offer some of these things and so she was so–so she says, like, you know, some of that amped up stuff seemed like it–seems like it’s fun at times, but maybe we should do some slow things sometimes like–but totally just game for all of it. Like so little. I mean, there are moments of confusion, meaning like if I’m doing, if I’m working on a Canter pirouette, she’s like, you know, that looks a lot like a spin. You know, we could spin and I’m like, No, we should Canter, you know, but you know, and walking walk pirouettes look a lot like a rollback kind of thing, you know? So she tells me a lot of what you might suspect, but it’s just kind of funny to hear it from a horse because she’s never done, you know, one versus the other and–it’s just funny to hear them like voicing their little opinions.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:36:00] So I would suggest that you maybe put a big header on that list of six things and the big header might say, I want my horse to tell me about–I want–I want feedback from my horse and you put a big green checkmark there, that overarches everything else that you did because it sounds like you and Gabby just chatted about all this all year. And it sounds like at the end of the year that she had to remind you a couple of times to play your role, which is, give me the exact right cue and I will do it. And what a beautiful conversation to have with a horse.

Stacy Westfall: [00:36:33] Yeah. Yeah. Willow has been a really great reflection. Like she’s been–yeah. She just–good to go. She’s funny. Like, I hadn’t done her Spanish March cue for months and we were standing at the show and I was talking to somebody about it and I tapped her and she started doing her a little Spanish march randomly out of nowhere. It’s just super funny.

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:36:55] And I tell you, this may or may not be true from, you know, animal behaviorists or whatever, but I think all of us really in life I think we want to matter, and I think those of us with horses want to matter to our animals because they matter so much to us and we hope for some reciprocity there. And it doesn’t happen sometimes, but I think that it’s very clear that Willow wants to please you. She’s anxious to please you. She’s keen. She’s bright. She’s game, as you said earlier. And if that’s not an ultimate goal between a horse and a human, I don’t know what you could hope for.

Stacy Westfall: [00:37:34] Hmm. Yeah, I think–I don’t have it in front of me but the–the quote that the judge had at the world show where it said something to the effect of you got–you got just about every possible point out of this willing, obedient horse who just lacks elasticity. I was like, I’m going to frame that, like she did just give me everything. I think this is perfect to wrap up this one because I really want to talk to you about the 2022 goals because my brain wants to roll right from one to the other but I’m going to make you hit pause. You game for that?

Suzi Vlietstra : [00:38:06] Absolutely. And it is nice to split this up to a bit of reflection and a bit of forward-looking. But I do say again for the third time, I think, congratulations because things didn’t go exactly how you had planned because life doesn’t do that, but you’ve got a tremendous amount done with your horses, all three of them in different ways, and your joy and your enthusiasm is as omnipresent as ever with you, which makes such a–such a delightful situation. And I just think it’s great that you are able to do these things for yourself and encourage other people too as well. So, fun talking to you about them. Thanks.

Stacy Westfall: [00:38:41] Thank you. I’d like to thank Suzi again for joining me and helping me to untangle that and in part two of our conversation where we discuss my 2022 goals things get really interesting because that part of the conversation is where I felt the most lost. And oh my goodness, did Suzi help me connect the dots and put it all together. So please join me again for that episode.

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  1. Kathy on December 31, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Dear Stacy, thank you very much for all your wonderful work! Your advices and teachings are very precious. Now understand so much better what is going on between me and my horse. For me it is usually: riders mind (fear), riders body (rigidness) which reflects in horse’s mind (nervous) and horse’s body (speeds up for (!) no reason). My trainer is telling me that he is afraid of me and now, that I understand the connection, it is so much easier to enjoy riding. I start working on my mind way before I get on my horse, I reflect on fear v danger, (or some other issues). Anoter thing I want to thank you for is when you say our horses speak to us, offer us some suggestions, I realised that before I thought he was unobedient, not responding, now I understand that on some points he is asking questions and suggesting something we might have done before on the same point. It is wonderful, being able to understand horse’s mind. Thank you, thank you, thank you and happy new year!

  2. Ruth McDermott on December 29, 2021 at 11:51 am

    I really enjoyed this episode. Lovely conversation. Good advice. Good to hear about your trials, too. It makes goals more doable when I hear that riders as advanced as you run into issues, also. I’m looking forward to part 2. Happy New Year!

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