Collect Your Thoughts (And Your Horse’s Too)

One of the things I struggle the most with is the ability to collect my thoughts while riding. At least quickly enough to make a difference in the situation. So I decided to challenge myself.

Last weekend I got on a horse that makes me nervous. Voluntarily got on I should say.

His name is Stormy and he’s a Cuisinart  chestnut.

I should say he’s not malicious and he’s very sweet but…

He is easily distracted and you could describe his movement quite accurately in just saying “blender”. We joke that no other horse can be in the same arena as him since he stirs up a dust devil wherever he goes.

For some reason, he can move this smoothest in a canter and it is without a doubt his favorite gait.

The last time I had climbed aboard him he had much less muscle. So, he was even more of a blender than usual. So he would occasionally click his heels together and trip himself slightly. Like a little hiccup in his gait. He’d also randomly decide that a canter depart should be a BIG transition with a whole lot of forward.

He was the challenge I was looking for.

I decided to try a focusing technique I’d just learned about in my  ISRB training to help the horse collect it’s thoughts and focus on their rider.

Whenever you lose the horse’s attention, i.e. the inside ear isn’t listening, you turn and reverse directions.

As we began our warm up stroll I started focusing on Stormy’s left ear since that was his inside one. Sure enough, halfway up our first long side his ears popped forward and he focused on something out in the pasture.

I did a gentle 180 and we headed back in the direction we’d come from. All the while sticking with a nice, forward walking pace.

We kept this up for about ten minutes, me watching his ears, he attempting to focus. Amazingly, I watched as his ears went from jumping beans to nicely relaxed. As an added bonus, some of his nervous tension also seemed to be going away.

Best of all I felt calmer and I had more confidence in my ability to control him. I think giving myself and Stormy just one thing to focus on helped us both gather some control over our sometimes scattered thoughts.

For the rest of our ride we went on to trot and canter in each direction and he continued to be much more settled and easy going. I was also much better able to collect my thoughts and quickly recognize areas where I could improve.

This was a monumental win for me since my brain is predominantly in panic mode or frozen depending on what’s going on with my lesson.