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NLP and dressage...

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happyHi, I have been quiet on my blog since December, not that nothing has been going on, quite the opposite in fact.
In January I completed the NLP Practicioner qualification, and the information and skills that came with that have sent me into a learning frenzy. Everything has changed and nothing has changed. In fact it is because I found it so hard to quantify that I have not "done" a blog.
When I am stuck I quite often find that something will come along to help me unstick! This time it was when I was asked to write an article for an equestrian newsletter about the NLP course. I sat down and wrote about the course, and I will reproduce it here..........


The idea of NLP has been attractive to me for many years, the idea that we can learn how we "tick" <BLOG_BREAK>inside. The importance of the whole way that we use language has been proved over and over to me, not least in the way that I talk to myself, but also how I talk to clients. Also recognising and understanding how clients, and indeed people in general,  practice their internal "self talk" and how that affects their riding, and indeed their lives, is a real asset. It was primarily to learn more about how the use of language affects how we feel and act that I enrolled on the course.


My equine training business started as training in quite a technical way, but soon I realised that changing  the way we think is actually more impactive than changing a technique. I have studied some "natural" horse training, giving me sensory acuity as to how the horse is responding, and my clients soon found that their horses were in fact giving true feedback on what was happening inside them. Changing how clients think and relate was needed to solve the “horse problems”,  teaching the client life-lessons along the way. I was quite often a just a translator in the situation.


As people were helped I attracted more “confidence clients” who learned that as well as becoming confident to ride, their horses also required them to be confident in themselves, on the inside, to claim their personal space and stillness inside. People change, it is powerful and exciting stuff. Plus once we are confident we can do jumping, and that is fun!


My personal event horse going lame last September and needing some months rest gave me the time in an otherwise busy schedule to look at actually studying NLP in a formal setting, and to get the "practitioner" qualification. I chose "Quest For Success" to train me as I liked Christine when I called on the phone, and I also liked the idea that the otherwise generic material would be presented with an equine twist. Plus I would meet other professional trainers on that course, and when professional trainers get together like that it is a hotbed of learning and discovery.


I found the initial home study course material a little difficult, I was grateful that Christine was at the end of the e mail system to support and guide me. It was not until I was actually on the course that I realised just how much I had learned, the information was already there with me, so on the course I could concentrate on putting it into practice.


On the course I could immediately see benefits to some of the study and practice, such as improving my sensory acuity towards PEOPLE, rather than just being able to read a horse. In fact I reckon I was always able to read people pretty well, the difference now is that I am now aware consciously of what I am processing. The information will assist me to foster good relations with clients, for instance by me being consciously aware of how they are viewing and processing the information coming to them, how they are representing their experiences. Now I am able to use language that will make more sense, to match their primary representational systems. I can help put people at their ease, relax them, help them into a “learning state” and provide explanations they can understand.


Then we started to do NLP "interventions"- “treatments” if you like, to overcome specific problems. Problems like phobias, fears, inner conflicts. I would describe the interventions as guided visualisations. How you visualise stuff is up to your subconscious, it does not matter and it is private to you.


There was a rub for me here. I found the guided visualisations so easy to do, that I could not believe that they were actually doing anything! Hmmm, Christine and the other students worked with me on some of the interventions, and she said that things would seem different to me now, losing past anger, fear, guilt, sadness, changing some habits of thought, but I did not know, maybe I was just agreeing or imagining change to stop the process? It all seemed so abstract.


The students on the course all work together and along the way we became pretty comfortable to discuss where we would like to work on for the other student to "banish all of our problems". It was here that the winner came to me, when we were to banish a "limiting belief" that we have. As a person I had the tendency to think that I was "not good enough", despite a whole load of evidence to the contrary. I fact I would seek out a second opinion if someone thought I could do something that I was not sure of, looking for the second person to agree with me that I was not "good enough". We worked on it. During the process we had our subconscious mind working on the "problem" whereas I did not even need to know consciously what the problem was. To me it was just an abstract thought.


I had to look at an unseen scenario (yeah, weird I know), and come up with what I needed to learn. It takes some dragging out sometimes, as the subconscious mind accesses this unseen problem, but what I came up with is "Its not necessary". Just that phrase broke through a whole load of "stuff" for me, it made perfect sense. I was guided to visit every scenario where that thought of “not good enough” had played out, and again I did not even need to know consciously what that was. Christine says to some people it feels like the first bead drops off a string and then all the next beads drop off. To me it felt like I was being pulled along on a zip wire, and as I went I was bursting through "film set" style rocks, that crumbled and broke apart as I passed through.


