Episode 190: Doing less of a ‘bad thing’ won’t work.

Do you have a thought, that you are not aware of, that is holding you back?
While this might seem like an impossible question to answer- it’s not.
It is however a higher level idea that will require you to do some work.
In this podcast, I share a story to illustrate how a hidden thought showed up for one young lady and how we uncovered it. Then I explain how this could be showing up in your work with your horse and the signs to look for. Finally, I share a very specific exercise you can do the next time you are at the barn to help uncover your hidden thoughts.


Episode 190_ Doing less of a _bad thing_ won_t work..mp3
Stacy Westfall: [00:00:00] It’s the only way you can figure it out. So you’re going to do just a little bit of this less good thing, then you might feel just a little bit guilty while you’re doing it.

Announcer: [00:00:13] 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: [00:00:32] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I help writers become confident, communicate clearly, and get better results with their horses. In this season of the podcast, I’ve been sharing with you some of the concepts that I teach to my students. This concept is one that comes up a lot more often in my one-on-one coaching, but I decided to talk about it here on the podcast. The challenge with bringing it up in kind of a casual conversation is that for it to really, really sink in, it actually requires you to do a little more digging and a little more pondering than it might seem. On the surface, you have to be willing to question things that you might have not questioned maybe ever. So I’m going to present you with the idea and then an example, and then circle back around to how this could be affecting you. So the question on the table is, do you have a thought that you are not aware of that is holding you back? Let’s go with an example to try to make it a little bit more clear. I was coaching a young lady a few months ago who was about to become a professional trainer. She’d been training and showing her own horses for years, and she was very successful, but when I was talking to her, she said she felt really stressed out about the prospect of becoming a professional. So we talked and it became clear that she was very confident in her ability to train and she was very clear that her success in the show ring was proving that she could be competitive as a pro. So then the question becomes, what was bothering her? Because when you looked at it on the surface, it looked like she had all the facts that she needed. She knew that she could train the horse, produce the horse, show the horse. This all lined up for being great, for becoming a trainer. But as we kept talking, I asked her when she switched how it would change how other people viewed her. And that’s where she started to get a little less clear. How would they view her as a professional? Because one of the things that she was doing, switching from a non-pro to a professional was she was switching the way that other people would view her. I asked her how she viewed professional trainers, and her view of trainers was very positive. She used lots of good words–dedicated, hard-working, I don’t remember all the different words, but they were all very positive descriptions of trainers. So that was her view of a trainer. And then I very specifically asked her if she could think of any negative thoughts that she’d had about trainers. And she thought about it for a bit, but she really drew a blank. Not really. So then I thought, okay, let’s do it this way. Let’s go back and forth and we can do this, I’ll say one, you say one, back and forth. Let’s list all the negative things either one of us has ever heard someone else say about a trainer. And that opened the floodgates.

Stacy Westfall: [00:04:12] If you can imagine writing down everything you’ve ever heard negatively said about a trainer in real life or read about on the internet, anything negative about a trainer, make that list. And I can’t remember how many we listed, but I do know that when she would slow down, I would throw a few more in and that would usually trigger more of like, Oh yeah, I’ve heard somebody say this or I’ve heard somebody say that. And the point became very clear almost without having to say it. But it becomes, who would want to wear the title trainer if there’s a chance that all those things could be said about you? And just to be clear, the goal with this conversation with this young lady wasn’t to solve the problem. It was actually just to uncover where this stress was coming from. And I think it’s really interesting that we can have this feeling or this awareness, this stress, this heaviness without actually knowing where it’s coming from.

