Have you ever had “one of those days”, (you know the ones I am talking about) and then tried to get on your horse and ride?
So how did it go? If you tell me that your horse went really well, then I need to talk to you to find out what you did!!
For the rest of you, I imagine that your horses probably go as badly as mine when I have one of those particular days.
Now the obvious question to ask is why?
Well, I hate to tell you, but your horse knows what you are thinking!
Maybe not the exact words but they have a pretty good idea: the reason is that when we think thoughts, we don’t just think in words but we also feel the way we think.
Every thought we have fires off a chemical reaction in the brain and the brain then sends messengers into the body to search for a feeling that is matching your thought. That’s why you can’t think one way and feel different feelings: the two always go together. Now let’s go back to this particular ‘mood’ and the way it makes you feel.
OK – I am taking an educated guess here in assuming that your thought would be something like one of these:
* I have too much to do and never enough time for myself
* Why can’t my husband just for once do the dinner and let me ride in peace?
* I am not a taxi for the kids
* Why do I get the blame whenever something goes wrong at work?
* It is easy for my instructor to tell me what I am doing wrong, I want to see him deal with all the things I have to deal with on a daily basis
* I have had enough of the comments from the peanut gallery, next time I’ll ask them to get on my horse and try to do it better
The riding position that generally goes with those thoughts are tense shoulders with a stiff and grabbing elbow, an upper body that is slightly leaning forward and knees and thighs which are gripping on the saddle including a drawn up heel.
Am I right????
Well at least you know you are not alone!
Now that we have established what ‘the mood’ is, let’s have a look on how this impacts your horse.
Horses are very sensitive to energy and the rider’s body language. We need to remember that horses are predominately flight animals and that their survival used to depend upon the signals they picked up regarding any danger in their environment and then responding to it appropriately.
Before horses ‘run away from danger’ they first lift their head and as a result then tense their back, with the result that the stride becomes shorter and quickens.
In riding terms we call that resisting the contact, hollowing through the back and rushing, but what your horse is really telling you is that you are not much fun to be around and that he/she would prefer to get out of your energy space.
The above body position, however, restricts the horse’s forward movement and with that the tension increases, which generally also further affects the rider’s ‘mood’. We also call this a vicious circle or an extremely bad ride!
Now the question on everyone’s mind is how do we change this? The best way to control our thoughts is to regulate our breathing. So:
Firstly, breathe out deeply… when you are stressed your breath will be fairly high up in your chest as well as very shallow. To relax you need to bring the breath down around the belly button. The lower your breath the more relaxed your shoulders and arms will be and the more relaxed you (and therefore your legs) will grow.
Secondly, take a moment to remember all your good rides: the rides that made you smile and left you feeling confident. The more you can remember these great rides the more you will remember the feeling of what it felt like; and guess what? Your thoughts will change too.
Thirdly, remember to give your horse an extra carrot and a pat; after all, they are our best therapist, by always providing us with a true mirror image of how we are feeling and thinking.