“Its not necessary”? Well, with any task or skill either I will be good enough or I won't. Time will tell. It is simply not necessary for me to pre-ordain that I will or will not. It is not necessary for me to decide in advance that I am not good enough. Simples!


Despite that breakthrough for me I was still reticent to work with this technique with clients, in particular with fear. My experience with clients has taught me that often when a client is fearful there is a VERY good reason, that we need to address. For example, clients who are afraid of jumping, often when we look at the issue they need to train their bodies into better alignment and balance to be secure. Once we have practiced a new and secure muscle memory then the fear evaporates. I feared to remove the fear in an “off the horse” way as the problem that the fear was warning about would still be there. I perceived that this could put the client in jeopardy!


Christine sees it differently. She explains that Fear is not what keeps you safe, it is our fight or flight reaction that does that. We can lose the fear and still make wise decisions. I did see this with another person on the course who had experienced a fear of jumping over a specific height. Their “learning” from the fear was that they needed more training. Seems the unconscious mind had a complete handle on the problem if it was given a chance to express itself. The crux of it is, I think, that before dropping the fear the subconscious mind is asked what lesson we need to learn from the situation. So, we can have the "learning" without the fear. I guess if we ask our inner selves and give it a voice, then it no longer relies on communication through the feeling/emotion/ chemical stew that we call “fear”.


I like the time line therapy so much I am intending to study it some more. I am in a period of watching and observing, matching up what I have learned with real experiences. This course has had a big effect. Big change is supposed to hurt, right? Well, not necessarily, I have discovered. I have changed, and people have noticed.


My horse is sound now, and coming back into work. In fact we started on recuperative work and light schooling just before the course. As he now has a weakness in his foot I am stopping eventing with him and changing to Dressage. My trainer had indicated that we would not have to start at Novice BD, but that we could start at Elementary and move up to Medium within the first year. Wow. Before this course I WANTED to believe her, and I do trust her judgement, but I was looking for justification. I felt that, perhaps, I was "not good enough". Now, since this course, I am just doing it! I have registered us BD, booked a lesson, just the one, and next week we are doing a Novice to get his brain in gear as he has barely been off the yard in six months, and then the second test that same day is an Elementary. We may be good enough and we may not. Time will tell. There is seriously no fear, conflict or worry about the situation. I am looking forward to it!


I look forward more to integrating this into work with my clients. My one concern is that they, like me, will go through the intervention, and think that it was so easy that it cannot have worked. Although, with them too, it will tell with time. That will be so good seeing people changing in this way.


I enrolled on this course to learn and get a qualification. The cost seemed pretty high when I enrolled. However, if someone had asked if I would be prepared to invest the same sum of money, just to make the changes that I made within myself, then I would have said yes. I just did not realise that changes within my self would be one of the gains. As well as a more peaceful and positive me, I also have the qualification. And more understanding about communication and how we process our life experiences. And the knowledge that I can do the interventions for other people. The interventions really were that simple, I have already made changes to other people. With this qualification I could, if I so wish, get the insurance and practice interventions on their own. Wow, a job in the warm and dry!


NLP, powerful stuff. "
Well, newsflash...... I wrote that newsletter article last week, and today Sherlock and I "did" our first BD (British Dressage) competition, and we entered the Novice and Elementary tests.
Sherlock was a superstar, and we scored 63.92% and got 3rd in the Novice 27, and scored 60.88% and got 5th in the Elementary 53. So, first time out we scored 3 points, both at Novice and Elementary, and have started our qualification for the Regionals...... I guess we were "good enough" after all!
We were the ones with no shoes, no clip, no whip, no spurs, no flash noseband, no plaits! Strange though, I felt no pressure, no fear, no worries about what would or would not happen. It is all meant to be fun after all!
We have our next competition on the 20th, and, I guess anything could happen, but again, whatever happens it is information to learn from, a mark of our progress, and hopefully a fun day when me and my boy get to spend some time out on an adventure.....
Elsewhere I am still dancing Argentine Tango, I have been learning for 3 months now. A couple of weeks ago I went to the Scottish International Tango Festival, and danced with a whole load of lovely people there. At the end of this month I am travelling to Spain to dance there too. If you have not tried it, I can tell you that I am learning so much about leading and being led, balance and co-ordinaation, my body is becoming more flexible and co-ordinated. 
So, silnet since December, but I have been busy learning and discovering. Good stuff!

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  1. cordy coupland

    Thanks for sharing this article. It is very informative & helps us all see differently.

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