A Bigger Arena – Lesson From The Pen



I have been learning a few lessons from a group of 16 year old – cowgirls. Lots of lessons actually. Lessons that consist of things such as, DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY, REMEMBER TO START WITH THE BASICS, HAVE FUN, AND MOST OFF ALL AS SCARY AS IT MAY BE DON’T AVOID THE BIGGER ARENAS.

I had an aw-ha moment again this weekend as I watched a rider coax her horse into the arena… The horse was frightened, of what I was not completely sure of… My mind wondered as if I were somehow now a detective trying to solve the mystery. I had seen this particular horse in the arena, with this rider several times already today and all seemed well.. But this time.. this moment… Panic. I wondered if it was the transition from being out of doors in the sunlight, to now being asked to come into a darkened arena with strange things lining the arena floor…walled by people he didn’t know and the uncertainty of things to come….. For me, that would be enough to cause me to need some coaxing to enter such a place. And, I am not totally sure that any coaxing could have gotten me in there.

It was easy… is easy… for me to make the connection between what I imaged that horse was feeling, and what I experience in my own life.  Whether it is working with Sis in a small controlled pen, or whether it is the way I have self designed my current life…. Apparently SIZE does matter.

There is a calmness in a small pen…. a controlled environment where the variables are predictable. A truth that isn’t always the case in a bigger “arena.”  where people are entering and exiting bringing with them drama or other such things that you can’t predict. And, if you are like me, that can be a lot unsettling… or should I say that it use to be unsettling for me…

Truly what it comes down to is the simple truth of knowing your own abilities. Knowing, or at least believing that you can handle or sustain what ever comes. Whats not to say that you aren’t proactive. As cowgirl friend pointed put to all of us last week, “You have to know what and who are in your arena, and have a game plan.” Ha, wiser words have never been spoken.

Two of the best and greatest lessons I have learned in my 51 years are these, 1). When people show you who they are, believe them. 2) Fear is an inward conversation. These two truths work hand in hand for me. In the cowgirl world we take truth number one at full value… When we know that a horse is a kicker.. We tie a beautiful RED bow to it’s butt and warn everyone that is entering the arena that we have a kicker.. We don’t act shocked when it kicks… try to figure it all out.. We don’t spend endless hours talking about all the whys and if and…. we just take it for what it is…. I wish that I could staple bows to people… and I guess in a sense I have. I have learned how to maneuver around them, and still have my teeth and heart in tact while I do. Truth #2 was a harder one for me to grab a hold of…. For the longest time, I thought fear was an outward thing that I had no control over. Especially with some people. I could see them enter a space in which I was, and feel my whole demeanor change.. I knew that with them would come some drama, or some judgment, or some tornado that I had not control of, and every part of me wanted to run….

I could see myself in that horse that day, as he was being coaxed into doing something he wasn’t prepared to do… he wasn’t collected, he needed a moment.. to remind himself that he could handle whatever came next. Fear has no hold, when I finally understood that I could handle the storms—- the unknowns that could blow through.

There is a place for round pen work…. Whether for a horse or for a human… it is a place where rider and animal can begin to build confidence and trust… the same is true for people.. It is okay to make your life smaller for a time, until you build up your confidence and tag people in your life that are the trustworthy ones and those that aren’t.. A little cow -sorting of sorts.. “this one stays, this one doesn’t…” This one goes in Pen 1 and then one to slaughter.. I mean to pen 2….. Those are good skills to have.

In my life, I pulled myself in and spent some time in a small “round pen” of sorts, getting to know me. Changing the things that weren’t really working for me, learning to love the things that were. Letting my heart heal as I dealt with some of the past things that I needed to.. Mourn and let go of toxic hurts and yes toxic people. It was the best gift I ever gave myself really…. And now, when someone enters my “arena” that is…… well, a distraction, it is easier for me to let them spin in the dark corner while I stay focused on what matters to me.

The Pen work that I have been doing with my horse Sis – isn’t all about what I am learning from her about me, in this particular lesson, I get to practice with her, what I have already had to learn in life… Time to enter the big arena and leave the round pen for the moment of fine tuning.

A couple of months ago when I called the local WHASET coach to get an interview.. I could never have predicted that I could learn so much from the youth of today… But, getting to watch them, I am amazed by their tenacity, their zeal for life, and their willingness to look fear straight in the face and find an inner calm… Life gives us opportunities for learning everywhere if we are willing to look…. For me there has been nothing like the lessons from the pen.

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