By Barbra Schulte
When you ride your horse, I bet you love it when you feel like there is nothing else but you and your horse … and you are grounded and connected with him. Chances are in those moments you have a quiet mind.
The essence of a beautiful ride is your connection with your horse with ease and rhythm … all for the purpose of executing the task at hand. The task might be trail riding, reining, cutting, barrel racing, jumping, dressage. That part depends on what you love. The goal of being present with a quiet mind is one for all riders and is the key to accessing that inter-connected experience with your horse. Of course there are a million distractions to challenge your quiet mind. Your own thoughts, cell phone escapes, rushing around trying to do 10 things instead of just one … and on.
You, like all of us I imagine, have a lot of mental chatter going on sometimes. When this happens, the goal is to come back to the moment. When you do, riding can become a personal, sweet practice of coming home to a quiet place within.
Returning to a quiet mind in the present moment is always grounded in feeling calm. It’s about the intention to approach all you do from this place. It’s about checking in with yourself first and becoming aware of the chatter within and around you … and then making a choice to focus within and access calmness first. From that feeling of being settled, you can do anything you like. You can go wide open on your horse and still feel slow on the inside.
When you don’t feel grounded, but instead feel scattered and reactive, you can still ride and still function, but you won’t be riding at your full potential … and certainly not with a heightened awareness of an amazing connection with your horse.
Because mind, body and emotion are inseparable, you may access calmness (emotion) by relaxing your body and re-directing your mind.
Relax your body by first becoming aware of your breath. You don’t have to do any fancy breathing exercises, just become aware of air coming in and out of your nose and mouth. Keep things simple. Then do a body scan from head to toe and notice where you are tight. Breathe into that body part to release the tension. You might try starting in your belly because this is the seat of your emotions physically and the core of your balance on your horse. Then check your torso, shoulders, arms, elbows, hands, even your jaw. And then go down your legs. Drop your heels.
Mentally talk to yourself with feeling words like, “Stay soft. Let go.” If you make a mistake, just tell yourself, “No problem,” and move into the next moment where you will still be present.
From this place of a quiet mind and a body with just the right amount of physical readiness, you can then enter into the next moment. Coach yourself about what you want to do in that moment … and then the next.
Keep checking in with yourself. Keep returning to a state of calmness … and continue to expand all you do from there. Enjoy being in the moment with a quiet mind. Experience an incredible connection and rhythm with your horse … and the task at hand.
Barbra Schulte is a Professional Cutting Horse Trainer, Personal Performance Coach, Author, Clinician, and Equine Consultant.
In 2012 Barbra was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.