Category Archives: Blog

Exaggerate To Teach

Have you noticed that when we start to teach something to another person we might slow down our words, try to talk clearer, or even revise the way we say something once we realise the other person doesn’t know what we want, ie. They haven’t learnt it yet.

I use the words “exaggerate to teach” when we have to make the firsts of things bigger, slower, clearer. We break things down into smaller more detailed steps, we might use a bigger voice, more eye contact, or even physically support their hands to complete a task, or visually model the task out first to then let them have a go. I call all of this “exaggerate to teach”.

I might even go as far as to say I compliment bigger, and put more effort into praise when they get something right because they’ve learned something new, and that is exciting, isn’t it? Also using the “every opportunity to give a good face” concept my face would hopefully be a big, clear, excited, happy face in this moment, because learning should be exciting, not scary.

With the horse I might exaggerate by using movements and tone, bigger arms, bigger hands and definitely bigger pats, hugs and releases when they learn something new. If you’ve ever been in a session with me you’ll know how special the release is for a horse, and how much we encourage people to look for the releases in the horses body, like floppy ears and neck, soft lips, a big breath out, blowing raspberries, a soft swishy tail, chewing or licking. When was the last time you let yourself have a good big release in your body, a dance in the kitchen, a good vent, a massage, a big drink of water? All of these things can be how we release tension, but so many people that come to us have a huge amount of tension in their bodies, so being able to teach that to others through exaggerating the release of tension is just the beginning.

…by the way, not forward.

I know it’s a strange thing to start the new year (or a sentence with) but “…by the way, not forward” is a complicated concept to get your head around so I’m starting with it “up-front”.

I believe that my use of the concept has a lot to do with horsemanship when we use our hands so much working with and communicating with our horses, we want our hands to be “slow to close, quick to release” when we are asking anything of our horse (even that in itself is another topic I will talk about another time). To apply this concept over working with children, we want any boundary to be firm and clear and we be slow and firm and clear as we first teach the boundary as the horse/child approaches it to give them every opportunity to change their direction or attention before they get to it. Think of it as a funnel shape, wide at the beginning and narrower at the end and almost shaping your hands to resemble that (with your pinky as the narrowest part; see pic) but it’s a boundary all the same, we need these “boundaries” when it comes proximity, sharing, eating, splashing, noise, daily routines.. actually lets just say everything as parents.

The “quick to release” part is the actual release of pressure or firmness to allow the horse/child to go with their redirection or change in attention away from the boundary that they now know is there. We might need to practice the boundary setting part a few times before it sinks in but overall you’ve made one and steered their behaviour accordingly. The release part needs to also be preferable to the tighter part (or closing in part).  So back to the …by the way not forward concept, is probably more of a “not forward in the direction you’re currently headed because there is a boundary there” elaborated out, and the by the way part is a slowing of creating, teaching, acknowledging of the boundary.

Its funny how much I actually say the words in my head, to remind myself how and when I’m setting a boundary and why, most of the time I’m setting it for safety, but also to be able to hopefully shape my horses and child into “a good citizen in society.”

What’s happening is meant to be happening..

We all know when we stop, or just slow down for a bit, we notice more. We then start to be better at just being present.. have you realised how long minutes take to go by when you have to sit and wait for something?

Horses teach us to be more present. They live in their present moment more intensely than we do, attributed to the fact that they are prey animals. They have to be alert to predators and take every opportunity to sleep or eat or just relax when they can.

Layering what horses can teach us, over our everyday lives and working with each other could look like; being more attentive to your partner’s conversations, sitting on the floor and playing in your child’s game, remembering to chew and appreciate each mouthful of food or even just watering the garden; can bring a new depth to our lives.

In coaching people, I use this phrase when it may look like not much stuff is “happening” for them, or when we’ve plateau-ed in their learning, into a consolidation phase. Sometimes it can also mean that we have moved too quickly over something and the slowness helps to bring new stuff to the surface, other times it can be an opportunity for self-reflection to see what WE might need to do ourselves in our actions and in relationships that don’t serve us well.

In sessions we experience a lot of stuff, and much of it happens at pace, so it’s important to remember to just be, in this present moment for what it is, because we won’t get that moment again.

To see if this therapy is what you’ve been looking for get in touch, we have more session times opening for 2021.

Finding the “Sweet Spot”

I hadn’t realised how much I crave the ‘Sweet Spot’ when it comes to a lot of things in my world. The calm, relaxed, in-touch-with, thoughtful, connected spot, that I strive to be in all of my roles in life. Just writing them down makes that look like a really nice place to be, but I don’t get there half as much as I wish I did, and I do look for ways to do it better every time.

So what is a Sweet Spot?

It’s what I use to describe a moment in time when the horse and I actually just ‘get’ each other, to be completely understood by another in a moment. That’s when it’s really sweet..

For example; If the horse is attuned to me, and my attention moves to an object, like the barrel or cone, then the horse is also drawn to it. Or when the most subtle gesture towards something (like the gate) has my horse prick its ears up in response to my shift.

