Stressed out riders
The reason horse owners choose a full boarding facility is often a lack of time or just because of logistical reasons. I watched riders who came stressed out, straight from their work to the riding school, go for a ride and leave the place so much more relaxed. I noticed that in a lot of these cases the rider vents his frustrations on his horse in order to release his own stress. Who ends up with a bad feeling? Exactly, the horse. And me.
It was horrible to see. Why? Because suddenly I recognized this process in myself. I realized that when I was stressed out I did not have as much patience with Sholto as I normally had. My expectations were suddenly higher and I wanted him to react much quicker than normal. I took it as a personal insult that he ‘didn’t listen’ and that highly frustrated me. Now I know that I didn’t have the right ‘tools’ in my ‘toolbox’ to drain my stress. Knowledge is a powerful tool!
Of course not all riders treat their horses roughly in order to get a better feeling for themselves. I also watched a lot of riders who when mounted, within a few minutes the stress seemed to evaporate. Horse and rider could enjoy their time together. How did they manage to do this?
Becoming aware is important
One day, about a decade later, I was very stressed and I was on my way to Kyra. Normally I get more relaxed during my 20 minute commute to the barn. Not this time. And I had a ‘schedule’ to work on. I don’t even recall what it was, but it seemed very important at the time.
I remembered not only being stressed about my personal life as a new immigrant, but also something in Kyra’s training caused frustration. I became aware of my stress and stopped the car before I arrived at the barn. I asked myself these questions: “Why am I so stressed out?” and “Can I find a way to calm down before I arrive at the barn?”.
Meditation as solution
I parked my car near the forest nearby Kyra’s barn. I got out and walked into the woods and took a few deep breaths. Then I found a quiet spot just off the beaten path and I decided to spent 10 minutes meditating. I set my phone alarm for 10 minutes and decided just “to be” and relax.
Breathing, becoming aware of the moment, being mindful about my body and environment. Just 10 minutes and it made a huge difference. I became aware of the smell of the forest. I saw and heard leaves falling from trees. I heard about a dozen different bird species. I saw unfamiliar little birds flying, I heard joggers, dogs, insects flying and ants working. I even felt a little breeze which smelled like the typical forest smell.
I became very peaceful and relaxed. I remembered the stressed out riders at the riding school, years ago and I realized that making progress in Kyra’s training was not the most important to me. My relationship with her is number one!
Time to enjoy
After only 10 minutes I felt like a whole different person. And when I arrived at the barn I had recovered my usual patience again. At first I decided not to train but only enjoy her company. After a while it felt good to try to repeat some exercises we were working on. This was one of my best training days with Kyra.
This experience felt very spiritual. It takes me only 10 minutes to meditate and get in touch with my feelings and let go of any worries. It feels like magic and I can recommend it to every horse lover!
Become aware of the beauty around you.
If you didn’t meditate before riding, you can still do some exercises. Centered Riding method provides nice ones, like ‘soft eyes’, wiggle your toes in your boots, relax your tongue, and of course: breathe.
What is your way of de-stressing? Please share in the comments below.
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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
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