Episode 71: Put yourself in the role of the horse

How are you doing? Before you answer that question, I’d like you to pretend that you are a horse. What’s the first image that comes to mind? An Arabian? A racehorse? An overworked driving horse?
During this podcast, I share with you my idea that maybe it is helpful if we view our situations from a slightly different angle.
It is also interesting to sometimes use the horse training techniques on OURSELVES.
Are you rocking the teeter-totter?
Are you working the emotional AND physical cycles?
Where are you getting your release from pressure?
What other lessons could you bring to your life that you see with horses?

Show Notes

[00:00:03] 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.

[00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy and successfully train your own horses. This is going to be a bit of a different podcast because we are living in a bit of a different situation right now.

[00:00:38] What I’m going to do is present a few ideas and then we’re going to play a game. Some of the ideas I want to discuss actually were discussed back in the first season of this podcast. When I was discussing the rider’s mind, I just went back and listened to the very first podcast that I did Fear versus Danger, because I knew I was going to touch on that topic and I was curious to see how applicable it would be. And I found that it would still be very applicable to what’s going on right now in our world with this virus. And what I discussed in there is the difference between fear, which happens in your mind. And the example that I used in that case was public speaking and danger, which is being in physical danger. And there’s actually a difference even though there is an overlap. So there can be an overlap of of these two. But without going into great detail, what I want to talk about is the idea that. Fear and anxiety, like I discussed in that first episode, you can have fear and anxiety around a riding experience, but not necessarily be in danger. And it’s actually important to me to separate those things out because especially when there is real danger involved. You know, so back in that example, when I did public speaking as the example, there’s really not that much physical danger involved in public speaking, but the fear and anxiety that people can have around it can be very crippling. Now, right now with what’s going on, you can see that there’s more of this overlap where you could say that your fear was going to help you prevent yourself from danger. But that’s a whole topic of itself. Like do you need fear to be able to make good decisions or does fear actually make you make, you know, not such good decisions?

[00:02:48] Like how can you tease those two things apart? But that’s not actually what I’m going to focus this whole podcast on. What I want to focus this podcast on is the fact that we are in a very unique situation right now in that all of us have entered what I’m going to call a season of change.

[00:03:08] And that just means that. Every one of us is experiencing change. What we do with it might be different person to person, how we’re handling it, but for sure you can pretty much look around our country globally and be like, yep, this is a season of change. And change is typically something that people are, you know, not necessarily super fond of. So especially with this experience, a lot of us are experiencing fear. I know I’ve experienced fear. So what I want to do is I want to talk about how are you processing your fear? And I’m going to introduce you to a game in just another minute.

[00:03:50] But the reason I want you to think about this is because if you can learn about how you’re processing your fear right now. Then you can learn a lot about your brain and your thought patterns. And then you’re gonna be let take what you learn there and apply it to your riding.

[00:04:09] Because at least in my life and in a ton of the books that I read, what I’ve learned is that, you know, you’re going to have these thought patterns or these habits and ways of thinking. And when you can see the pattern I find and a lot of you have reported to me that you like the analogies that I use. For example, when I use a driving analogy and I talk about teaching my kids to drive that a lot of times rings true with a lot of you.

[00:04:36] Well, just for a moment, you know, it’s like there is a pattern in the way that you think about different fear and how you rank it and what you do with your response. And I’m suggesting that if you study those moments right now, there’s a lot that you could learn even in a trip to the grocery store that you could then turn around and apply back to your horse.

[00:05:01] So let’s jump in and get started.

