Who Am I? by Nina Heller

Very recently someone asked who I was. they asked in such a way that implied that my opinion had no real value, because to them, I was not anybody "special". on the contrary, not being anyone "special" is exactly why I believe that my opinion is of great value.

So, who am I? I am no one. I am everyone. I am me. maybe I am you.

Once, long ago, I was a child who loved and adored horses, a child’s love, a strong, pure and innocent love. One day that innocence was torn, it was the day that I was taught to whip my horse, and then it further frayed on the day that I was taught to impale his sides with a pair of spurs.

What was happening to this beautiful love? It was becoming complicated and twisted. the corners of the love were becoming dark, as I was shown how to tie his head down, and then how to strap his beautiful soft muzzle tightly closed around a bit. It was becoming painful as I was forced to force my horse to change his lead, to jump over the ditch, to keep his head down, to move sideways.

It was becoming confusing as I watched trainers beat him, yet, no words or actions of protection would spring from my lips or being, my silence, all in the name of being a good student.

When I was 13 a school friend told me that if I really loved horses that I would not ride them, and this was when the denial began. Was this so-called friend angry with me? Was she jealous? Was she just being mean? Why would she say something like that? I don’t even remember now who she was, but her words have never left me. It was not long after she said those words that I stopped riding for a few years, but eventually I returned, because I loved horses, and once you let them in, nothing can take their place.

It’s not a conscious effort that we make when we justify and reconcile, the harsh treatment, the "accepted abuse". It’s a survival mechanism. if we want to live in the equestrian world, we must find a way to knit together and then shroud ourselves in a veil of denial. It’s easy enough. We tell ourselves things like - everybody uses whips and spurs, and bits, could they really be that bad, could it really be wrong? They have used these things for centuries, could it really be that bad, could it really be wrong? They tell us that horses are big and strong and don’t feel pain the way we do. We tell ourselves that it’s all ok, because the "special" people that we decide to trust, to respect, and to pay, tell us that its ok, and they should know, they are "special". What do we know? We are no one.
Recently, my veil was caught on something, and it began to unravel. I would have been left naked, if were not for the guilt and the shame that hung on me like a wet gown, heavy and damaged. With nothing to buffer me, I heard those words again, the ones from my 13-year-old friend, the words that I had been able to mute for decades, but now they were ringing loudly in my mind. It was a complete crisis of faith, everything I knew was built on lies. 

Now, what do I do? 

Do I walk away from the horses again? 

Or do I stay this time? 

Now it was different. Now my entire adult life was enmeshed with horses, my passion, my hobby, my business, my livelihood. There was only one thing to do. 


Stay and try to make it better. Better for the horses. Better for the people who love them. I could not possibly be the only person having this crisis, I could not possibly be the only one on this journey. 

To my joy and delight, I find that I am not. There are hundreds of us, maybe thousands of us, who, for some reason caught our veil on something, and now we are able to see more clearly.

If you are ready to do better by the horse, to be a better human to the horse, the transformation is not complicated. I was driving one day, and there it was, large words, elevated in the sky, the word "COMPASSION", on a billboard. Strangely, I noticed something I had never noticed before, the word compassion begins with the word "COMPASS", and then it all made sense. If you simply allow compassion to be you compass, you will most certainly always being moving in a good direction, the right direction.

When at a crossroads, if you simply ask yourself, "what is the most loving thing to do", how could that answer ever be wrong?

Who am I? I am no one. I have nothing to gain from you, I only want to give you something, from my heart to yours, and these are my words, do with them what you will. for my final words today:

If it looks wrong, if it feels wrong, if it seems wrong, you are probably right, it is wrong. 

If you let compassion be your compass, you will travel the most beautiful road, on the most magnificent journey.

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Welcome to 2019! by Nina Heller


Welcome 2019!!!

The beginning of a new year is always a powerful marker. It is a time to ponder all we have accomplished and a time to chart our course for journeys anew.  Looking back is important, but always with an eye focused on moving forward.

Missteps and mistakes are valuable.  They create more wind for your sails! It’s critical, however, that these challenges never be allowed to collect and stagnate to become the sand bar where you get stuck. 

A new year can mean a new start, a fresh start. You have so many choices in front of you! You can continue to explore your current path or start on a new road altogether. If you are unsure where to go, let your thirst for growth and knowledge guide you.  Consider stepping out of your comfort zone, dream a dream and move in its direction. Let joy and love guide you when you are unsure which way to turn, and always move in the direction of hope.

Remember, you are never too old, never too young, and it is never too early or too late to pursue your dreams!!!


Speaking Out by Jen Sims

Social media is such a powerful tool, and one that Nina and I have used extensively to spread our message and promote our movement. One of the best parts of this journey has been meeting like-minded people on the web and sharing our journey toward compassionate communication.

