When you finally get time after a long workday or during a busy weekend to visit your horse, do you rush into it, trying to fit as much into your barn time as you can? I know I did, until now...
As I watched the horse masseuse work on Apollo last weekend, I had an epiphany. The beginning of the session included her speaking affirmations to Apollo that the treatment would be successful, while running her hands down his back to "move the energy." It looked like a lot of mumbo jumbo hocus pocus to me... But then I got to thinking. Affirmations work, I've seen the proof of that. Further, the energy-moving motions could be seen as a type of positive visualization. Later, she also did some yoga moves with him. That's three of the Miracle Morning steps - why not go all out and try a full horse-version?
In the life changing book "The Miracle Morning", the author lays out a plan of 6 steps to jump start each of your days for a healthier, happier, more successful life. I've been following this plan for over a month now, and loving it.
While it's called the Miracle "Morning", it does not have to be done in the morning. Further, the recommendation for people is 10 minutes each, with the caveat that 1 minute per step is okay too. I would be surprised beyond words if Apollo could deal with a full 10 minutes per step, so I've modified it for his attention span (think "squirrel") with the plan that if he's digging it, we can go longer on any step.
The purpose of this is to start each training or playing session out on the best possible framework. Just like your first minutes and hours of your day shapes the whole, so does the time from when you get your horse out of his paddock or stall - perhaps even more so than your own day. Horses are masters of mood and body language; doing this routine helps center and focus your own mind so you can better communicate with your horse, and helps your horse connect with you as well.
The original Miracle Morning uses the acronym "SAVERS", but can be done in any order. I have shuffled the order here for what makes most sense for myself and Apollo, but like the original, it can be done in any order.
Here's my horse version of the Miracle Morning:
"R" (Reading): before heading out to catch your horse, take a few minutes to read something that will help improve your upcoming horse time. It can be a training book, a relevant article in a horse magazine, or you could even watch a how-to video on YouTube. It can also be a non-equine motivational or inspirational book, to put you in a successful frame of mind.
Now catch your horse and immediately start on the next three (brushing first is ok, but no warm up!):
"S" (Silence): this is normally prayer, meditation, chanting, or standing together in silence (pictured). The horse version will of course involve your equine partner in this. Have you ever stood at peace with your horse, and felt like you were somehow connected, spiritually or at least with a deep understanding of one another? This is what we're aiming for here. Run your hands slowly along your horse's neck and back, and/or down his forehead, while breathing deeply. You can chant or sing or pray if so inspired, or move in silence. Continue until your horse relaxes with you and is in tune to your movement.
"A" (Affirmation): Speak to your horse - out loud! - that you will achieve your goals for the day's time together. Be specific on what those goals are, and what challenges you will overcome to reach them. Use positive language, such as "We will achieve our goal of crossing that water obstacle on the trail. We will approach it calmly. I will communicate the intention to cross it. You will trust me and overcome your fear of water. Together we will cross the water with confidence. We are brave, we are trusting, we are capable, we are successful."
"V" (Visualization): Speak to your horse about what you will be doing during your time together. Speak positively and confidently. Be concise in each part of the plan for the day. Even though your horse will not understand your words, he will understand your tone. This will also help you be focused and in the right mindset once you get started. For example "I will brush and saddle you. We will go to the round pen to warm up. You will be responsive to my cues. You will stand quietly while I mount. We will walk down the trail and breathe deeply, smelling the fresh air. We will approach the water crossing, cross it confidently, and continue down the trail..." and so forth.
"E" (Exercise): Do some horse yoga with your partner. There are lots of good youtube videos about how to do this. This helps your horse with his balance, stretches tight muscles, and relieves soreness, all of which will help improve his ability to move comfortably, and thus improve his ability to learn, his attitude and behavior, and his responsiveness, collection, etc.
Proceed with the rest of your horse time as you had visualized it.
After you put your horse away for the day, take a few minutes for the last step:
"S" Scribing: This is your time to reflect on your time with your horse, and put it in writing. It can be a journal, a blog, a poem, or whatever you feel like writing. This will help you refocus your intentions and thoughts, so that you can be ready to improve and progress the next time you work with your horse. Save your scribing, so you can look through it later for patterns of problems or successes, which will also help you and your horse improve.
Give this a try for a week, and share how it worked for you and your horse!