Trying new things can be scary and intimidating and off putting and a whole host of other synonyms for “not fun”. It can also be one of the keys to better riding.
And I’m not talking about trying a pole class if you’re a western pleasure rider; or learning classical in hand work if you are a three day eventer (although you should!). I’m talking about art, dance and music.
I was a nerdy kid at school and always did better at things which required my brain and not my hands. As I’ve matured I have been able to see how disconnected that left me from my body. And also, how stuck in an academic, patriarchal, right or wrong mindset that left me. I never wanted to draw or sew or play an instrument because I wasn’t very good at it, because there wasn’t a finite correctness which could be awarded a mythical gold star.
Even as an adult the childhood desire for approval from superiors can take months and years of conscious thinking to unweave. So, I avoided those activities in order to avoid those uncomfortable feelings. Does that sound like something you might have done ever?
Well my friends I bring you glad tidings of great joy- you can do things you suck at and will never be great at and just enjoy the process of being in the doing. If you’d already worked this out in life then awesome! I am new to the party here. I had suspected it was true for a while, and have even been teaching it from a theoretical perspective in my classical lessons for months. But the little voice of fear in my subconscious was holding me back from simply doing the thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love and value that little voice- she keeps me from harm to the best of her abilities. However, she needs a little coaching in letting go every once in a while.
Anyways, I bought a weaving kit to make a small decorative wall hanging. It was so much fun to get lost in the world of learning a new skill with no agenda. I am pleased as can be with the piece I made. Will I now start weaving professionally and open an Etsy shop? No. There is a good chance they will be cropping up in my home décor quite a lot more often though.
As ever I have rambled off on a tangent seemingly unrelated to riding. For a classical dressage blog I am well aware of how rarely I mention riding. That is because I deeply feel that 90% of the work towards beautiful, harmonious riding happens on the inside of the rider. For me this is a relief as I am not a full time professional, I have 2 small children. Like so many others, I juggle work, riding my own horses and the rest of life, trying to give sufficiently to everything.
Giving yourself permission to try new things, even if you suck at them. Flinging yourself into something strange just to see how it feels. Divorcing yourself from the need to get things correct and just experience the flow. These things are critical to your riding practice. You can be alive to the sensations arising in you and the horse and meld yourself to them harmoniously. This is when the magic starts.
Control of the horse can be won in two ways, either through force and domination or through following and harmony. When you abandon “correct” movement and surrender yourself to following the horse’s balance it opens a path to something life changing. As the horse learns you can trust one another to follow your touch there emerge the seeds of conversation between two bodies. An ebbing and oozing of weight between limbs and vertebra in which you can both loose yourselves in a mediation on movement. Changing the objective from a given movement to an open-ended movement question. And a willingness to hear the answer from the horse. Didn’t get the answer you were expecting? Ask a different question next time.
Want to experience more of how this is actually done? I will be teaching a two day work shop on this topic in the Summer. Full details will be released next month. There will only be 6 spaces to ensure one to one attention. So email me today if you’d like to know more or to reserve a place.