[00:05:05] For this podcast, I want to turn the tables on you just a little bit. This is a little bit of a game of make believe. And the role that I want to put you into is I want you to pretend that you are a horse. And in this game, this is a game that I’ve played my whole life as long as I can remember. And it started when I was very little and I wanted to be a horse. So I would watch the horses and then I would pretend to be a horse. And I would swirl my head and I would pretend to trot and I would pretend to, you know, I would jump jumps and I would swirl my head and, you know, pretend to rear and all these different things. So I acted like a horse. And you may have heard me say that, you know. Eventually, I reached an age where I realized that I wasn’t going to become a horse, even though I kept wishing I would. Well, when that happened, I decided I was just going to study them and be as close as I could to them forever. And so that’s what I’ve done my whole life as I’ve just tried to study, study, study them. But I never really dropped that idea of associating my thought processes to their processes.

[00:06:13] So in this podcast, that’s what I want you to do. So let’s just get on the same page real quick. I went to the grocery store today and I was like super clean and had my hand sanitizer that I used before I went in. I stayed many feet away from all the people, even in the line. I was super on edge, but I remember walking down this aisle and somebody, like, turned to look in my direction. And I thought they were kind of like stepping towards like the jars of sauce on the shelf. And I like spooked. If I was a horse, I would say I spooked. It’s like this is what I mean in this game. What I want you to do is I want to think of yourself as the horse. So in the grocery store today, I spooked when this happened. Now, you know, if I’m evaluating myself as a horse, the good news is I didn’t go far. So I didn’t spook, turn around, run over three of the other people in the store, knocked down cans off the shelf and run screaming out of the store. But I did have a physical reaction to it that I’m gonna call a spook. So that’s what we’re gonna do in this podcast. We’re going to talk about you being in the role the horse.

[00:07:21] And the reason I think this could be valuable and interesting, there’s actually several. But one of the reasons is because it can make you look at what’s going on around you from a slightly different angle. And it’s also something that you can then identify with yourself and your horse in a different way. So you’re going to hear that unfold as I talk this out now before you even get started, because you’re listening to the podcast right now and you need to pick what kind of a horse you’re being right now. Now, you don’t have to stay consistent. So, for example, you can be a horse right now. That’s like you imagine yourself like peacefully grazing. So maybe you’re eating your lunch and you’re listening to this podcast or maybe your frantically pacing around your house. So now I’m going to say that your horse is pacing in the stall or maybe, you know, there are all kinds of different horse analogies out there that you can pick. You know, you can have a horse that’s kind of like we ever walked by a stall and you’ve seen one and they’re kind of like sleeping in the back of the stall. But there’s kind of this negative vibe coming off. And depending on the horse, you might be like, oh, that’s just how that horse acts.

[00:08:40] He’s just a little bit more withdrawn or depressed or if that’s out of the normal for that horse, you’re like, whoa, something is majorly wrong. That horse never stands in the back corner or the stall sulking. So open your mind to every type of horse you’ve ever seen or read about or saw in a movie and read Yeah.. So open your mind up and then decide what kind of horse you’re being right now. Obviously, there is no right or wrong answer, which is also really fun. And what I want you to do is I’m going to think about this while I’m asking you some of these questions and proposing some of these thoughts. But what’s really fun is if you go throughout your day and you kind of think like this. So, again, like I could feel myself when I went to leave my happy little bubble of my house, I was one type of a horse. And then my my, you know, just the getting in the car to drive into town, I could feel myself changing. And then, you know, I spooked at the other person in the in the grocery store. So you can go through these different things and sometimes you’ll find that you’re just kind of this one. This idea in my mind is sometimes like one horse that’s changing throughout that.

[00:09:51] And then other times, like I go from being one into like a completely different visualization. So, again, no right or wrong, but let’s jump in. So if you think back to the last few days. And how you’ve been handling this pressure. I want to know if you can see whether or not you’ve been using the teeter totter that I’m always talking about. So there’s a balance when we’re working with the horses. We’re always trying to rock things back and forth and we’re trying to bring them into balance. And so if we want to, it’s almost like scales to you know, if I didn’t want to use the teeter totter idea, you could do it like scales. Turn to look for this balance in the middle. And when you think about rocking this back and forth, let’s just think about your thinking for a minute. So I talk about the horses mind. So are you aware have you been rocking your thinking back and forth like a teeter totter? So with horses, a lot of times you’ll hear me talking about horses being naturally hot or naturally cold, and that as a trainer, I am rocking their their behavior and their thinking as much as I can back and forth. So I’m taking that plus seven hot horse and I’m trying to pull it down towards like a negative seven so that can rebound and be around a zero.