Stacy Westfall: [00:05:25] So let’s circle this back around to you who are listening to this podcast. And let’s go back to the idea that maybe, just maybe, there’s a possibility that you are experiencing an underlying discomfort while you’re training your horse. And there’s a good chance that if you are experiencing this you might only be experiencing that discomfort, or in the previous example that stress, and not exactly know where it’s coming from just like this young lady wasn’t aware that just simply knowing that people talk bad about trainers was affecting her putting on the title of trainer. So when I present it this way, I want you to really think about, don’t just jump into, Oh, no, that’s definitely not me. Really do the exercise that I’m going to give you at the end and seriously consider each step. Because what I see when I am teaching is sometimes I will see videos of a student working with their horse and it will look like they’re being very careful. And just to be clear, careful is not a problem. There are all kinds of other words I could use to describe it. Hesitant, cautious, slightly guilty, a little bit sneaky, apologetic, slow. But I’m just going to go with, careful. And careful is not a problem but the underlying “why?” starts to matter more. So why is this person working with their horse, being very cautious, very careful?

Stacy Westfall: [00:07:13] Now this can be completely normal as you’re learning something new. Because a lot of times if you’re learning something new–I’ve said it before, my husband and I took dance lessons a long time ago and you want to move slow and cautious and careful when you might step on each other. So there are times when it’s very normal and it’s not a problem. What I’m actually talking about is there are times when I see this and again it comes up a little bit more often when I’m going deeper in the one-on-one coaching and we’re exploring it, What else is going on here? And the way I’m going to phrase it to make it super clear right now is, Are you, while you’re training your horse, trying to do less of a bad thing? And I’m imagining that that was a hard sentence to follow. When I was–when I was thinking about this, I was like, people must be thinking, why would I do a bad thing at all? Of course, I’m not doing a little bit of a bad thing, like Stacy’s gone off the rails for this podcast. But before you turn this off, answer this question. Is putting a bit in a horse’s mouth, a good or a bad thing? Did you have a split second there where you realized some people think it’s a good thing and some people think it’s a bad thing?

Stacy Westfall: [00:08:39] What I’m asking you to do is start questioning where you might be doing something that you’re not 100% sure whether you agree with or not. For example, using a bit. If you don’t know for sure whether you agree with using a bit and you’re using a bit, you might be in a situation where you are using the bit, but you feel a little bit bad because you’re doing a little bit of a bad thing. I might be a better human if I didn’t have to use a bit with my horse. Just to be clear, it’s probably not going to sound anything like that in your head. What I’m looking for you to do is go to your body, just like that young lady who was feeling stress. She seemed super clear about all of the facts and it wasn’t until we were looking at how other people might view her when she put on the label of trainer. So this can be as far-reaching as other people are watching what you’re doing with your horse. That could be riding a specific pattern. That could be how you use your legs. That could be how you’re doing your groundwork. Is there any part of that that you’re having a reaction to like the young lady was? Because I’m just going to go back to the bit example because I think if you’ve done any Google searches, you can find out that there could be lots of heated debates about bits or no bits. Even when you decide that you’re like, I’m 100% clear that I’m okay with using a bit. It goes another level deeper because then it goes. Are you okay with a snaffle? What about a shank? Where are you not okay? And this will not necessarily be presenting itself as the specific thing that is on your mind when you’re working with the horse. But what you might be experiencing is a hesitation to use the reins to shape the horse. And that’s when we’re going to discuss where is the hesitation to use the rein to shape the horse coming from? And your work is to really identify step by step, right up to whatever step you’re on. You don’t actually have to answer questions about bits you’ve never seen or bits you’ve never touched, you know, techniques you’ve never used. But you should consider your thoughts leading from the time you put a halter on your horse all the way to whatever activity you are on because, spoiler alert, you can find people that don’t think you should even be riding them.

