Breathe it Out

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.

 

 

 

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To My Horse – Namaste

Horses are the air that I breathe.

From the time I was a young girl, I have always been in love with horses. I fell head over heels for their deep, liquid eyes, their smell, their movement and elegance. As I got older and started riding I fell in love with the freedom that I experience when I’m holding the reins and the empowerment that comes from partnering with this bold and beautiful animal.

I am an introvert and a compassionate empath, making human interaction a sometimes stressful and emotional experience for me. I have always connected on a little deeper level with horses than other people. While I can intuitively sense their emotions and read their expressions, they don’t drain my energy like other human beings. When I’m around bad human energy, I can feel my life-force drain like a steady drip from a leaky faucet. Conversely, when I sense bad energy, or distress or anxiety in a horse, it feeds my energy to change that horse’s emotion to something positive, further connecting and binding me to that animal in spirit.

I have turned to horses in my darkest times to heal my soul and I have reached my lowest lows when I have been separated from this essential part of myself. Like a fish out of water, I cannot survive without them. The more I open my mind and heart center through practices like meditation & yoga, the more I recognize that interacting with horses is a spiritual experience for me. Whether I am massaging, grooming, ground-working or riding, I connect to a very deep-seated and peace-filled place within myself when I am sharing an energy space with a horse.

“Namaste” is a salutation used in yoga practice that essentially means “the divine in me recognizes the divine in you.” There are many interpretations of the word’s meaning, and while namaste is typically a spoken greeting or goodbye between two people, for me it is a feeling that I apply to all beings. While I don’t greet my horses with “namaste” aloud, it is a attitude of reverence that I “put on” when I approach any horse. It sets the tone for our time together and I am rewarded with a respect and trust from most equine partners that develops and grows as I continue to work to improve myself.

So, to all the horses in my life, “Namaste.” Thank you for nourishing my soul, for teaching me about myself, for sustaining me in times of darkness. I reverentially bow to the divine nature of your spirit, and extend my deepest gratitude to you for helping me to grow my light, love, and my own divinity.