We have all heard the well-worn clichés “Change is inevitable,” “The only constant is change,” “Change is going to come,” etc. Well, here we are and what are we faced with? Change.
But wait! Before you rush off, I have a few more changes to suggest.
- Adopt the S-T-O-P! philosophy. It’s simply – Stop That Or Pay!
Rushing does not help you or your horse.
Do you rush to get your horse ready for a lesson or a ride? Your horse doesn’t understand when you’re darting around and scurrying. This causes the anxiety in your horse. As you are hurrying to get on your horse do you think about how he performed during the last ride? Perhaps it didn’t go as planned and you had some frustrating times? Just S-T-O-P! Do you find yourself pushing hard to get through your agenda during your ride? Slow down and enjoy yourself and your horse. I mean SLOW DOWN YOUR FEET and your actions. Stop and take a deep breath (your horse will probably do that too). Live in the moment and try getting ready without the rush. Horses are flight instinct animals – the more we rush, the more they worry.
- Leave it at the BARN entrance
Before you entered the barn, did you leave your anxieties, agendas and worries behind? You can retrieve them later, after you leave the barn. This is a simple exercise – bring a bag of any sort, stop at the driveway entrance, and go through the motions of removing your anxieties and worries and placing them in the bag. Then physically hang-up the bag and continue your drive to the barn. (You can retrieve them when you leave the barn if you like.)
- Additional thoughts
Are you fully present during your time with your horse? I used to scoff at that phrase – “fully present”; however, I had some circumstances occur in my life (big income decrease) that caused me to reevaluate my life and make some tough choices and I chose my horses. After jumping off the “hamster wheel” I realized that prior to my change in circumstances, I had quite a few rides were a bit of a blur, and my goals were taking over my listening to what my horse was trying to tell me. You too can make changes and the current pandemic might be that catalyst. You have a choice to be fully present every day. So, next time you are with your horse — what choices are you going to make? Are you going to rush and go through the motions or are you going to slow down, just be, listen to your horse and enjoy your horse?
The last ride should not necessarily dictate your next ride. Ride the horse you have on the given day and at the given time. If your last ride did not go as planned, don’t fixate on it! Leave those anxieties in the bag at the entrance. Perhaps stepping back a few levels from where your last ride started to derail is a better approach. Revisit some earlier lessons/levels to ensure your horse understands what you are attempting to do, and be sure that you’re comfortable with what you’re asking from your horse.
Another big one, rather than think about what might happen, ride with the tools, knowledge and empathy you have. Be positive in your approach to each exercise and don’t project how your horse might do something or be a certain way, just ride every step as it comes.
- Breathing Responsiveness
When you attempt to teach your horse something or correct him, after you make your point, does your horse let out his breath? Or, does he hold it? If he lets out his breath, his correct response the next time you ask for something will be easier to get. If he holds his breath, I bet the next time you ask for that same response that you were attempting to teach or correct, it will still be a bit of a challenge. By paying attention to whether your horse is taking breaths, or holding his breath, it can trigger you to breath as well.
Tomorrow is a new day
If we can be more present when we are working with and around our horses, leave our bag of anxieties and fears at the entrance, then we might realize that our horses are really trying to help us help them. What kind of change are you going to make? Consider adopting the S-T-O-P philosophy and ride the horse you have today.
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