[00:11:11] And hopefully as I keep doing that, you know, I start to be able to move it. So it’s you know, maybe it’s only bounding back up to a plus three and then I’m pulling it down to like a negative three. And there’s this rocking back and forth kind of motion so that I can try to get this horse in balance, because the really hot horse is gonna have a lot of anxiety. And so my question to you is. Have you been rocking this teeter totter back and forth in yourself? You’re now the horse and the situation is this fear or potential danger? And keep in mind, while I’m doing all this, I am not suggesting that anybody ignore the actual danger or any of the rules. I should have said that in the beginning. But what I’m saying is, in your mind, are you aware of this battle going on in your mind? This hot/cold, this you know, this ignoring that this is happening at all versus hoarding and maybe what some people would consider overreacting. Are you aware of this teeter totter thing in your own life right now? Because remember your the horse. So it’s important to think about how you might be reacting like this, because it’s interesting.

[00:12:24] If you get stuck in the upper level anxiety side of that, which some horses do, it will make you have empathy for those horses next time you’re working with them. And it’s kind of interesting when you have a horse that’s like that and you have empathy. I find that I actually show up differently with empathy than obviously if I’m frustrated, that’s going to not be good. But there’s also a difference in how I show up. Then if I am like trying to fix it from a different place, from like like it’s a problem, it’s it’s fascinating to study this stuff.

[00:13:01] So just think about it because you’re the horse in this case. And, you know, the other morning. Some of this you’re gonna have some control over like in your waking day, you’re going to be walking around. But like the other morning, I woke up at 4:00 in the morning with my heart pounding and I knew that I was thinking about some of the stuff that was going on. And I can’t say that I had full control over obviously like just spontaneously waking up, but as soon as I woke up and realized that my heart was pounding and my brain had been apparently over processing and really freaking out about this whole situation.

[00:13:36] I very quickly was able to kind of be like, OK, take a deep breath, everything’s okay right now and where are you at? And so it’s almost basically taking that empathy that you might have for that horse that’s having anxiety and applying it to yourself, because remember, you’re the horse right now. Then a different way to look at this would be when we’re training the horses. You’ve heard me often talk about the idea of a physical cycle and a emotional cycle. And I’m going to put links in the show notes to a couple different videos that apply to this.

[00:14:13] But when I was doing the Stacy’s video diary:Jac on YouTube, where I tracked the training of a horse for a year from unstarted all the way through showing. In episode 13, I titled it Training Cycles, Physical and Emotional. And it’s kind of an interesting video to watch because I so clearly illustrate the training cycle versus the emotional cycle and how those two play together, like moving the horse around and physically having them exert energy and then having them stand and focus with their emotional, you know, being. And so when I’m training a horse, I notice that they benefit from this back and forth. And in that one video, you happen to see it really clearly illustrated because of the stage of training. But even now, when I ride my horses, there’s times when I’m riding, like Gabby comes to mind in the last few weeks. And I can tell that she hasn’t had that much physical work and she’s very fit and she wants to ask a lot of questions.

