Present in a Relationship

Being Present in a Relationship

Being Present in a Relationship

From saddling Rhys to regaining consciousness on the ground, I had no memory of what happened.

I was asking the same questions over and over, symptoms of a serious concussion.

In emergency, that diagnosis also included hairline vertebra fractures.

Had I landed differently this could have been a whole different story.

As it was, the doctor told me to rest, no hard work and definitely no riding for six weeks.

Since that fateful day there are so many things that I now notice.

I could give you a long list of what I have learned from that accident, but the most important thing that Rhys taught me that day was: what being present in relationship with another being means.

It’s something that relates to everything I do.

My business is about partnering people with a horse to help them identify behaviour that enhance their own relationships. I offer programs where participants get to see the impact of their own actions through real time feedback from a horse. Ironically, Rhys was part of that plan.

Let me take you back to how I Rhys & I met.
I was looking for horses to expand my herd and ended up at the Livestock Auction pens.

It was Rhys’ colour that caught my eye, he was a handsome red head. About 5 years old was older than what most people will start. So there were no other bidders.

Our chance encounter interrupted his trip to the slaughter pen and he ended up at my farm.

In 24 hours his whole world had changed. He was now on his own, in a strange place. From the beginning Rhys made it perfectly clear he wanted me no where near him.

First Contact

I call this picture first contact. It took two weeks for me to be able to touch him.
For those familiar with horse body language, you can see he’s not convinced.

Now, I would love to give you an image of us galloping over the open range but it didn’t happen that way.
A month later we were making good progress within a 50’ round pen.

Starting a colt is about being consistent with your behaviours and paying attention to what is happening.

I’m sure I did many of the right things the day that ended with my ambulance ride to the hospital.
But I can only guess because after saddling Rhys, I remember nothing.

Hindsight tells me I was pushing Rhys through my own agenda, not paying attention to where he was at.

What happened, before what happened, happened? Ray Hunt

I didn’t know what happened before what happened, happened.

A horse always lets you know that something is going to happen – a slight movement of the ears, the head going up, the body stiffening.

It can be a split second warning, but they always tell you.

You’ve probably heard the cliche “get back in the saddle.” It’s a good metaphor for overcoming a challenge.
Even harder when you actually have to get back in the saddle.

But I had to. My business depended on it. So did Rhys’ life. My husband was more than willing to ship him back to the auction pens.

The good thing about horses is that they operate in the present moment. As far as Rhys was concerned, every day was a new day.

So as we started working together again

he helped to me to see that being present with him in the moment
was not an option – it was a necessity.

AND he opened up a whole new way for me to understand myself in relationship with others – as a teacher, coach, sister, daughter, partner and friend.

I remain a work in progress.


In my programs

I may set the stage by handing you the lead rope, but the real work happens between you and the horse.

What does it aim towards?

To answer that I’d like to introduce you a term that comes from Dressage.

There are six levels of the Dressage training scale,

Schwung the fourth level, kind of like graduating high school, for a horse and rider.

Cool word right? If you Google Schwung you might find momentum or impulsion, I love the word not only how sounds, but more importantly because it captures a feeling.

The definition that best reflects the feeling of Schwung for me is:

The connected energy through the rider to the hind end of the horse in a forward, fluid, effortless motion

finding SchwungA friend captured my first encounter with SCHWUNG

When I see this picture, of my horse Jack & me. When I even think of it. I remember absolutely everything about that moment – the rhythm and swing of his trot, how light the reins felt in my hands, the hot air around us. It was as if we were floating.

But I’ve learned is that we can also find Schwung In human relationships. It means being fully present no distractions. No cell phones or computers or the lists in our head it means being fully present to what is with another human being.

In Dressage as in Life, Finding Schwung begins with RELAXATION:

When I first got back in the saddle with Rhys, I was anything but relaxed. I was afraid of what might happen. I didn’t remember what had happened – what if it happened again?

Up to that point I didn’t understand how people could be so afraid of horses. Now I knew what that felt like.

A recent client had never been near a horse before. She made it clear that animals were not her thing. She was terrified.

