On Horses and Failure

Amy Hallberg Blog Leave a Comment

When they led my horse into the ring on Equine Coaching Day, I offered my hand to sniff, rubbed the white blaze on his forehead, and wrapped my arms around his dark mane. Excellent! I hoped he would dance—or perform some such magic—as I’d seen other horses do all morning. This evidence had revealed powerful truths for so many people already.

My horse stood there.

Eventually, with our masterful leader’s nudging, the horse ran two laps. I couldn’t have done it alone. It took all my energy not to cry. I’d failed at equine coaching. Horses provide a large, sensitive—highly visible—mirror of energetic patterns. Thus the appeal of equine coaching. Unless you don’t like what you see, and get caught up in sad stories.

You notice everyone’s looking at you—or politely looking away.

As can happen for creatives exploring new terrain. You know what you envision, but have no idea what questions to ask. And it doesn’t feel safe to explore. Because reasons. Some quite legitimate, often with an underpinning of fear. You don’t speak equine, for example.

And you feel alone and defeated.

Breathe! Keep breathing. Something has to give. That’s where creative community comes in.

On a recent episode of her podcast, The Uncorked Conversation, my friend Allyson Scammell offered a gorgeous reframe. We experience failure IF and WHEN we see it as failure. Or we can persist and look for evidence of success. Mastery comes with practice, and magic comes from revision, and the ability to recognize it comes with the help of kindred spirits.

Listening to Allyson’s wisdom, I remembered our time at the ranch, six months ago. Her perspective had turned things around. Allyson grew up riding horses and still her turn in the ring surprised her—which caught my attention. For a follow-up equine game in a larger arena, I asked to partner with her.

Because she was experienced AND still actively, openly learning AND she made it safe to let myself play.

Without talking or physical contact, we had to get our horse to move where we wanted. Instead he ran the patterns we requested—in reverse. He barreled around corners and cleared jumps with momentum, all as mirrored stagings of our gestured directions.

I had to laugh—we came so close to perfection—and afterwards we reflected, which helped me make sense of the day. The experience resonates, because that’s the kind of guidance I offer to writers and other creatives. Mirrors reveal cruel failure—and also rich potential. Sometimes we don’t see connections until others shine a light.

It also helps to remember: while we walk our parallel journeys, we’re not walking alone. That’s the big idea behind my soon-to-be launched podcast, Insightful Narratives, in which I’ll interview fellow creatives. For my inspiration and yours.

How did they start? What keeps them creating? And where do they find their joy?*

My story has a happy ending. I actively look for such evidence. As the retreat neared its end, I was rushing across the ranch alone. Horses stood along a sun-lined fence, within a dappled paddock. One filly nodded in my direction. I paused to watch her trot away. She ran three playful circles and returned to the fence.

It was a small, perfect moment. I nodded my gratitude and kept walking.

*Dear Creative Spirit,

I pose these questions to you. What would you love to create? How did this passion start? What would keep you creating? And where do you find your joy?

With Love—


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