**Disclaimer**For those of you that don't know, in addition to enjoying dancing and hooping, I am also an avid horsewoman. I have two horses in burbank, CA and they are an endless source of insight, peace and fun for me. I will be moving this to a new blog soon that can encompass all the things I like to write about, including horses and horsemanship, for now please be patient with whatever cognitive dissidence reading about horses on a hooping site may cause. Thank you!
Today I was feeling lazy, so I decided to go for a leisurely ride bareback on my horse Nova. She mostly quite a relaxed kind of horse but today there where a few things right off the bat that made her nervous. I could feel her stiffen up as we walked past a trailer unloading a horse, then crane her neck around to keep an eye on two horses coming up behind us, then lift her head a bit higher when someone walked past us with a horse he could barely control. All the while, I was thinking. crap... should I do something? I felt my own nerves ramp up a notch as we were heading towards the gate to the 1/2 mile track around the Equestrian center. I was suddenly just a little more aware of my feet hanging loosely, sans stirrups. I am a good rider and have ridden bareback since I was a kid, but if my horse is going to be silly, I would still rather be in a saddle. I was beelining towards the gate, figuring it would be quieter when we got out away from the chaos that is daily life at the LA equestrian center. Just before I made it to my salvation, with my horse still a little nerve-y and me managing to keep it together, I ran into a fellow horse owner and stopped to chat. We were still in the zone where there was lots going on but as we stood there, I could feel Nova begin to relax. As my friend and I chatted, Nova's head dropped and my nervous system stabilized. We didn't talk for long, maybe 5 minutes, but the act of just standing there, gave us the PAUSE we needed to recalibrate the reality that we were safe and could actually just relax.
My pleasant conversation over, we rode out to our original destination. A flat and somewhat scenic track around the center. I began to ruminate on how powerful it is to just give your horse, and yourself a moment to CHILL when things get tense. So often we think we have to DO something and do it quick, mostly out of fear of danger (which can be a very real danger), or simply of wanting to get it right (dang it!). This was a good reminder that in moments like these, when our stress and fear has us desperately thinking of what to DO (turn? more leg? lateral flexion? Turn and face the spooky thing? stop and back up?? God forbid, force the horse to go up to the thing that is scaring them? hint, never do that last one. heh), it is exactly the opposite that will be of the most use. We may be afraid to stop in the middle of a stressful moment because we are afraid people are watching, or afraid of letting the horse "get away with something" or simply because we were never given permission to by our trainers and coaches. When we drop our ego's and just stop what we are doing for a moment and let the horse stand there, so that you both can take a breather and regroup, you leave space to be able to start again from a different and better place. Stress and confusion begets stress and confusion. If you can use the power of the pause, you can press a reset button for both of you. If you find your way back to calm, then you have more likelihood of extending that calm into whatever you are attempting to do with your horse, whether its a simple chill bareback ride or practicing your dressage test for a show. If you can notice when your horse first begins to get tense or overwhelmed and find your way to a harmonious stop, not forcing it, but perhaps circling down to a stop, then resting... You are more likely to prevent a blow up.
If you think about it, its the same as other areas in life. How often do we find ourselves in arguments that could have been prevented if we paused when we first began to notice ourselves getting tense? How often do we think we have to push, push and push some more... only making a bigger mess for ourselves, where a pause and a few deep breaths would serve us far better? Horses can be incredible mirrors. I often think they are like a giant four legged externalization of our inner child. If my horse is tense, I am probably tense. Was it all the external stuff that caused Nova to tense up, or was it my thoughts that she MIGHT be tense that caused it? Rather then push through, get my way, or worse yet.. blame my horse, I am learning to look to myself first. Am I attending to my internal reality and how can I be an effective leader to provide safe space for us both to BE? When in doubt I will try to remember the deceptively simple, but powerful, PAUSE!
Yippe Kay YAY!