No Promises, but a Prepared Heart and Mind
Monday February 12, 2024

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Various events in our childhood, unbeknownst to us at the time, stretched our confidence in ourselves to try new and different things.

If we were encouraged to follow our curiosity, many gifts of our unique strengths and passions gradually began to be revealed to us.

Based on our innate wherewithal as well as the support around us, even if the attempts in areas of our curiosity weren’t at first successful, we either tried again or didn’t. It is my hope that you did.

It is my hope that you did because you tried initially likely because you intrinsically were drawn to whatever it was. Your curiosity pulled you toward this new ‘thing’ like a magnet, and it wasn’t by chance.

In the trying again we prepared our mind and our heart in priceless ways that in our adult years to the outside world may seem completely disparate to those events in our childhood where we soared, but in fact, they are indeed related.

From time to time I will reflect on my own childhood, exploring why or where the source of my determination to choose various paths in my adult life, some not at all what I had seen modeled, and while I do know, after getting to know myself well, that innately it is part of who I am, I also know that nurture played a powerful part as well. From my experiences in athletics as well as much time spent outdoors in the wilderness on my own, also with my father who worked in the Wildlife division of his occupation, and I cannot forget my time riding English equestrian, specifically, Open Hunter.

Open Hunter in the 4-H division involves English Equestrian riders jumping 8-10 fences on a designated course being judged on form, completion and time. Jumping had always been a dream of mine as a young girl seeing other riders skillfully guide their horses with them astride over the jumps with grace, but initially there was also trepidation on my part regarding how I would be able to do it.

With the awesome natural abilities of my trusted steed, who I purchased with my own savings for $400, an elegant black half Arabian jumper, she taught me how to trust that all would be well so long as I prepared us properly for the jump. In other words, the potential was there – all the pieces beyond my control were at my disposal – now I had to get myself readied.

There is a saying that is shared by Deborah Adele in The Yamas & Niyamas, a book detailing the tenets of Yoga, of which she adopts as it is borrowed from equestrians as they prepare themselves to jump the fences. She writes that riders need to prepare their mind as much as they need to prepare anything else because, and it is true, if we don’t take the horse properly into the jump, then we are the one’s to blame, and to take our horse properly into the jump means to both physically and mentally prepare our state of being.

Of course, perfect jumps will not happen every time even if we do prepare in all ways properly – a fence will be touched or knocked down, or if the fence is high enough (ours, as you will notice in the photo, weren’t terribly high as compared to fences you see in the Olympics for example), there may be a tumble with your horse. And knowing all of this as potentiality, the mind must be set to Anticipatory Confidence as they call it. Confidence possessed that even though we cannot know what will come when we leap, we are confident we are prepared and pointed in the best direction to have success.

And then, she writes, we must “throw our heart over the fence, and the jump after it”.

The wonderful news I can confirm to be true is that becoming comfortable with “throwing our heart over the fence” and taking action forward not knowing what will come does come with regular practice of taking this action. As we begin our first jump, there will be nerves and hesitation will arise, and if we are hesitant, in the case of trying to jump a fence, our horse senses this and will avoid the fence or come to a complete halt before jumping and (if the rider isn’t situated properly on the horse, or squeezing tightly with their legs) the rider will soar off the horse. This is not the horse’s fault. This is a nervous rider who didn’t give themselves fully to the jump or didn’t approach the fence properly, in other words, not being prepared.

By the time I became more comfortable, understood and applied with the skills needed, and Flossie trusted I would approach the fence properly for our success, the nerves were held at bay, kept in their place, and in fact, a feeling of great anticipation superseded any doubt.

And it is in the landing after soaring with your horse successfully over the fence, a feeling of internal exhilaration that was unmatched by anything I had experienced during my childhood, that I unconsciously began becoming a person who realized that unknowns need not be so frightening so long as we are prepared. But it took time to reach this realization, the proper support and guidance by a teacher who knew how to guide me (woman seen on the left in the photo) and correct me when I wasn’t doing something as I needed to, support from my mother who would drive us (Flossie and myself) to jumping practice (seen in the photo to the right in the coat), and then a genuine love for what I was doing.

Life, the beautiful, unique life journey that can be ours, requires much of the same approach.

We need to choose to accept that we will never know the outcome that awaits to greet us on the other side of our trying, but with the skills that will be necessary – choosing to learn them and hone them and keep them toned, when we are following where our curiosity draws us, and keep along this path, a path that energizes us each day in its own way rather than drains us because we have prepared our mind, knowing how it works, an amazing unfolding of life will reveal itself.

As you begin this week and continue forward into 2024, keep in mind that while we cannot know how our efforts invested will unfold into the success that will come in the future, so long as you prepare yourself – mind and heart, savor the journey and eventually the arrival will be yours to savor.


22 thoughts on “No Promises, but a Prepared Heart and Mind

  1. Oh, Shannon, riding! 🙂 The memories you just brought back to me… Riding is the best! For me, there is nothing comparable to the freedom of riding a trusted horse through a landscape. No idea that you were a fellow rider. It is what I miss most living in the city, to ride. There is a place here where it is possible get a horse and take it for a circuit ride, and that as much riding as I can do these days, although I have not been for a while. Actually, since Covid. I never participated in competition or did wild jumps, but do I miss my riding, oh yes, I do miss it so! The closest thing to riding, I find, is to travel by train. 🙂

    I know this Post is not about riding – ha. 😉

    To your wise words, I will just add, continuing the equestrian metaphor: take time to know the obstacle itself, to find the best approach.

    Thank you, Shannon, what a joy this morning! XO

    1. Great add-on, Weisserose! It does make me wonder, though, can we ever really know the true obstacle until we’ve vaulted over it, either successfully or not?

