When Cody came into my life, and I stepped back into the competitive equestrian world after a VERY long hiatus, I was so excited. Just coming out of a decade of playing and coaching hockey, I saw the stuff of my childhood dreams returning: visions of big jump courses, and lots of ribbons (the blue ones, thank you very much). But, while the dream was so, so alluring, the reality was much, much different.
I came to find out that I was a mental mess in the competition arena.
The place that I left behind so unceremoniously in my late teens was still a place that made me feel unworthy. In fact, as I re-entered the competitive world, it felt like I was paying judges to offer “proof” that it was so. After several shows, the debilitating nerves and perfectionist tendencies were evident. I will never forget the day one of the darling juniors in our barn left Jane Savoie’s That Winning Feeling in my tack trunk, with a sticky note reading: “Dana: Read or Die.”
Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was the beginning of a longish journey to Performance Energetics and EquiTations.
With an undeniable love of books, I dove in, eager to see how I could sort myself out. And I took away what felt like, really, a rather simple tip: visualize.
So I tried.
Each night, driving home from the barn, making awkward attempts to visualize beautiful dressage tests. Enter A, working trot. At C, track right. B, circle…
Wait a minute…
How in the world do I visualize making a circle!? I’d end up all mentally turned around, focused only on the fact that I couldn’t actually, literally, visualize the different movements or changes in direction! Nor at the time, could I manage to access what it felt like to be riding from a place of connection…free…joyous. Gah, I thought, this stuff doesn’t work… I mean, maybe it does for others, but I’m just not good at it.
Fast forward out of the dressage barn, to the hunter/jumper barn. With jumps in the mix (yay!), I struggled even harder with visualization. Mostly because, as I visualized, each time I approached a jump of any magnitude one of two things happened: we either had a refusal (counterproductive) or we crashed (seriously counterproductive). Cue inner self-flagellation.
Maybe I’m just not a good enough rider, I would think… If I were, I’d get this stuff – right? Sigh…
Fast forward out of the hunter/jumper barn and into the eventing barn (let’s face it, my heart really is on the cross country course). As the pressures of a racing mind and better-be-a-blue-or-else mentality mounted, I gave visualization another go. With Reiki training onboard this time, it seemed to go a little better. Except for one thing: I had to be moving. I would literally walk my test, or my course, talking to myself as I went. I’d find an open space, and walk-talk-visualize. It certainly helped with memorizing tests and courses. And it helped a little with the nerves. But, in the arena, I still lacked focus, still wasn’t breathing, still was concentrating on things like the clock and rails or just getting it overwith as quickly as possible, when, truly, I ought to have been in the moment – nimble and resilient and creative, and actually enjoying the ride.
It was these experiences – a decade’s worth (yes, my horse is a saint) – that finally led to the creation of EquiTations.
As I found myself simultaneously building the business and exploring with a deep curiosity how to transform challenges into strengths, I tapped into the power of guided visualizations from Vishen Lakhiani, Lisa Nichols, Tim Kremer. And they worked. As I plugged in, the images created by their voices allowed my scattered brain to s-l-o-w down. They allowed me to FEEL and access the vibrations of creativity and joy and connection, replacing the long-carried defaults of fear and frustration and discontent.
I’ve learnt that this isn’t about making something happen. It truly is about the art of allowing.
Fast forward, once again, to a year ago. Sitting on the rail, watching a dressage lesson, it came to me. Equestrian visualizations! Ohmigosh! EquiTations! I excitedly messaged my business coach. Brilliant, she said. Just brilliant. I crafted scripts. Recorded first cuts on my iphone. And offered beta packages to those who would take me up on it.
And the response has been more than I could have imagined. Words of testimony and appreciation, sharing how these simple audio tracks are changing the way people ride, the way they compete, strengthening the bond with their equine partners, speaking the mutual language of energetics.
There are times I find myself wishing I had something like this, during all those years that I struggled, trying to figure out how to be a good competitor. Except that it was mine to create, and all of the experiences that led up to the creation – the frustration and the heartbreak, the incessant feelings of not-good-enough – they were mine to experience so that I could create from a place of understanding.
Sometimes I wish it could have been easier.
And then I hear someone say, “EquiTations is a game changer.” And I think to myself – with a mixture of gratitude and pride and overwhelming love for our sport and the animals that make it possible – “It sure is…”
And I realize that – really – I wouldn’t have had it any other way.