Thrive Through Transition Take Cues from Horses and Herds
Oct 01, 2019 12:15PM
By Carrie Brady
Fall is a time of transition for many families as children go back to school. Schedules may become more challenging with added activities, homework and buses, or they may be simplified when a child heads off to college or into the working world. Change is inevitable and often welcome; but humans tend to be slower than animals to adapt to new situations and may dread or try to avoid them. We can learn a lot from horses about how to thrive through transitions of all kinds—by finding our guiding stars, changing our lead and expanding our herd.
Find Your Guiding Stars
Horses have primary guiding stars that affect their choices in a wide variety of situations, including survival, responsibility to the herd and delight. As prey animals, they will always respond to threats first and fill their roles in the herd second. If there is no threat and no obligation, they choose whatever brings them joy, whether it is rolling, napping, grooming each other or grazing.
Humans also have a set of individualized guiding stars, the priorities that influence our decisions and perceptions. People often are not fully conscious of those guiding stars, however, because they have become so ingrained. The guiding stars may shift as you go through transitions in your life: If being an involved parent or achieving a specific professional status has been a goal, the child moving out of the house or the loss of the job can be very disconcerting, especially if you haven’t realized the need to examine and reset your guiding stars.
To find your guiding stars, consider what priorities or beliefs are most important to you. What things do you consider first when making major life decisions? What influences you when making smaller decisions, such as how you spend your day? Do your guiding stars for big decisions match the ones you use for daily decisions? People tend to give more thought to major decisions and may not be aware that how they choose to spend their days isn’t consistent with how they want to spend their lives. What adjustments could you make to align your days with your guiding stars?
Change Your Lead
Change is an invitation for rebalancing and an opportunity to take a new lead in a different direction. Horses respond rapidly as circumstances evolve. When horses canter, they lead with their inside front leg because this stride gives them the most power to propel themselves forward with their hind leg. If they change direction, they switch the leading leg mid-air without stopping, which is known as a “flying change.” Horses will be off-balance and uncomfortable until they change leads, so they adapt naturally to the change of direction. Humans going through changes may not recognize the need to rebalance. If they keep doing the same things they always did, they may feel awkward until they change their lead and rediscover balance and ease.
To find your new lead, consider how a recent change in your life offers new freedom and opens up possibilities. What are your well-established habits, and which ones would you like to shift? For example, if you always had to get up early for work or to get your children to school, what would happen if you stayed up late and slept in? Are there things you couldn’t do before that you can once you make that change? Try doing old things in new ways, even if it is as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand or taking a different route as you drive to a familiar place. Changing routines and breaking out of habitual patterns will help you find new balance.
Expand Your Herd
After you have identified some guiding stars and experimented with changing your lead, take a look at your herd. Horses act collectively and work together for the good of the whole group. As a new horse arrives, the herd adjusts responsibilities and roles. Humans are members of many herds simultaneously, including families, friends, a neighborhood, colleagues and the professionals they invite to serve specific functions, such as doctors and dentists. Your herd includes all the people in your life and the roles you fill for them, as well as the roles they fill for you.
As you are going through a transition, consider all the roles you have in your herds, both in terms of relationships (mother, brother, friend) and the skills you share (peacemaker, adventurer, excellent listener). Which roles are changing? What skills do you enjoy using the most? What changes could you make that would bring out the best in you or others? Are there gaps in your herd now that need to be filled? Consider whether you have people in your life who support your guiding stars or share your passions. If you love live music, do you know people who will join you at concerts? If you love cooking, do you have people to enjoy eating what you make?
Changes can leave noticeable absences in our human herds, not just because you miss a specific person, but also because you miss the roles you filled for each other. If you miss being around teens, perhaps you can volunteer at a school, teach a cooking class, or coach a team. There are many opportunities to expand your herd and to find new ways to share your special skills and gifts.
Carrie Brady is the creator of Possibilities Farm in Wilton, where she partners with horses in innovative non-riding programs for personal growth, professional development, and wellness. Her fall workshop series includes programs in horse wisdom for entrepreneurs, reiki certification with horse teachers, and an empty nest brimming with possibilities. For more information, visit PossibilitiesFarm.com See ad, page 17.