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Expanded By Limits

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Don't let limits limit you.

Let's face it - Life often sends us challenges. It's easy to focus on what we don't have, what’s not working perfectly, or what we can’t do. Horses go lame. Schedules change. Our bodies aren't always perfectly sound. These could all be reasons why we don't achieve… But what if these could be reasons why we do achieve?

Many people are unsuccessful even with all the right circumstances, and people that seem to have 3 strikes against them end up making amazing progress. How can that be?

People that make progress don’t always have everything go perfectly for them, but they know how to stay focused on their real goals no matter what. They believe that every circumstance can be a stepping stone or piece of the puzzle. They likely have mastered the art of focusing on what they can do, instead of what they can’t. In the end: It’s not what you have… It’s what you do with it that makes all the difference.

In my own experience there have been many times where a limitation actually expanded me. In these moments I learned something or I had to figure something out in a new way that ended up serving me for years to come. I have had to unexpectedly change the way I normally did something and because of that I found results I never would have without that challenge.

I noticed when doing clinics around the world, it was the students that complained that they had no local help that were often more successful, focused, and motivated. There is a benefit to having to try harder, be more curious, creative and self-disciplined. Some students get complacent with the luxury of a local daily instructor. Your progress isn’t necessarily dependent on how many lessons you take or don't take… It is dependent on how you maximize each experience. 

It’s about being resourceful.

There was a time I was competing in the in an International competition and I got food poisoning the night before. Under those rules if I scratched one class I had to scratch the whole show. I barely made it to the show grounds that day. My warm-up had to be just at the walk or I risked throwing up on my horse. (Sorry for that graphic image). So I spent 30 minutes doing only what I could at the walk, then went in and did a Prix St Georges and hoped for the best.

That was not a warm-up I would have ever considered, especially for this low energy, behind the leg, stiff type horse… However he came through for me in that test like I had never felt before. We got a very decent 65% and ever since then I have used that strategy for him and many other horses.

I had to spend one month at the walk during a recovery from a front-end lameness with a horse that was stuck at Second Level (beginning collection). During that time we made a breakthrough that completely turned around his progress and enabled him to go on to the upper levels.

Another horse had laminitis and so I created ways to exercise and play with her posture while standing still and with her front feet on soft cushions. She came back to work in better balance than before the laminitis!

Your limit may be time, space, or footing, or countless other things. What ever it is, ask yourself: “How can I make the best of it?”

Artists and musicians often create limits for themselves in order to expand their skills. When drawing, an exercise could be that you can only use one particular type of pen-stroke, or you can only use found objects in your immediate surroundings for a sculpture. 

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No arena? Mow patterns in your grass!

You can think of ways to impose limits on yourself: Ride without stirrups, do a whole ride using only straight lines and corners, ride with one hand, what if you only had 15 minutes with your horse?

If you can’t think of any limits, don’t worry… The universe will give them to you for free. ;-)

In dressage we experience the power that comes from collection; the expansion that is a result of compaction. As Robert Frost says: “Freedom is when you’re easy in the harness”.

The things that limit us, are what can end up giving us our power. 

So next time you are presented with something that looks like a limitation… Before you fall into depression or frustration, take a moment to celebrate the opportunity. “I wonder what I am going to learn THIS time?


One word of caution:

Some people seek limitations in order to have an excuse not to succeed.

I remember before my first running race… My friend said: “listen for the excuses” as we approached the starting line. Sure enough: ‘Oh, I’ve been sick all week” or ‘I really didn’t have time to train this month”. 

Be careful not to celebrate a limitation in order to give you an excuse why not to succeed.

It is easy to find comfort in an excuse; in a way it lets you ‘off the hook’… But if you practice this, you are practicing dis-empowerment… And we need to take full responsibility for our experiences. 

So have a dream! Set yourself up for success. Embrace challenges without hiding behind them. Stay curious, own your experience. Learn from everything.

“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere” ~ Frank A Clark 

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If you liked this blog, you may enjoy seeing a webinar I did recently about Exploring Possibility. It's 90 min and is with my sister. You can see it here. Zoom will require you to register to get immediate access but rest assured that in doing so you will NOT be automatically added to any mailing lists.


by Karen Rohlf

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Need help with your horse? Click HERE to watch three of Karen’s training videos that give unique solutions for 3 of the most common challenges horses and riders face.

Karen Rohlf, author and creator of the Dressage Naturally program, is an internationally recognized clinician who is changing the equestrian educational paradigm. She is well known for doing dressage with a priority of partnership, her student-empowering approach to teaching, her virtual courses, and her positive and balanced point of view.

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