Riding can be a form of meditation in the best sense- a release from day to day drama and worry. It’s amazing how much better the air is just a few feet above the ground, and moving through the air at a trot really does give you the feeling that sheets get- blowing dry on a prairie clothesline.
It is easy for a rider to lose that clean sheet feeling. Some riders carry their work stress with them to the barn. Others lay down their work stress and pick up riding stress- fear, frustration, impatience, unrequited desire, ego- or just plain overwhelm at all the awareness and skills that conscious riding requires. Horses will let you know that justifiable stress is still stress.
We talk a lot about focus in lessons. For our purposes, focus means the ability to stay mentally present and physically balanced in the saddle in a quiet and conscious way, while life goes off around you. It takes practice to stay conscious and consistent in an unconscious and inconsistent world.
External situations are not always controllable, but we do have something to say about internal distractions. We all make riding mistakes and beat ourselves up about it. Humility can easily become low self-esteem, and that will destroy our focus from the inside out. We betray the trust our horses give us if we abandon them in favor of our own fears of inadequacy.
We should treat our own selves with the same kindness and understanding most of us have for our horses. It’s common sense simple that horses like happy, focused riders. Putting our mental demons on a sit-stay while we ride takes practice.
The best advice I have read lately about keeping positive focus was not in a book about riding- it was in Bird by Bird, a book by Anne Lamott about writing. I highly recommend this book to riders. Riding and writing are even more alike than they sound.
Lamott quotes Geneen Roth, “Awareness is learning to keep yourself company.” I like this definition; it has a peaceable, friendly sort of invitation to it.
Anne Lamott adds to that, “And then learn to be more compassionate company, as if you were somebody you are fond of and wish to encourage.”
In other words, treat yourself like you would a horse.
Anna Blake, www.annablaketraining.com
(Photos: Reiner Klimke, Patron Saint of Infinity Farm.)
3 thoughts on “Riding as Meditation.”
Could you print this out, please, and tape it on my forehead? And the Lamott quotes: auuughhh! How true!! Thank you for a wonderful post that I only wish I could really, truly take to heart — but I’ll keep trying!
Signed: Dressage Nervous Breakdown Personified
It is a shame we are not close enough so you could be my teacher. You have nailed why I’ve not been an adult rider during all these years of horse keeping. I could not leave the external stress behind, and my lessons became a source of greater stress than what I was dealing with in my work. It all added up to misery and I decided 15 years ago to stay on the ground and enjoy my horses from there.
I’ve taken Lamott to heart and forgiven myself for my limitation and quit beating myself up about it. Now, with pretty significant neck issues from a fall, I’m content to not ride and risk making it much worse. I am so thrilled to see my daughter ride, and that people my age (happy birthday, Anna!) are so comfortable and accomplished in the saddle. It makes my heart soar.