Mindfulness is a term we hear more and more now days. But what is it really, and how does that help you with your horses and riding?
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware of our surroundings and present in the hear and now. It's that time and space where nothing else matters and everything else around you seems to slow down or stop. In that time, you are being mindful and fully aware and present.
When we are being mindful of what is going on, we're not thinking about the past or the future. We are immersed in the now. Try, sometime, mindful eating. I will guarantee it changes how you eat. Before you take your first bite of food, imagine where it came from. Think of the farmer who had to pull the vegetable. They had to wash it and prepare it. The many hands it passed through. Then it went onto a truck, possibly a boat, to arrive at the store. Then it was brought home, washed and cooked and now, on your fork. Now, can you smell the food on the fork that is held in front of you?
When you take that first bite of the food, feel the textures of the food. Slowly chew the food and swallow. While you do, take in all of the different tastes of the food. Swallow and pause. Take a breath, and repeat. This, is mindfulness. Taking in the entire experience.
Now, think of your barn time. We are usually pressed for time, running around from one thing to the next. We go out, catch our horse, hurry to brush them and hop on to accomplish the goal we have set for the day. But, what if you were mindful about your barn time and fully present for you and your horse?
What would that look like?
You would go out to catch your horse and slowly walk towards him, noticing the smells in the air, the paddock and horses around you, and most importantly, his energy. Is he happy to see you? Does he ignore you (he knows you're there!) or come up to you? What is your horse telling you about how he is feeling? They communicate with us so much and so often we are caught in our own heads and day to day life that we don't even notice what they're saying. When you bring the mindfulness with you to the barn, you will begin to notice how they talk to you. That time he bucked when you were riding - I'm willing to bet he was trying to tell you about it far before it happened.
Begin your mindfulness practice by noticing your breath. Start there. Inhale, then exhale. You can do this while walking out to your horse. Match your steps with your breath. Then notice your horses breath. See if you can match their steps when leading them. They will notice.
Horses only know mindfulness. They only live in the present. They aren't hanging on to the guilt of kicking their friend yesterday in the pasture. Nor are they worried about how it might storm later. They are fully present, all the time. And when we can match them with that, wonderful things start to happen and a whole new world begins to open up that you didn't even realize was there. Your relationship with your horse will become that much more stronger and soulful.