You cannot think your way out of riding you can only feel your way into it.
In Ride for Life, The Three Golden Principles for Riders, I mentioned a wonderful analogy from Norman Vincent Peale, here he say’s that ‘A cyclone derives its power from a calm centre’.
The clarity and power of focus that a developed rider has is the same clarity and power of focus that a Zen Buddhist monk has. Both are created from within and both require training and mastered awareness, this is attainable through disciplined riding.
Unfortunately anyone who has done anything truly great knows that there are no shortcuts to greatness.
When we are able to get out of our mind and into our body we begin to get in touch with a source of information that is not possible through our minds alone. The calmer our thoughts are the greater our awareness becomes. Some of the world’s greatest musicians were blind and that is because they had to grow in awareness not just of their other senses, but were able to zone into the creativity and feel their music, without all the mental distractions of what they could see.
As your awareness grows so to will your ability to feel. As you begin to feel more you are able to feel more of what the horse is doing. By being in touch with what the horse is doing you can make an effect on what it is going to do next before it does it. This increased awareness enables you to move from being the passenger on the horse, unaware, out of control, subject to what is – to being able to create.
Here when you ask it is given, always. It may not be entirely what you desire but with patience and persistence together with complete focus and developed awareness, you begin to mold the shape and actions of the horse into what it is that you desire.
It may seem effortless, unaware of the thousand things you are doing because you are not focused anymore on what you are doing, you are focused on the experience you are having that resulted from what you were doing.
This is where you are be-ing, operating from joy, where time ceases to exist and you have merged as one with nature itself.
This my dear readers is the greatest drug in the world with no let down, side effects and or addiction because you know that it is available to you all the time because it came from you and was not given to you. This is the greatest secret to riding and life. To truly come to the awareness and experience that everything that is happening with your horse is entirely subject to your thoughts, feelings and actions you will forever be the passenger to the horse and never its decision maker and conscious choice making driver.
In the time that I was very blessed to spend living in Japan and working with Japanese riders, I was constantly challenged in teaching them how to train outside of competition. On the outside they had everything, they had beautifully bred and trained high level horses imported from Germany, Belgium, France or Holland, these horses had excellent temperaments, were easy to ride and were by far some of the best horses from Europe that were perfectly suited for their Japanese riders. The riders themselves had beautiful physiques; they were extremely healthy, fit, disciplined and focused riders.
The challenge was that within a couple of years these imported horses were no longer able to perform the way they did when they first came out from Europe.
Except for the rare few who had trained or ridden in Europe, where they were able to remove themselves from their current environment and experience something different, the majority of riders were unable to create a feel for the horse and what was going on.
Riding tests and performing movements was an easy task for them, they were able to execute these with beautiful precision but because the training at home wasn’t any different to the riding at a competition these horses were slowly losing their ability to perform. They were losing a lot of their movements, and physical abilities.
Most riders were only able to approach riding from a thinking perspective, they understood it intellectually like a programmed computer but could not understand that the horse was not able to give the same response every time you gave them the same aid, that they required feeling.
To truly be able to create change, even if that means keeping something happening with the horse, you must be able to feel when something needs to happen not just think it. There is too much going on at once when riding and our mind is only capable of thinking one thought at a time. Even though you might have a million thoughts running through your mind they are only ever happening, no matter how fast, one at a time. Riding is doing a thousand things simultaneously.
Your focus requires only one clear thought at a time. You must be able to be in the moment when riding and truly connect with the horse on all levels, to become aware of everything that is happening. This can only happen through your body, not through your mind. Precision and focused thinking together with awareness connects you and the horse and literally switches you both on like the lights of a Christmas tree when plugged into the power socket.
Creating comes from the power of your body and its awareness and connection to everything. Knowledge is important and plays a part in fuelling the action taking place, but to experience the understanding of something requires letting go of the mind, its judgments, analyses, ideas and getting in touch with the wisdom of your body. Don’t think just feel.
© Catherine Louise Birmingham
Catherine Louise Birmingham lived and trained in Germany for four years. Although she specialises in classical German Dressage she also works with confidence building and all levels of riding, her coaching is unique in that it spreads across all areas of growth within the individual.
Catherine has trained numerous horses in Germany, Japan and Australia, taught and coached riders in three different countries. Her book, Ride for Life, is selling throughout Australia and is now translated into Danish and selling across Denmark.
For further information regarding training, talks, book purchase or all enquiries regarding Catherine Louise Birmingham, please email firstname.lastname@example.org