Stacy Westfall: [00:11:34] So it’s not like we’re looking for an agreement across there. We’re looking for your true thoughts and beliefs. Because the amazing thing about the conversation with the young lady who was changing from a non-pro to a trainer, is that literally, just the awareness of where the stress was coming from was enough to let her release that. She was like, Oh yes, obviously I’m going to put on the hat of a trainer, I’m going to put on the title of a trainer. And I have heard other people say things like this, Now I know what I’m dealing with now I’m completely fine with understanding where the stress was coming with, and I can deal with anything that comes my way for a label and decide what I can do with that. That’s very much what I’m asking you to do when you are working with your horse. Because if you actually have an underlying belief that bits are a less good way of doing something, but it’s the only way you can figure it out, so you’re going to do just a little bit of this less good thing hen you might feel just a little bit guilty while you’re doing it. Especially when you’re doing it and your horse pulls on your hands and you think, Oh my gosh, the pressure on the bit is more than what I want, even if you weren’t the one that caused it. Maybe you’re just riding through a green grass field and the horse tried to pull the reins through your hands to go down and eat. But if you actually fundamentally believe that a bit is bad and that you’re doing a little bit of a bad thing by using it, it’s going to show up in your body.

Stacy Westfall: [00:13:25] And again, I just use bits to illustrate here because people can question all kinds of things. They question which saddle is better for the horse, which bit is better or worse for the horse, whether you should use spurs, whether you should use your legs, whether you should use voice only. The questions of things that you could question are kind of endless. But what I want you to be more aware of is that when you are working with your horse, if you start suspecting that there’s this feeling that’s holding you back like a little bit stress or guilt or cautious, unclear, do a little more work to investigate whether that’s just, hey, I’m in the middle of learning a technique. I’ve watched it. Yes, I’m not executing it perfectly. I watch my evaluation video. I see things I could improve. That’s all going to be normal. But if you have this underlying pressure that you can’t quite find I want to invite you to look for any thoughts that you might not be aware of that might be holding you back. Like I said at the beginning, it’s a little bit of a higher-level thinking because you have to like literally question everything. So you have to question like as you’re putting the saddle on, do I believe in this? And it’s amazing when you say, yes, I believe in this, how every single thing you do, if you go through one session with your horse and you say out loud–do this when nobody else is around. Yes, I believe in this. Yes, I believe in this. Yes, I believe in this. You will feel a completely different level of awareness on where your lines are. And that is such an amazing thing.

Stacy Westfall: [00:15:26] That’s what I have for you today. It’s a little bit of a short one, but what I want you to do is I want you to take it to the barn, and I want you to do this like an exercise. I want you to walk out to your horse and put the halter on and say, yes, I believe in using a halter. I want you to lead the horse through the gate and if there ends up with pressure on the rope, I want you to say yes, I believe in applying pressure to the rope–or not. I want you to do this every step of the way. If you pick up the bridle and you go to put it on your horse and you say, yes, I believe in this, but you don’t feel it’s true, this is not a spot to judge yourself. It’s a spot to take note of because those will be the ways that you will find any of these little wobbles. And it doesn’t take very many of these little wobbles before you actually will ride with a cautious guilt and the horse will pick up on that. That’s what I have for you today. If you are interested in taking any of this work deeper, you can come over to my website and find more information on my online course. I go live four times a month inside of there and answer questions and review student videos, and I share student success stories. I just did a whole week of student success stories that I sent out in emails. So if you’re interested, visit my website. Otherwise, go out and do this exercise with your horse. Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: [00:17:13] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com for articles, videos, and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

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  1. Beth Barnett on July 9, 2022 at 9:43 am

    I could not have needed to hear this more. I just adopted a retired racehorse and I find myself questioning everything, especially when it comes to advice from more experienced people at my barn. They are very supportive and wonderful, however sometimes I need time to process as I’m not a very quick thinker. Last week I decided I need to start listening and trusting my own instincts instead of always doing what others tell me to do and it’s already made a world of difference in my mindset. Balance is key, and the guilt I feel about not being sure I’m making the correct decision for my horses helps nothing and hearing that this gets transferred to my horses is a major lightbulb moment. Next time at the barn I will be saying “yes, I believe in this” every step of the way. Thank you for opening my world with horses, your words really make a difference.

  2. Pam poole on July 7, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    I loved this so much because as you shared this I recognised it in my own riding. Thank you from Pam (also certified by the life coach school) I love how your bringing the life coaching into what you share.

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