This week I really been thinking about safety and where people feel safe. I think most if not all of rider’s problems come from feeling insecure or not safe. As soon as they start to feel this discomfort they get tense and tension is really the biggest issue you run into when riding. Soon the horse is picking up on that tension and getting tense themselves.
I’ll admit, I’m not very good at seeing when riders first get tense. I am really good at seeing when the horse first starts to feel that tension though. Then I know if I look closer I will be able to see the tension building in the rider. That’s where all the problems come from. If I can figure out how to get rid of that tension the horse will relax and everything will go back as it should. However, most of the time that tension comes from an insecurity the rider has. The mental component is much harder to address than a physical component. And that’s where I started to really look at safety.
We all have stories we tell and I believe this is where most of our tension comes from. What we believe will happen makes us fear the horse we are riding or the situation we are in. It is my job to change those stories and help riders realize where their true safety lies.
So what do riders typically think will keep them safe? For some it is staying at a slower pace. For others it is riding a certain horse or making sure there are no distractions or anything else out of the ordinary. For everyone it boils down to the feeling of control. The feeling that they have reins to turn or stop and a leg to get their horse going. Maybe it is their bit or their whip that gives them security.
Let me share a secret with you: none of that will keep you safe.
Control is perhaps the nemesis of everything we want from our horse. We say we want control, but we define that as a horse that is listening, responsive, and in tune with us. In reality that all has nothing to do with our control over the horse, but rather our control over ourselves.
The more we get desperate for control the more we get busy and heavy with our aids. We start to tune out the horse as our singular goal of control takes over. As the horse responds to our shift in energy and sudden desperation he locks his body against us and either starts to shut down or gets antsy in anticipation of the forthcoming disaster.
As we focus on controlling the horse better we lose all control of the situation.
True safety comes from relaxation and giving up control. True safety comes from a horse that breathes and looks for answers. That’s a horse ready to listen. To get there you have to be breathing and listening too. So really, safety comes from your ability to sit back and listen. Your ability to give up control of the horse in favor of control of yourself.
If we have control over ourselves we can stop the cycle of tension by breathing through our body into every tight muscle and joint. As our breath relaxes and opens our body we can open our mind and begin feeling the rhythm of the horse’s movement. Keeping our breath deep and steady we can feel the swing of the horse’s back and the softness through his neck.
The whole situation changes as soon as we remember to breath, feel our own bodies soften, and listen to our horse.
Our horses are truly a mirror to ourselves so if we don’t first have control over ourselves we will never have control over them. Once this really clicks in your brain you realize that your self control is what brings you safety and you can tackle whatever challenges lie ahead in a calm, relaxed, listening way.
Safety comes from responsiveness which comes from listening and feeling safe which comes from our ability to breathe and stay present riding and listening to every movement the horse makes.