Are you looking for a way to build a better partnership with your horse? One way to grow closer in any relationship is to honor the feelings of both parties. It is easy to get swept away by your thoughts and activities. Below is one simple question that you can ask yourself to bring your awareness back to how you feel in the moment.
What is alive for me right now?
Asking this question reminds you to check in with your feelings and your horse’s feelings which will allow you to interact authentically in the moment. It is common to enter the arena with an agenda and a list of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.” When you impose those limits on yourself, you can lose the opportunity for connection and inspired work.
If you can, instead, ask yourself, “What is alive for me right now?” and “What is alive for my horse right now?” then you can approach your work together with fluidity. This is a method of staying present, honoring what comes up internally for both of you, and creating a flow that prevents resistance and frustration.
What does that question mean? It means honoring the feelings, desires, and attitudes that are strongest within you. It means that you give a voice to the internal urges. It means that you follow your heart.
Let’s say that you entered the arena today with a plan to practice your dressage test for the upcoming show. Along with that plan comes a picture of what your warm-up should be, how your horse should behave, what you should do better coming down center line, and how much time this should take. Of course every should implies a host of shouldn’ts. This type of thought process can leave you very rigid and frustrated. It leaves little room for deviating from the plan while still feeling successful.
In that scenario, you enter the arena and your horse is jittery and snorting at things, you’re a little distracted about that meeting you had before you left work, your horse feels like a slinky down every straight line and counter bends through his corners, and the whole thing is not going according to plan.
Now all of your shoulds are not being met. This leaves you with two primary choices – you can grow frustrated, irritated, and forceful to make the reality match your standards or you can pause and ask yourself this handy question.
“What is alive for me right now?” Listen to you own inner guidance. You may get the response that you are disappointed. How can you honor that? Is there a way to choose one task in which you can be successful? Can you choose to accept that you are both distracted and use that as an indication that maybe you should take a little stroll through the back field to re-connect with one another?
You may get the response that work was tough today and you really just want to play a little. Can you find something fun to do that has nothing to do with your dressage test yet will help your test in the long run? Like maybe you can hop off and build an obstacle course that involves working through a tunnel of poles followed by standards to weave around that will help with your horse’s straightness and bend. Listen to whatever arises for you.
“What is alive for my horse right now?” Try to feel your horse’s mood. Perhaps you get a sense that he has too much pent up energy or is feeding off of your pent up energy. What can you do to help regain his focus? Would a little hand gallop be really fun and exhilarating for both of you and allow you to return to the task at hand? Would your horse benefit from you hopping off and letting him get his yahoos out at liberty, reconnecting with you, and then getting back to work for a few minutes?
Or maybe you get a sense that he is tired and can’t keep himself straight and focused right now. Would you be willing to go back to the barn and do a little massage for him? Giving him the rest he needs now means that he will be able to peak for your performance later. Listen to what is going on rather than staying attached to your plan – this will help prevent major conflicts between you and your horse and build your understanding and partnership.
Try asking yourself this question the next time you are in the barn. Are you able to make a stronger connection with your horse when you approach training from a place aliveness in the moment?