It's been an interesting week of rides. Thankfully, I read an article early in the week with a tip that I found very helpful!
I feel like most equestrians can relate to the overly-exciting rides that can come with the change of season to cooler weather.That happened this week. It's pretty much just a fact of life that when the temperatures start getting cooler, the horses start feeling frisky. It happens every year, and it is what it is. It's fine. I don't really mind. I lunge a bit when I need to, and it really isn't a big deal. This year though, the weather change happened to come at an extra tricky time. We've had TERRIBLE smoke the past month from a nearby wildfire. Unfortunately that meant that the air quality was so bad, we haven't been able to work the horses much over the past month. Horses who have been mostly out of real work for five weeks are hot. Combine that with the weather change, and you wind up with some pretty frisky horses! To add to the challenge, recommendations for bringing horses back into work after the amount and duration of smoke that we had suggest being VERY conservative. That means no crazy lunging sessions to burn off energy and also means only quiet, easy, light rides... Which also won't burn off any energy. Their lungs are still recovering, so we don't want to get them breathing too hard. Unfortunately, their brains are also still recovering...
I'm not and never have been the kind of trainer who enjoys sitting on a keg of dynamite. Consequently, I haven't loved the pent up energy of the horses this week while trying to keep them quiet and ease their transition back to exercise. Fortunately, I happened to stumble upon an article by Horse Rookie with some very helpful tips for calming riding nerves (https://horserookie.com/tips-for-nervous-horse-riders). The tip that stuck with me the most was "Tip #2: 20 Seconds of Insane Courage". Horse Rookie heard this quote from a movie called We Bought a Zoo and applied it to her riding: "Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it." As Horse Rookie points out, that concept can relieve a lot of mental pressure.
I didn't really put much thought into it at the time that I was skimming her article online one evening, but the next day I found that my brain brought it up unprovoked a number of times while I was riding. That idea, "you just need 20 seconds of insane courage" popped into my head, and it really helped! There's just something about making yourself be brave for 20 seconds that feels SO much easier than trying to convince yourself to be brave for a whole ride, or even more esoterically trying to convince yourself to be braver in general. Small goals. Just 20 seconds. One canter transition on the horse who hasn't cantered in weeks. One trot circle in the scary corner... And really, in most instances that 20 seconds is all you need. Our responses to riding anxiety affect our body in a very physical way: creating tightness, making us tip forward, preventing us from using our aids effectively. Any thought that can break that cycle, even momentarily, makes a huge difference in re-centering us in the saddle and refocusing our horse. Horses notice when we're feeling tense or anxious and it makes them more tense, especially if they're already distracted or worried about something. If you can be brave for even just 20 seconds, your body will relax and your horse will feel it. That will help to break any cycle of tension that he may be feeling for whatever reason and refocus him on you and your leadership. When he relaxes and focuses, you're likely to feel more confident, and the moment that had you worried in the first place will be over.
Anyway, it was something that I found helpful this week, so I thought that I would share here in case it helps anyone else! I also loved that meditation and visualization were on Horse Rookie's list of tips as well (Tips #25 and 29). Of course, if anyone needs help or guidance in these areas, Hypno-Ride is a great tool for that!
Until next time,