As we approached the horse, the animal started switching her tail, and swinging her head back and forth, biting at what appeared to be an invisible fly and that! scared the woman even more.

I needed her to see how much of her own fear was being picked up by the horse. We were standing right in front of a horse So I asked her to stand with her feet shoulder width apart, soften her knees and then close her eyes.

She looked at me in horror!

She told me what she heard: people talking, the whir of the ceiling fans and her own breathing. When I asked her to open her eyes the horse was standing quietly head and tail relaxed.

She had let go of what if and was noticing what is.
– It was her first step towards actually being present in that relationship.

And the horse simply mirrored her!

What my client experienced with the horse is no different than in any relationship – whether it is with your partner, your teen, or your staff – it begins by noticing what is.

When we relax, we actually listen we let go of the narrative in our heads and it’s amazing what we can then accomplish together.


present in relationships

Finding Rhythm

Finding Rhythm

the next step to achieving Schwung, is finding rhythm.

Everything a horse does has rhythm – a walk has four beats, a trot two, a canter three and a gallop four.

Movement requires rhythm. When we get in rhythm with the horse, they can get in rhythm with us.

It’s the same principle that we instinctively use with babies. We pick up a crying baby, slow down our breathing and rock them in an even rhythm.


But it is natural for people start with a plan.
As a recovering Project manager I know the importance of a good plan.
But when we focus on the end goal we can lose sight of the people and relationships who help us achieve it.

Rhys taught me the importance of paying attention, of adapting my plan and adjusting to his rhythm.

This is true in all our relationships. When we adapt to each other, our relationships become deeper and richer.

When we really take the time to listen to each other, to be present. When we allow ourselves to be open to change, we can begin to find that rhythm in each of our relationships.

Communication – IT’S NOT ABOUT CONTROL

I once had a client so intent on his own success that he was oblivious to the idea of developing a relationship with his horse. The harder he pulled on the lead the more anchored his horse Sydney became. He gave up in frustration. Clearly I’d given him the stubborn horse.

When many people are near a horse for the first time they think they need to hold on tight.

But with horses, as with people, a good relationship is not about control. It’s actually more like a dance.
Sometimes you take the lead, other times you follow. What you are looking for is to be in rhythm and fully presentin mind and in body.

Then you are communicating in a common language

You can stop any of my horses with a sigh.

That is what Whoa is – it is letting the energy out of your body as if you are letting your breath out all the way to your toes.

It’s not WHOA where the breath stops half way and you’re smiling with all four cheeks.

You could say then that Effective communication is the least amount of information to convey an idea. With a horse we call it contact, in human relationships we call it good conversation.

Sydney’s afternoon partner was delighted to be with her. She was asking and encouraging. Soon they were in rhythm and dancing around the arena like they had done it hundreds of times before.

Relaxation, rhythm and communication.
This is Schwung in relationship with others.

I wish I’d been more aware of this the morning that ended in my trip to the Emergency.

When I think about it. Rhys had been giving me signals all along, but I had my own agenda.

The good thing about horses. They always give you a second chance to make a good first impression. Rhys let me start over.

Here we are, eight years later. The horse who once distrusted all humans joins me each year at the Stampede. Even in the chaos of the grounds, he is reliable and charming partner

To see Rhys at Stampede bringing out the essence of being present with all who partner with him, maybe that is our Schwung.

Rhys opened up a whole new way for me to understand myself in relationship with others. He taught me that to be a more compassionate teacher, a more supportive coach, a more patient partner, a more sympathetic friend, I had be willing to let go of what if, and invest myself in what is.

And he taught me that whether a person is riding a horse, raising a child, working on a team, running a business or falling in love, being truly present in the relationship isn’t something you hold on to.

You find it, (snap fingers) then you lose it, until you find it again.

And once you’ve experienced how profound a relationship can be.

Once you have discovered the rhythm of another individual and you slip into that moment where everything seems to be flowing and effortless – then you will have found your Schwung.

And wherever you find it, it is a feeling you never forget.

You will begin to pursue it in every relationship you have.


Thank you


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