In horsemanship I get so excited when I find a Sweet Spot with my horse and I am validated when I find a Sweet Spot for a client in session too. Many clients over the years have found their Sweet Spots, whether it be goose-bumpy moments, the realisation that something has just worked out, or they have finally just completely let go of something that had been bothering them for a while. And a Sweet Spot for a client may be a very different place to what a therapist deems as a Sweet Spot.  I would also like to clarify that a Sweet Spot can also be different to a ‘Peak’ moment in session, I believe we can have both, but we could have lots of Sweet Spots, and more likely one ‘Peak’.

With my kids I wish that I’m a Sweet Spot for them, a more connected, in-touch-with Mother to them.  I try to find ways to attune to them better, be more thoughtful and model to them how to be more thoughtful to others. The image I get when I think of this; is when I can kneel down with my arms out wide and have my child come running towards me arms out wide in return to be caught by me and thrown up in the air and hugged and loved on. Ah the Sweet Spot!

Who’s Moving Your Feet?

I’ve learnt a little these past few months and to be honest some parts of lockdown were really good for me.. I’ve recognised I needed to slow down at times, be okay with having “home” days and make sure that I’m the one in charge of where my feet go..

Over the years I’ve been so driven to help people I’ve often given up control of my own feet. Think about it like this; I’ve been run-around, or had to step-back, been pushed into, swept up by, or found myself in someone’s else’s shoes..

These are all really common sayings for a very common way we work with each other = moving feet.

When was the last time you held your ground, or only stepped in the direction you intended to go?

In some sessions I chat to people about having a “personal space bubble” around them. Think of it as a circle around you: most people think they step forward into something (eg. take action) and step back from (eg. submitting). But we also remind people they also have sideways and diagonals which could represent compromise or new paths they haven’t been on before.

In Horsemanship we talk about being in control of our own feet, and I expect the horse to be in control of his, but also conscious of whether the horse is making us move our feet.. when I start to ask something of my horse (or someone), I prepare. I ground myself, I lift my energy, and begin from a “how little does it take” so as not to demand or over-use the relationship.

Typically it’s not this clear when it comes to the relationships in our lives. But all the more reason to practice good unambiguous relationship practices by being grounded, lifting your energy first, and starting with small steps in your intended direction, and being ok with people who might not want to go there with you, or people who might want to follow you. Leadership of yourself is a healthy thing!

Finding Every Opportunity to Give a Good Face

Welcome back, slowly but surely we are gaining our momentum and to support this new social environment, we wanted to add a new layer of articles and things of interest for our followers that may not be able to see us in person just yet.

I got to thinking the other day, how my new baby will get to see the world as she grows up in a very different environment to my toddler. It started when the family care nurse mentioned that some babies were not taking well to their mothers wearing face masks during the nurses visits, when they were already having difficulties with sleep settling or breastfeeding. The idea of face masks within the home is not really a thing, but it did give me an idea about how she may portray people out in public, for all of her tiny life so far, any stranger we’ve seen is wearing a face mask,  so how will she ever get to know what face-related social cues to read from people outside her circle.

From my psych studies, it is concepts from Neuropsych and Developmental psych that remind us to make exaggerated faces and hold eye contact with babies, we are naturally drawn to doing it. The baby’s brain has a big area assigned to face recognition and how to read faces, so how is all that affected when people are wearing face masks?

Here’s where we could learn a thing or two from horses…

The horses typically read the whole body of a person. I have been consciously aware of wearing my hat and sunnies around horses I’m working with as they are a part of my “equipment” and who I am when I’m around them. The fact that my face is covered by a hat and sunnies should make no difference to how I work with you, show you affection, and ask things of you. Rarely have I needed to take them off to help a struggling horse, but I am conscious of the fact that therefore my body has to have the cues for them to read rather than my face. In sessions we may notice where and how people move their feet, how someone may relax (or cock) their leg, turn their shoulders, remove their eye contact, or wave their hands in the air.

From a Natural horsemanship perspective; we look for the moments when the horse is giving us a ‘good face’ (eyes towards us, ears forward, head lower and jaw relaxed) and respond in that moment, typically by removing pressure. The longer we delay or miss those moments the less the ‘good face’ means in the relationship. I want to be able to find the exact moment when the horse is doing the tiniest hint of what I want, to give him that opportunity to give my ‘good face’ in return. Building on those positive moments makes the relationship more enjoyable for both of us, and the horse (or child) wants to do more positive things.

Body language is such a huge, and often forgotten, way of communicating, it is often not taught consciously, so therefore kids often find it harder to understand and comprehend why adults react differently to their different behaviours. Simple things like kneeling down to hug a child (instead of bending over at the hips), sitting on a playmat or picnic rug so your eye level is the same or below theirs is a beautiful way of connecting to kids. Doing things/tasks/activities ‘shoulder to shoulder’ instead of face to face is also a revised way of connecting to kids that you might be “distancing” from.

In reflection I’m reminded how important our home life is to our children and when I need to remind myself to find an opportunity to give a ‘good face’ to my kids, maintaining that eye contact, smiling when you’re pleased with something they’ve done, when in this environment faces are harder to find.

For more ideas and strategies get in touch with us, or to book a session call the office on 4684 3663.