[00:15:18] So I know that it’s time to put her into a more physical cycle where there’s some longer physical exertion. This isn’t riding to try to break her down, but this is like, oh, we need to go out here and trot for 15 or 20 minutes. We need to do some long, slow, medium work where it’s not a lot of it’s not a lot of thinking. It’s just a lot of doing. And that’s kind of an interesting thing, because I also have noticed that I’m much more prone to have these stressful moments right now. As I compare myself to a horse going through all of this, I’m more likely to have those stressful moments when I haven’t been doing those cycles of the work cycle. And then the emotional cycle I haven’t been doing. And really, it’s the physical work cycle that I think a lot of us can depending on your your career. But there are a lot of careers that don’t point towards this physical work cycle. But physical work cycles can be an amazing place to kind of let down and let go of some of this energy. So evaluate yourself now and think back to the last week and try to think, you know, did you have a physical work cycle where you really got into doing a job? I just bought some flowers, so I’m going to go out and dig some holes and plant some flowers. Was there somewhere where you went and did this physical work cycle? And did you notice that there was a mental benefit to that? Did you come back to your other your other mental emotional work and show up in a different way because of that work cycle? I know it works with horses and right now we’re pretending that you’re the horse.

[00:16:56] So we’re asking the question like, have you done that? And if you haven’t, maybe consider giving it a try so that you can see what the horses experience when they’re having these emotional reactions and then they get to go through physical works, like all this is what I mean. Supercool when you can pretend you’re the horse going through that physical cycle and then you can see the results that the that it has on that mental emotional cycle and you can see how it’s so much easier to show up. At least it is for me. If I go out and I exercise even just walking for 45 minutes, go out there, walk and then just come back and be like, wow, I just feel like I could actually be a lot more productive now. I’m going to put links in the show, notes to that, and then I’ve got another video I’m going to link to that’s on. I titled it Stacy’s Video Diary: Emotional Training because it was getting to the end of the Stacy’s Video Diary:Jac and I was actually working with a different horse and was showing a different way to do this emotional training because the horse that I was demonstrating with at this point was an ex racehorse. So as a horse that had been a race horse, had been raced, then went to an adoption place and I took the horse and did some training with it. And you can actually see this horse that came from New Vocations, and and I was taking this horse out and I was ponying him on the trail. Because the question for you now, the third question I have for you is where are you getting your release from pressure? Do you know how to come down off from this heightened sense of awareness that I think most of us are experiencing right now? And I’m not saying that that’s not appropriate. I think it’s very appropriate that we’re all having a heightened sense of awareness. But do you know how to get a release from that type of pressure?

[00:18:58] And what I was showing in this video with this horse named Al is that this horse, his his life had been built. With a lot of stress around it, so he kind of was equating like almost to the point where human contact and this stuff was like very like, oh. A lot is gonna be asked of me. This is all just a stressful environment. So I was exploring ways to connect with him, load him, especially loading him into a trailer. He had a lot of anxiety around loading into a trailer. He would shake and how can I load him into a trailer, take him somewhere and do something that he could have a positive emotional association with. And I actually took him out and I ponied him in the woods on the trail. So he was being ponied. He’s with another horse loaded and unloaded from the trailer. But there’s all this nature. You know, we had water and trees and all this different stuff for him to explore and experience. And it’s really kind of a fun video to watch. And there’s of course, there’s a few more around that show, other pieces that I was doing with him. But it’s kind of an interesting thing because what came to mind is a couple things. You know this. What I’m suggesting to you is like increasing your awareness by looking at things differently. But it’s also like what I was doing for that horse whose name was Al. Is it’s like I’m asking you this question are you looking for places to refill yourself? Because like with Al, I had this feeling that he was like emptied out.

[00:20:39] He felt like. Everything had been asked of him, so much so that he was just kind of empty. He was like, man, when I’m with people, it’s just stressful and I don’t have any more to give up given all of this. And I was trying to find a place where he could be with me and yet kind of have this refilling experience. And I definitely have been experiencing that lately, this feeling of like emptiness. And that’s what makes me want to say, like, what are you doing to refill, you know? Is that walking around in the woods? Is that reading a book? You know, because basically you are pretending, I hope, or reviewing or reflecting on, you know, if you were handling this, if you were a horse in this situation, how would you describe yourself? But what’s interesting is you’re both the horse, but you’re also the trainer, because you could ask yourself the question, are you being kind to yourself as far as how much stress you’re exposing yourself to? Because someone hadn’t been that kind to Al when they asked him for everything every single time they had an interaction every day, because it just gets too draining. And so Al needed to have experiences where he could be with humans, but also experienced this relaxation or refilling. And so, you know, I’ll put that into a little bit more specific example here. You know, I limit myself to how much I’m on news. And that’s not because I want to be ignorant, but I think I can find out pretty much everything I need to know about what’s going on in about 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night or something to that effect.

