Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Learning the Dance of Riding a Horse

One of the first lessons to master when learning to ride a horse is how to take hold of the reins, but in order to become a better rider, one must learn when to let go of the reins! This is one of the most powerful lessons horses can teach us- not an easy one to master. Then again, horses have the potential to teach us that the most valuable lessons don't come easy, which is why these lessons are so valuable.

Riding is a dance of give and take. Balance and re-balance. Timing is the key. When to give and when to take. When to steady and when to lighten. When to stay out of the way. When to remind. When to insist! All of this together eventually becomes that instinctual, intuitive, "feel" that is a power beyond physical strength. It is a power in understanding how the sum of all parts equals a whole.

How two individual beings, with a mind and heart and soul of their own, come together to accomplish feats as a team that neither one would be able to achieve on their own is a process that takes awareness, patience, practice, trust, understanding, and respect. It is a dance of equal partners, each step into the lead role and then back as the follower. It works because both horse and rider enjoy their fun and unique dance together.

One reason horses can teach us how to dance better when we allow them to take the lead is because in doing so, they will teach us more about ourselves. Is it easy for you to let the horse lead or difficult for you? Wonder why that is? Perhaps you need to learn that letting go is not something to fear? Perhaps you need to learn that taking charge is something you are fully capable of doing? Rest assured, your horse knows which to teach you.

Truth is, most horses want to know that we can be trusted to take the lead role. Expect to earn this trust. But when this dance is a solo rather than a duet, it is no fun for the horse and we do not achieve the full effect of this dance. When you ride, it is not about control. It is not about force or strength. It is not about pulling back or kicking harder. It is not about making the horse do for you . It is about knowing the right time to ask and release and let the horse carry you!

 It's about moving with the horse yet maintaining your own center of balance and helping the horse to find and maintain their balance in synch with your moving body on top of them. Give the horse some freedom and responsibility to do what you expect of them. This is what motivates the horse to want to carry you and tells them you respect them and believe they are capable! This teaches them confidence, respect, and trust in you.

The sign of a great rider is one who doesn't appear to do anything while riding! The almost invisible dance steps between horse and rider are most fully appreciated by those who've danced this dance before. Although it may look effortless, fellow horse riders recognize the skill involved in this performance.

There is so much more to learn from this dance than simply the art of the dance. We learn about ourselves and how to become better versions as our horses teach us how to dance better and better. Even the best riders, will need to learn a new dance with a new horse. Each dance is different and brings up new challenges and opportunities. It all starts with being in the right emotional state to begin to learn the dance.

Being willing to get out of your own way and learn something new. Being willing to try and struggle and work hard. Being consistent and committed to the practice. Being willing to face your doubts and fears and frustrations. Being willing to fail so that you can learn better how to succeed.  Being willing to learn that you are all that your horse already knows you to be and fully capable of achieving the marvelous dance you both have the potential for. This is Learning the Dance of Riding a Horse.