Mary Corning Creek Crossing

Making a “Learning frame of mind” an enjoyable space

Grace’s first water crossing with me astride

The more that I work with Grace, the more I see how vital every element of learning becomes. It’s no different in life. What we learn, becomes our conditioning. If we learn defense and fear, force and control, our life is going to be very burdened by the extreme weight of expectations and disappointments.

Every moment I spend with Grace is a blessing. We are so free to explore. And even with that, my habit, that comes from my conditioning, will creep in and want me to move to the next step, or force just a little more to get the achievement I want. This outcome based thinking is very toxic. It’s easy to see in our world how disruptive it can be. Not only in the lives of horses, but in all life.

Now, I’m not saying that we don’t encourage a stretch over the edge of what I called in my book Perfect Practice, “Comfortable mediocrity“. Indeed, we do stretch. Even when we’re not aware of it. Everything about life is changeful. Everything we do is brand new. Because nothing stays the same.

It is a misbelief to depend on what we know. In truth, what we know, can be a limitation, rather than an asset. Because when we think we know we stop looking. I encourage observation. I want to utilize the super-power of awareness. When we are open to learning, or as my teacher put it, “a learning frame of mind.“ The vast array of opportunities and options can show themselves.

This is what I want in my life and this is what I want for my young horse. It’s what I want in my marriage, in my friendships, in my professional life, and in my own deepest reflection of my authentic self. This open nature is freedom.

The mind wants to limit our awareness to two categories—either/or, stay or go, good or bad, knowing or not knowing. We call this duality. This limiting perspective is far from being the only option. I see this affecting people’s lives on a daily basis.

Grace and I are here as testimony to prove how incredible life can be when we open the box. Or one might even call it a cage. I’m not asking anyone “to do” anything. All I am doing is showing how much unity and flow can come from this open minded, empathetic, and unified approach.

Mary Corning natural trail course Creek Crossing

I have ridden Grace under saddle, in the arena throughout the winter. We have transitioned countless opportunities of learning to communicate with one another. Grace is a very deep thinker. And she will not settle for force. She humbles me on a daily basis. She holds a mirror that I am grateful for. Grace always tells me when my mind is setting up expectations that her heart is not privy to.

As we become better at really understanding one another and giving each other the opportunity for a learning frame of mind, each task becomes much less burdened. By burden I mean heavy with “should”. We see the areas of conflicting responses as opportunities to get better at unity. It’s pretty much as simple as that.

So on the day that I finally decided to ride Grace into the outside world, there was no reason to do anything, but what we’ve been doing that was highly effective. That was taking it in small increments. Her first ride out lasted about 3 minutes. The next one 5 minutes and then 6.

This clip was just the other day and her 4th ride outside. We spent a fabulous time stepping a little bit further past our comfort zone.

I had worked with her on this water crossing in hand. But as I say in the video, I realized that I really didn’t do as much as I could’ve done to make this first ride easier. Nonetheless, we had a huge success. Grace filled in for my shortcomings this time.

We experienced healthy compromise. I felt that she would want to exit the creek towards home. But that hill was quite a bit steeper than the one she came down into the creek. While we were in the water, I made a conscious decision to let her exit in whichever direction she felt the most secure.

I’m so glad I did, because since she felt a little tight during this, I decided to get off and do some more in hand work. As I asked her up the steeper hill, the ground gave way and she felt very unstable. The good news was I wasn’t on her back complicating things.

It was a great help to Grace to get off and do more in hand work up and down the banks. I gave her a few treats when she was in the water, so that became her favorite spot. It was no time at all before she felt great about the whole experience.

So stay tuned there’s more to come, of course. This is a journey of a lifetime. And I’m so happy to share it with you.


If these words resonate with you, please consider reading my book Perfect Practice. You can also read an excerpt from the book HERE.

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