      1. Yes, indeed, I think we only truly know the obstacle (and its difficulties) until we jump… Preparation is paramount but it provides only a theoretical knowledge of sorts. Practice will provide the rest. 🙂

      2. So much truth. It’s funny to think back on all those life obstacles, that in the moment seemed so terrifying, were not terrifying at all.

    2. Isabel,

      Thank you for sharing all that you have about your experience with riding! A kindred spirit! 🙂 And you are most right, proper preparation of all that can be known is crucial!

  2. Shannon what an interesting facet of your life revealed and what a lovely photo. Can see the partnership between you and your steed . It’s true that preparation is key. I also jumped and on one such occasion I was ill prepared and the result was a catastrophic fall which left me with many broken bones and my pride. Luckily my horse escaped lightly. I never got on a horse again ! But it never stopped me throwing my heart forward. Have a great week. . Kameela😊

    1. Glad you were knitted back together , m’amie Kameela.😄”It never stopped me from throwing my heart forward.” Courage and determination continues, no matter how many falls, if we have respect for ourselves, n’est-ce pas? Your early Spring/late Winter garden looks gorgeous! Love & xx💖~R.

  3. Good Morning,
    My son was an Eventer. I loved watching him ride the cross-country portion of Eventing; the music played while the rider was out on the course was so fun too.. Dressage is just like figure-skating to me. Were you in Pony Club? My youngest was in Pony Club and JDRP- Junior Developing Rider Program too. What fun memories you brought up for me. I love horses. I like watching their ears as they listen to you talk to them. Horses have different personalities, just like people.
    all the best, Emilie

    1. Emilie,

      This sounds like a wonderful event to watch. Your son is definitely a skilled rider. 🙂 Your description of dressage’s likeness to figure-skating is very apt and yet I had never heard such a comparison before. Spot on! 🙂 We had 4-H and I was with a particularly awesome riding coach/club who you see in the photograph. I will always be grateful for your wisdom and support, not only for me but all of her riders. Such a fun childhood memory.

      Horses definitely have personality, much like our pups. They can feel your energy which is why confidence while seated, yet calm and clear body communication along with voice is crucial. No doubt you and your son are well aware of this. Thank you for sharing a piece of your life with us. 🙂

  4. What a great photo, so glad someone captured that moment for you. I can just feel the exhilaration, from your glowing cheeks to the flowing of Flossie’s tail. Beautiful scenery, too. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments on riding. I’m very certain I have missed out on something fantastic, since my only exposure is from scenes such as Downton Abbey, etc. 🙂
    I have, however, experienced an empowering childhood. It didn’t seem so at the time, with many many frustrations, but it did end up being a good foundation to adulthood. Things I’m thankful for are that I was never ever made to feel inferior or like I would fail (which I did, often, but that isn’t the point, is it??) before I even began. I felt misunderstood a lot, but looking back, my parents understood more about me than I realized and gave them credit for. After all, I was a combination of them, so of course they knew many personal aspects already! I see more and more of this as time goes on.
    Thanks for the inspiring thoughts!

    1. Hello,
      I’m not sure of your age, but with a well-trained older horse…most people would be able to ride. As you are working in communion with your horse the ability to complete a jump comes with practice. Certainly there is a skill set to learn, but once you start asking the horse for what you want…they response. They are large animals that you need to feel comfortable around, but with the right horse ‘everything’ is possible. Oh, and of course you need the proper trainer/instructor to work with. I absolutely love horses. There is a saying that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of the girl(or boy).
      my best friend is in her 70’s and still rides, Emilie
      if it’s a dream…follow your heart

      1. Thank you, Emilie, for the encouragement. It has not been a dream but it does sound delightful….and I’m looking for new dreams, so I’m open. Thank you for sharing your passion for horses (and their ears!), I love the saying. Animals do teach us so much, without saying a word.

    2. Melissa,

      Thank you very much for your kind words and especially for sharing about your own childhood and what was given to you. Your thoughtful reflection, appreciation shines through and indeed what wonderful gifts to be encouraged and nourished.

      Thank you for stopping by and my apologies for the delayed response. xo

  5. What a lovely photo Shannon and how wonderful to have been involved in such a beautiful sport. I so enjoy watching Equestrian competitions and also Spanish dressage, the “Airs Above The Ground”–beautiful and breathtaking.
    After pondering this a bit, I think for me, what bolstered my confidence as a person, of course along with the nurture and support from family as a child, was learning how to fail well. By that I mean, not just to keep plugging away, but to really honestly give it all you’ve got, do the prep and practice and study, and then when the 10/10 scorecard never flips for your performance–well, you know in your heart and mind and soul that you did your best and that is indeed a win for you. Learning to fail well builds confidence, encourages curiosity, teaches respect and responsibility to and for yourself, which then spills out into the wider world. I love that phrase –“Throwing your heart over the fence”, thank you for sharing it in this lovely, thoughtful post. I believe that one must be written down and pinned up on the Inspiration Board. Brilliant way to begin the week, thank you Shannon. Have a wonder-filled week everyone. xx Rona

    1. I loved that phrase, too! Throw your heart over the fence, then jump after it. I can just picture it.
      Yes, great post to start the week. Enjoys yours, as well.

    2. Thank you for sharing what you were gifted with during your childhood to encourage you to “throw your heart over the fence and jump after it”. A loving and supportive structure to fail well is priceless, non? 🙂 Grateful you had that in your life journey and sharing it with us all.
      Thank you for all that you have shared on this thought to ponder as we begin the week. 🙂

  6. I really enjoyed reading this post and learning a little more about your past interests, Shannon. Plus what a great photo !
    I did some riding myself when I was younger, but was in no way a “jumper” or proficient at them.
    I like the analogy here about daring to trust your curiosity and instinct once you’ve done the necessary preparation for the task, let go and enjoy!

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