Being open to connection is a typical theme we explore at Unbridled Change. The process of learning how to accept and be open to feeling healthy connections can be a bit like a roller coaster ride. I asked one of our Equine Professionals, Kathleen Nettnin, to write a guest blog to share a little about her personal journey of building and being open to feeling connected to the horses here at Unbridled Change. Her journey has been amazing to watch and has so many parallels to the struggles, triumphs, and road blocks we unknowingly place in our own way when we take the leap of faith and trust in our own power. Thank you Kathleen for being willing to share and connect with all of our readers!
Sending light and love – Michelle
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kathleen Nettnin, and I work full-time at Unbridled Change as an Equine Professional. Over the past three years serving clients and working with horses, I find my faith in our mission grow as I experience the process firsthand.
When I first watched Michelle work with horses, I remember thinking I wanted the same freedom and flow she danced with around the arena. Her time with horses felt liberating and light. So, when I got hired as an Equine Professional I set this expectation of needing to replicate the way she worked to create the same results. As a young adult, there’s a funny balancing act you play of being a humble student and trying to prove yourself as a professional. After awhile, I felt as though my clients and horses deserved more skill than what I had, but I wore this façade of confidence so no one could see the holes I felt. I was angry and frustrated that my skill level hadn’t caught up to my expectations. I thought, by now these horses should flock right over, offer their backs and ask to ride off in perfect partnership towards the sunset. Reality hit and day after day I’d work with our horses and feel the exact same stagnant energy. I hit a plateau and I was not measuring up. I felt confident in my ability to keep all parties safe during sessions (horses, team, and client) but that was it. I wanted more than just safety. I wanted connection.
With each client, I could hear bits and pieces of my story in theirs. It was like this thread that continued to connect myself to the beings around me. We feel lonely, frustrated, angry, stagnant, insecure, disconnected… Most of our clients and horses have developed the skills to survive life. Once we feel confident in our ability to survive, to be safe, we can chose to stay there or discover more. For the majority, we hope for more, but our expectations and insecurities keep us from jumping ship into connection. And so, we create stagnant energy.
This past month has been a catalyst in my own professional and personal growth. There have been a series of events where horses and clients have asked in some way, are you willing to accept the “what is “or fight for the “what should be”. The “what should be” is often times our own expectations that we’ve created based on our own experiences. Go back to the time I saw Michelle work with horses and thought I needed to be like her in order to be “good enough”. I can see myself trying to reveal the falsehood of a statement like for a client. I am no different. None of us are. That belief blocked me from moving forward in my relationships with the horses. Over and over they would give me windows to connect and I would miss them because I was so focused on trying to create something more.
One of our horses, Peppy, had been one I felt particularly stuck with. I knew what he was capable of connecting and playing with high energy, so when he would come in moving slow as molasses and disassociated I took it personal. I brought him in recently without any real agenda, but I tried to get some more energy and motion. Every time we would pass the mounting ramp, he’d stop and plant his feet. This was not my idea of more energy and motion so I started to get annoyed. I could feel my annoyance start to manifest into anger. When he stopped again, I felt myself deflate. My inner dialogue was something like “What am I doing wrong? This isn’t what it should look or feel like.” It wasn’t until I asked myself, what “is” happening that I realized, Peppy was offering me his back. Almost every part of me wanted to accept his gift with no question and climb on, but there was that piece that doubted I could trust this wasn’t a fluke or just sheer stubbornness on his part. I’ve ridden horses for many years, so swinging my leg over the back of a horse is like second nature, but this time with Peppy I felt like I needed and entirely new set of skills. I swallowed my pride, took a deep breath, and asked Peppy to be patient while I left the arena to ask for help. With the support of my team, I swung my leg over Peppy’s back and left my expectations of what this “should” look like behind. Neither Michelle, Cami nor Peppy, made me feel less than for needing help with something I have done throughout my lifetime. They simply held the space and honored my process. I was grateful for that, because with each stride, I felt freedom and lightness flow through our ride. When I got off and thanked him for that gift, I thought to myself, “This is connection.”
My time with horses has since shifted and they all have graciously given me an opportunity to start fresh with a new feeling of freedom. Each one has welcomed my new, developing skill in seeking support and liberating myself from expectations. The “what should be” can blind us from the ways that we are already good enough. Slowly, with the gift of horses, I am recognizing that connection doesn’t come after you’ve proven worthy, but after you accept your already proven worth. I can only hope to share that freedom of acceptance with all who walk through our barn doors.
Sharing Love, Kathleen