We’re pleased to collaborate with Chelsea Canedy as a guest contributor on Eventing Nation and Horse Nation. Chelsea Canedy is an event rider and trainer based in Wales, Maine, at her beautiful Unexpected Farm. Her training approach places a strong emphasis on understanding how horses learn, as well as rider mindfulness, and how that translates into better performance. Learn more about her at www.chelseacanedy.com.
In riding, and especially competing, we talk a lot about why consistency in the saddle matters. However, I most often hear riders discussing the physical aspect of consistency – consistency of seat, aids, ability to see a distance, etc.
I want to talk about mental consistency, and why your horse craves it so much.
Humans and horses like routine – we’re biologically wired to thrive in predictable conditions. Horses even more so than humans, since they are prey animals who are always on the lookout for things that are out of the ordinary, in case they pose a threat. For riders, one of the biggest ways to offer a predictable environment (even when the ring you’re riding in may be different, etc.) is to bring the same mood and energy to each ride.
Since horses are so sensitive and live fully in the present moment, they can truly feel your energy and mood. If you’re hopping on your horse every day with a totally different energy, and they never quite know what to expect, they won’t be able to learn as easily.
Imagine if you’re a student, and every day, your teacher acted and taught differently. Some days, they taught slowly and methodically, and spoke with a gentle voice. Other days, they seemed totally distracted and mumbled your math lesson to you while looking out the window. And then other days, they seemed agitated or even angry and shouted your lesson at you, or spoke too fast for you to absorb any of the information.
Those would be tough conditions to learn in, right? You’d probably spend the first half of the lesson trying to figure out what was going on with your teacher, instead of absorbing the information they were giving you.
One of my favorite ways to cultivate a consistent mindset for myself is to have a pre-ride routine or ritual that is the same every time. This gives me a mental cue to shake off whatever burdens the day may have placed on me, and really re-center myself before approaching the horse.
In my next post, I’ll detail my own pre-ride routine as well as offer some tips for building your own! Stay tuned.