In my last post, I talked about the idea of being authentic and that part of this was existing in the moment. This morning I just had a problem this morning that shows what happens when you don’t live in the NOW.
Husband and I did a few chores together before he had to leave out of town. Because we had been juggling some store returns, buying some things, airing car tires, etc.. he had the card and he even thought, “I better give this to her…” but because that thought skipped ahead to planning his trip, he didn’t actually give the bank card to me.
I didn’t notice the mistake until he had left so he ended up having to return home to bring it to me. Frustrating to us both!
These kinds of things happen to us all. It is a symptom that our minds are not staying present – but skipping like a stone over the water – to the future or to the past. This ability of humans to think to the future or past, or to replay mental tapes or events that have already happened or could happen, means we lose “living in the moment.”
If you have had a disturbing event happen before you get to the barn (i.e. acrimonious discussion on the phone, someone cuts you off in traffic, you are thinking over a worrisome situation) you need to void those feelings before working your horse. Here are some ideas on how to return to NOW:
1.) Don’t listen to the radio or use your cell phone on the drive to the barn. I find this a destroyer of being present.
2.) Keep an air spritzer with cheerful scents – pine, eucalyptus, lavender, citrus smells – in your car to spritz before your face and breathe in the smells. Take a few meditative breaths. Count your breathe in and out for about 1-5 minutes to calm your mind.
3.) Take a brisk 5 minute walk around the property before meeting up with your horse. If anyone asks what you are doing smile cheerfully and say “getting in my exercise!”
4.) Keep a video meditation on your phone. I especially like a 3-5 minute video of water falls or a trickling stream, or ocean waves. If you look to be on your phone people often won’t bother you.
5.) If you have people at the barn you want to avoid, it gets more tricky. Generally, I pretend to be talking on my cell phone hahaha! Or you can put in ear buds and listen to music and just point to your headset and shake your head no when someone wants to talk to you with a cheerful “catch you later!”
6.) Always allow 15 to 30 minutes before a lesson or a training event so you can have a chance to chill and settle. Being rushed will never let you gain a focused mindset.
7.) Limit your social media. Stop reading the news as often. Disengage from images or people who upset and worry you.
Those first 5 minutes when you enter your horse’s space should be one of calm and peace. It needs to be you entering a room with the knowledge of meeting your favorite friend.
We all have our moments when we get so frustrated with our horse and are either ready to burst into tears, scream, whip or spur our horse, or just sell the damn beast! haha Here are some exercises for when you are working your horse and things are not going as planned:
1.) STOP. If you feel your emotions are starting to accelerate to the point of you doing something regrettable, STOP. Get off the horse, lead them around for a moment and regroup. Or STOP and just relax on the horse by doing a breathing exercise. Always know you have the RIGHT to STOP a lesson or training at any time. IT IS YOUR RIGHT.
NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE DONE TODAY!
As someone who is prone to a temper herself, I have had to really learn (and young kids taught me this) to contain that rash response powered by this emotion. If you can’t be trusted not to use a whip or spur in that moment – don’t carry or use them!
2.) LEAVE THE AREA. In the worst case scenario, you just can’t pull it together! It’s best you just stop altogether, untack your horse, put him away and just go home.
I’ve actually been in a lesson that grew quite frightening. It was a group lesson with one of the riders being a Parelli follower. First, she got dumped by her horse who spooked, racing across the arena, and almost collided into others. Next, her other horse had thrown himself against her horse trailer, ripping off his halter to take off across the dressage arena!! I had just come back to riding after a very horrible accident and I was riding a horse I didn’t know, so I dismounted. Once things calmed down, I left the arena and untacked the horse, with my hands shaking.
3.) REGROUP. Okay, you start to catch yourself that things are unraveling but you are still in control of your emotions. The best way I’ve found to regroup is to change what exercise you are doing.
If you are riding, get off and do ground work. If you are working intensely on gymnastics and growing frustrated, go for a trail ride. Usually, the cause here is that things are not going to plan – by changing the plan you can relax and get a different viewpoint. Always return to something your horse enjoys and does well.
4.) COPY YOUR HORSE. If doing groundwork, and the two of you are disconnecting, go back to Hempfling’s Parallelism exercise. Face the horse, when the horse moves, you move with him in a copying movement. Make sure you are standing at least 4 feet or more in front of the horse. Because of how the horses’ eyes focus on objects in front of his face you don’t want to be in his blind spot.
This exercise should be calm, meditative – not chasing him about or giving the horse the idea you are threatening him. If he gets nervous with your movements, slow down and put more distance between you.
Finally, I have a meditation for you that I am actually starting myself. This is a variation of Morning Pages an exercise that Julia Cameron discusses in her book The Artists Way. You might find her Morning Pages exercise a good addition to venting out your concerns or working through life issues.
The night before, put an object by your bed with some paper and a pen. When you wake up, sit down and look at the object; if your schedule doesn’t allow this, pick another time of day where you will be undisturbed. Start writing about what you are seeing and observing. Spend at least five minutes and try to write a half page to a page of descriptions.
For example, on this large piece of Turquoise that I just received from a friend I wrote:
The color is a light blue. It has brown veining – the color of coffee. It has small brown spots on the blue. The brown areas look like veins. It sits on a large base and has a rounded pyramid top. Makes me think of Robins eggs or Easter candy. The surface is smooth and has a polish to it.
This exercise puts you in the moment, it forces your attention only upon one thing – and it also helps you practice your observation skills. When you are with your horse and you are getting confused and frustrated, take a moment like I did yesterday. On the lead rope with Dante, I started doing parallelism and started talking out loud to myself:
The horse is brown, he is moving to the right, his ears are pricked forward towards me, now he is looking off to the left in the distance, he has focused on the noise at the barn, now he is looking at me, now he is licking and chewing, now he moved his right foreleg forward and has taken two steps towards me, he has lowered his head and looks relaxed.
You might be surprised at how this little exercise can bring you back into harmony and synchronization with your horse. Horses live in the moment – you can do – just give it a try!