[00:22:26] So I’m pretty intentional about how I do that because I am the horse and I am the trainer. So I get to choose some of these things that I get exposed to. And I think it’s valuable that you learn about yourself and you know where your limits are. And I don’t mean limits in a bad way. I mean it because I set these rules up because that’s what’s gonna work best for me. I’m not trying to stick my head in the sand and pretend nothing’s happening, but I’m also trying not to have an ulcer or stress myself until my immune system is incredibly weak because that’s not a great move either. So I find it interesting to watch myself and my responses from a slightly less personal view, which happens to be from the view, “What if I were a horse?” So as I react to the confinement, what? How am I reacting to confinement? Have I seen horses react to confinement? How would I compare myself? Which one am I? And when I react to strangers at the grocery store, like how am I showing up? If I’m a horse, what did I just do? And again, this isn’t a judge, right or wrong. This is just so like literally just observe. And when I wake up at 4 a.m., like, how am I treating myself during that moment of anxiety? And all of these experiences personally help me identify more with the horses that I work with when I work with them, because I know how it feels to be spooked so I can empathize with a horse that’s spooking, but I can also be the voice of reason if I have more information than that horse.

[00:24:16] And I can say to that horse, hey, that was just, you know, a truck driving by. So it’s interesting when you shift back and forth. So all I’m all I’m asking you to do right now is answer the question. Would you be a great horse? Would you be one of those horses that gets a reputation for being a solid citizen, one that steps up and also knows how to relax? Like, what horse would you want to be? That’s one of my favorite things to pretend. And so not that I’m saying you can always control that. Like I might still be spooking strangers in the grocery store, but I want to know, like in the majority of my life, what’s my goal like? Which horse am I putting up on that pedestal as that ideal? So I don’t know if this idea intrigues you, but I’d like you to do is watch yourself over the next few days and see whether or not you’re a horse that is pacing back and forth in your stall or you’re a horse that’s prepared, but relax and waiting for the next cue. And again, no right or wrong answers. And you might experience a full range of emotions, kind of like I’ve been describing. I do.

[00:25:34] And if you do that, then it might just mean that you can identify with a lot of different horses and a lot of different people around you who are also experiencing things like that. Thanks for listening to this slightly different podcast and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

[00:25:56] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit Stacy Westfall dot com for articles, videos and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

Links mentioned in podcast:

Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac-Episode 13-Training Cycles in horse training: Physical and Emotional

Where are you getting your release from pressure?
This is the video of Al, the former race horse learning to relax.
Stacy’s Video Diary: Emotional training


  1. B. Baryon on April 22, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    This episode is absolutely giving me life right now! I think I’m going to re-listen to it. I so appreciate your guidance.

    • Stacy Westfall on April 22, 2020 at 4:11 pm

      I’m so happy you find it helpful!

  2. Fiona Brown on March 27, 2020 at 4:39 am

    Love love this episode.I have often thought like this, what it would be like to feel like a horse. And you saying to do this is like yes it’s ok❤️?

    • Stacy Westfall on March 27, 2020 at 8:33 am

      I’m glad! I remember as a teenager, my mare would slightly pin her ears at the farrier (he really got after her one time) and I clearly remember being in high school and getting upset about something and visualizing ‘pinning my ears’ LOL!

Leave a Comment

Get the free printable guide

    Download now. Unsubscribe at anytime.