This week, one of our Summergirls, Marlen, created some really impactful and wonderful memes for us. When Nina shared one of these memes, we discovered first hand the way social media can work in a more negative way. Over a few days, these memes generated an incredible outpouring of defensive, attacking responses on a local equine page.

After talking about it, and analyzing our intentions and the responses, we all agree that the backlash is a good indication that we are challenging people in a meaningful way. As hard as it can be to engage with people when they are threatened or feel conflicted, we believe its worth it to help our horses.

With that in mind, I am including the memes below for downloading and sharing, as well as a video message from Nina. Happy posting!

Testimonial by Guest Blogger Leah Dennis

I have been riding since I was six years old.  My most active of which was for a ten year period, where by the end of it, I was riding two or three times a week doing mostly dressage but also hunter/jumper work. As you can imagine, during that time period, I had many opportunities to learn horsemanship and practical riding skills.  I always felt, however, that there was a whole dimension that I was lacking in my experience, but since owning my own horse was not an option for me at the time, I felt that I had reached my limit.  How wrong I was!

My equestrian approach was always based in the best of intentions - for the love of horses, and the bond between horse and (wo)man.  I was always eager to learn more about these phenomena, but I was rarely given the opportunity to see beyond the formulaic and business-like one-hour group lesson.  There also always seemed to be such a focus on achieving dominance over the horse, which resulted in an unbalanced power dynamic and lots of unnecessary methods or harsh accessories to “correct” behaviors rather than searching deeper towards the cause.  This never sat right with me, but I also was not aware of another way at the time.

Working with Nina Heller, the founder of Bitless and Beautiful and Summerwood Stables, has been a transformative experience.  I finally feel the opportunity to explore a deeper relationship with horses - centered around riding bitless. As someone who had never thought bitless riding would be a practical or safe option, I was intrigued by the idea, but was absolutely shocked at the results.  Not only is riding bitless absolutely practical and safe, it is not limiting in the least.  As a rider, I almost immediately picked up where I had left off and I continue to work on dressage with a more rewarding and balanced approach.  I’ll never forget the first day I tried riding bitless with Nina and how effortless it was of a transition and how much happier the horses seemed.  I’m definitely a stronger rider through it as well, and I rest assured that my relationship with the horse I am riding is much more of a balanced partnership than before.  I’m excited for what is to come and I urge any equestrian to not be afraid to try riding bitless!

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Month of Massage - Parts 6 & 7

None of us are just one thing.  We are all made of different elements.  One of those elements is energy, and this energy lives in a vessel that is our body.  It’s the same for all of us, including our horses.  Our bodies and our energy are often not in sync.  Sometimes we need to relax the body in order to access the mind, heart and the soul.

Relaxing the body through massage allows your horse to realign her body with her mind, realign her body with her heart and soul.  Massage can also help you, the rider or partner, to realign your relationship with your horse, by offering a selfless service to your friend who gives so much in return.  By offering massage you will find that you start to feel more of a balance in your relationship with your horse, and you just might find that this gift of massage is a gift that keeps on giving as it improves not only your bond, but your horse’s performance as well.  Don’t surprised if you yourself start to benefit from giving massage.  As your horse relaxes, it is difficult not to go along for that ride and find that at the end of a session you feel just as peaceful as your horse!

Check back for more content! www.bitlessandbeautiful.com
Check back for more content!

Month of Massage - Part 5

Massage can be as simple as touching someone while filled with thoughts and intention of bringing that someone healing, or it can be a very systematic therapeutic process of learned and practiced movements, but the best is when it is both!

Medicine is of the sciences, but I believe that healing is of the arts, and when art is involved, it is important to develop your own style. 

Thanks to the internet and YouTube, you can now study the concepts of massage quite easily and if you have a horse or horses to practice with, the horses can and will be excellent teachers and study partners.  Let your horses help you develop your own style of massage, which should include a nice balance of intention, intuition, and learned skills.

Always be safe, and listen to your horse, and respect what your horse is telling you.

To get you started, please have a look at 2 of my favorite methods, the Masterson Method by Bill Masterson, and TTOUCH by Linda Tellington-Jones.

Month of Massage - Part 4

How will you show your equine partner some love on valentines day???  How about a massage??

Besides the benefit to the body, your hands can transmit a message of love and caring to your horse that will support his/her emotional well-being.  The release of endorphins and oxytocin will have your four-legged friend in a state of bliss and it lasts long after you have finished.  So why not give your horse just another reason to love you??

Have look at our vlog on DIY massage for some pointers and inspiration, or just to get a look at the expressions on the face of our massage subject.

One happy and satisfied customer!