The first time I went to ride a horse I was terrified. We’ve all been there. Nobody is completely comfortable right away with horses, it’s something you must learn. I approached the horse with my body tense and my heart racing. The horse seemed to be feeling the same way because he backed away from me. After many more tries, the horse finally decided to let me hop on, and I was finally ready to do so. It seemed weird that the horse only became comfortable when I did.  Almost every time I saw a horse after that, it had to warm up to me before I could ride, or even pet it. I only learned why 6 years later at the “Becoming Mindful Workshop” here at Big Heart Equestrian.

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During this workshop, Aleka and Lisa discussed with us many different ways to be mindful and calm in our day to day lives. Some of these methods included:

Body Scan – slowly becoming aware of each part of your body, noticing sensations, focusing on yourself

5 Sense Grounding Exercise – Identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste

Breathing Exercise – focus solely on your breath for a few minutes

Music – Focus on one instrument or voice during the song

Eating – slowly unwrapping packages, examining the food before we eat it, seeing the various parts, noticing different tastes and the way you chew.

It is important to do these things to detach ourselves from our unhelpful thoughts and stresses of everyday life and focus on the present moment.  

Now how does all this have to do with my first experience with horses?

The horses can sense your nervousness, and they mimic your behavior. If you approach the horse stressed out, it will stress them out as well. The horses are very mindful, focusing only on the sole activity they are doing; therefore, we must also be mindful to relate to them.

At the workshop, I walked up to the horse after doing a body scan and focusing all my attention on her. Instead of walking away, she gave me a hug and was very excited to be pet! I stood there and pet her for a while, and whenever I would get distracted, she noticed and nudged me or started to move, thus bringing my focus back to her. Horses can be scary, and we can’t always control our fears, but we can learn to be calm in these situations. Just like anything else, it takes practice, but through completing the mindful activities at home, and applying them when we are with the horses, we can find ourselves more and more comfortable with the loving animals.

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Rea Vriends
Big Heart Equestrian Blogger
Student
Future Psychiatrist

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