Horse as Teacher
On Saturday, I had my weekly riding lesson. For those who don't know, I rode all through my childhood but stopped riding when I graduated from high school. I started riding again three years ago, after a 40-year hiatus. Last year when I got my horse, I stopped riding. I know that sounds weird, but here's why. I got my horse with the understanding that I couldn't ride him. I was starting to do Equine Facilitated Learning and needed a horse, and since this work is done on the ground, a non-ridden horse is fine. I was busy building a relationship with Seek. I didn't have time to ride, and that was ok. I was with horses, and that was all I needed.
Seek is an off-the-track thoroughbred who had been injured. He moves around fine and doesn't limp, isn't in pain, and is full of spirit. I was horrified to learn the vets had said that he should be put down because he couldn't be ridden. I have taken him in and developed a relationship with him; while I am teaching him a lot, he is teaching me more.
So getting back to that weekly riding lesson. My trainer, the vet, and I all have agreed that Seek is doing REALLY well, and some light riding and some walk-trot dressage would be excellent exercise for him. So a few months ago, I started to ride Seek. He is a feisty, young thoroughbred, and I'm a nervous older rider. He is coming a long way, as am I, but on Saturday, when another horse entered the ring, I started to freak myself out by getting all up in my head.
Here's what I did; I remembered how a year ago, Seek would start to rear and buck when he was in the ring with other horses. Was he going to begin to rear and buck with me on him? I started to get tense. Seek started to get tense. I noticed a lot of noise going on outside the ring. I began to worry about what Seek might do. Seek began to worry. My trainer saw all of this happen in a matter of seconds and got me out of my head. She had me focus on my breath and my horse. I relaxed. Seek relaxed, and we finished the lesson on a fabulous note.
I thought about this later that day and realized that Seek had taught me something profound. I had brought the past into the present. I thought about who Seek used to be and didn't think about who he is now. He is entirely different than he was a year ago. He is calmer, more sure of himself, and has become a strong, kind leader in his herd.
I didn't think about how much I have learned about how to handle him when he has his feisty moments and how he responds positively to me when I correct him when he acts like a butthead.
Because humans can time travel in our minds, we can cause problems where there are none. Look at what happened in my lesson. I thought about how Seek had acted like a goober around other horses in the past. I thought he was going to do it again. I didn't look at how he was at that moment. I wasn't in the present moment.
The point I am making here is that we can bring things that happened in the past into our present. Our thoughts can create an incident where there isn't one. This thinking always happens, so don't beat yourself up if you catch yourself doing it. I teach people about this type of thinking and coach them on how to avoid it, and I can still fall victim to it. Just become aware that it is happening.
Once you become aware that this type of thinking happens, set the intention to stop it. The next step is to focus on your breath, which will bring you into your body, which is always in the present moment. Then ask yourself what is happening at that moment. Are your beliefs valid or not? In my case, my thoughts were inaccurate because Seek was calm, and he has grown a lot in the last year. Yes, there was a chance that he could act up, but I lessened the chances by not focusing on it. Lastly, correct any erroneous thinking.
My favorite saying is, "don't believe everything you think." We often believe every thought we have because we wrongly believe that if that idea popped into our brains, it is the truth. Engaging in questioning the validity of your negative thoughts will help you avoid a lot of unnecessary upset.