Being in the presence of a horse is one of the most therapeutic places to be. Our horses help us to stretch and grow on so many fronts in our lives. They teach our children about important values like responsibility, compassion, courage, and integrity. They sooth our aching hearts when life has us down. As horse lovers, the barn is our place of refuge and sanctuary – the place we turn to as a healing salve for all that ails us.
Yet, how often do you consciously nurture a therapeutic relationship and environment. All of the above-mentioned benefits come as a nice side effect of going out for a ride after work, but you can get so much more out of it with just a little attention and intention. If you want to really enhance your experience and benefit from all that your horse has to give you, there are a few things that you can try the next time you are at the barn.
How often do you rush out to catch your horse, throw on the halter, and hightail it back to the barn to groom, tack up, and get on to the “good” stuff? When you are in a hurry and still distracted by your day, you miss the opportunity to really enjoy your relationship and the sweetness of the moment.
Next time you get to the barn, slow down. Pay full attention to everything that you are doing by being fully present. Leave the baggage of your day at the front gate and show up fully for your horse. He will be fully present with you when you become fully present with him. Take a moment to greet him and spend time with him before throwing on the halter and dragging him to the cross ties. Be with him.
Practice Body Awareness
As you remain present with your horse, bring to your awareness any sensations or feelings in your body. Mindfulness will help you to slow your thoughts so that you are better able to feel what is happening in this moment. The more connected you are to your body, the stronger your relationship, and your ride, will be.
Everything that you do with your horse and communicate to your horse happens through your body and movement. During your work day, you likely get so caught up in your head that the only time you even notice that you have a body is when something becomes uncomfortable. That means that you can easily ignore your posture, health, and vitality. Your horse will help you to take better care of yourself by giving you the opportunity to become more body-aware.
Practice Emotional Awareness
I believe that the greatest gift your horse can give you is to teach you how to have greater emotional intelligence. It is so sad that most barns create a culture of stuffing down your feelings that is just as stringent, if not more so, than every other environment that you live in. Horses bring your emotions to the surface. They have a way of highlighting fear, frustration, and anger. They also punctuate both our joys and sorrows.
What is so great about your horse is that he can help you learn how to process those feelings and move through them in healthy ways. The next time you are at the barn, fully feel what you are feeling. Admit to yourself that you are having an emotion and give it a name. Emotions that are fully felt move on in ten seconds or less. It when we hold onto them that they get stuck and escalate. Notice how your horse responds to you being authentically emotional. It will shift your experience and relationship. Horses do not trust those who are pretending to be something other than what they feel in the moment.
These three tips are just a taste of the ways in which you can enhance your horse experience. Slow down to be fully present with your horse, drop into your body to move with graceful intention, and fully feel all of those juicy emotions that bubble to the surface. When you take these steps, your horse will want to be with you, your relationship will begin to slowly shift, and you will go home from the barn feeling so good about yourself. When you show up fully – mind, body, and heart – it cleanses your Soul.