1. We must not lose ourselves either in the past or the future; the only moment we can touch life, is in the present moment.
When we ride or school our horses, it is important that we don’t dwell on past experiences or things that went wrong. We also don’t want to be distracted by “What if….?” questions that invariably pass through our minds as we try to predict the future. Our focus needs to be on the here and now, the present moment, feeling the movement of our horse and working with them. By channelling our thoughts and focussing in on the minutest detail, we often enter a state of ‘flow’. In this state we are able to make the quickest adjustments at just the right time and in just the right way, in a relaxed and confident fashion.
2. Control of your own mind, will allow you to more easily influence your horses mind.
What we think and feel is picked up easily by our horses. Stress, fear, anxiety, frustration, nervousness are all very common in today’s hectic lifestyles. We as riders need to learn to control our emotions and ‘leave them at the gate’. Horses are a mirror of their rider. If the rider is tense or nervous so will the horse be. So we, as the leader need to be in tune with our thoughts. Our brains don’t take in negative commands (i.e. “Don’t do…” ” I mustn’t…!”) therefore, if we keep telling ourselves the things we don’t want, then that is where our focus is…On what we don’t want!
Positive affirmations of what we want i.e.:
- Calm and confident
- Relaxed and focussed
- Rhythm and balance
This gives our minds a positive focus and the more we say it to ourselves, the more we achieve it. As we become more positive, our horses being the ‘mirror’ will follow suit, and as our body already knows how to ride, your mind will be the one doing the controlling of the horse.
3. Constant trying involves mental strain and too many muscles. rather than trying harder, it’s easier to take this feedback and find another way.
We have all been there, trying to do something as it saying ‘in the manual’ or in the ‘instructions’ and we end up getting frustrated and exhausted until eventually we give in and declare failure. I think as a rider, it is our duty to learn many different tools for our toolbox and not be fixed in our thinking, but be adaptable. Read or listen to different methods of training from a variety of coaches, riders, trainers and instructors and find what what suits you and your horse. We are all individuals and learn in different ways. If something isn’t working for you or your horse, find another way, adjust, adapt. Sometimes there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way, it is about being able to recognise that something isn’t working and coming up with another method to try.
4. If you drift around the arena without a plan, you will find yourself responding to what the horse does, rather than the horse responding to you.
When schooling it is always good to have a plan. From warming our horses up, to what we want to cover in the session, what the intention is, to finishing with a cool down period. Without a plan we tend to ride aimlessly around the outside track of the arena with our horses not paying attention and spooking at things. By having a plan, we give our brains a focus point and we direct our horses into achieving it.
5. If the trainer is too demanding, the horse will lose confidence. But if he is not strict enough the horse will lose respect and see no reason to perform.
Listen to the feedback the horse is giving you. Not every horse is a dressage or show jumping superstar. We need to find the balance of encouraging the horse to try new things, but have the understanding when they find it difficult. As riders we need to have the confidence in ourselves to be able to lead them through the tough times and the respect for the horse when things don’t go to plan.