I was struck today, as I often am, with how a yogic principle can be applied directly to horse training.
I was riding one of the horses that we have for sale as a barrel prospect. I have just introduced him to the barrel pattern. I have started him out with a series of massages and am now maintaining him with massage on a weekly basis. He has had a lot of things put on him that he wasn’t quite ready for, and I have been trying to go slow with the progression of his training to gain some trust. Inevitably however, I have to ask him for things on a daily basis that push the limits of what he is comfortable with, and a battle can begin to develop like thunderheads on the horizon. This was the case today with Marty’s left hand circles – he was drifting his hip out despite my best efforts to calmly correct the issue and I began to apply more pressure, getting a fairly anxious and violent reaction.
In my earlier years of training, I would have fully engaged in war with this giant, lanky, bracing beast and ended up panting from exhaustion, one or both of us possibly bleeding and nowhere closer to a resolution. But today, I accessed my inner well of calm and peace, and triumphed over my basest tendencies.
In yoga practice, the basic foundation of all poses is the breath.
I am by no means a yogi guru, but I have been trying to incorporate yoga practice into my daily routine. I do not have a perfect track record but, since leaving my 9-5, I have been mostly successful in this area. However, I have still not built up the stamina required to breeze through a vigorous sun salutation practice without taking a few child’s pose breaks to catch my wind. Today I was determined to make it through without stopping and there was a time in the middle of my practice when I was struggling to maintain my composure while leg lifting and twisting in down dog – my arms and core were shaking and I was about to cave, when I remembered to breathe. I realized I was holding my breath, redirected my attention and powered through the remainder of my workout. I was reminded again of the power of the breath to calm our mind and directly affect our bodies.
As I entered into conflict with my equine pupil this afternoon, my body and mind were already primed with this reminder. As Marty’s body tensed and his anxiety became palpable, I turned to my breath. I began to consciously think about the slowing the speed and increasing the depth of my breath and, in turn, my body immediately centered. I felt my core lift to lengthen and align my spine, my shoulders, elbows, and hands relax. I felt my legs elongate to more effectively communicate my cues and…Ta Da! The change in my mind and then body began to transfer to Marty’s mind and body and the battle was averted.
Its easy in all aspects of life to forget the small, seemingly unimportant details in a moment of discomfort, or when things are just not going perfectly, but its the smallest details that make all the difference in the world. I strive each day to train myself to stay mindful and in the moment, and I take comfort in knowing that something as simple as redirecting my attention to my breath can positively transform the way I respond to everyday challenges.