Riding as mindfulness

Its been such a long time since I’ve written about my riding, and so much life has happened in the intervening months.  While a novella could be written about my personal ups and downs since March, no one really wants to read about that that so I’ll stick to the important point of this post:

When life happens, horses are there to center us.

I’ve never been so grateful to have my horses at home as I have been the past several months.  At the very end of March, I went through a pretty major personal and professional crisis.  It was ego-shattering and made me an emotional wreck.  It made me question who I was and why I dedicated my life to the things I did.  As a non-profit professional, I spent a lot of hours – way more than those I was paid for – working for the “greater good”.  After almost 20 years in the field, that all changed and it rocked what I thought was the foundation of my world.

In reality, that foundation was my friends and family – not my career – and I slowly but surely realized that over the next weeks and months.  But the reality was also that horses and riding are at the core of who I am and what makes me tick.

Every day, the horses gave me a reason to get up, get dressed, and get moving.  The continued focus on progressing in my riding gave me the sense of moving forward that I felt I was lacking in every other aspect of my life.  And thankfully, both Cardoon and Bodie were exceedingly cooperative through those first two months.

During my many hours of quiet time alone in the barn, I had another very important revelation about riding and what it means to me:

Riding = Mindfulness

My mom is a counselor, and a huge proponent of meditation and mindfulness.  I’ve experimented with meditation in the past, and did find it to be very beneficial to my overall mood, energy and outlook on life.  The problem was always in finding the time between family, work, the animals an the rest of life to fit it in.

As I thought more about it, I realized that riding dressage is a form of meditation for me.  More specifically, it is a practice of mindfulness.  The definition of mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

True dressage is the embodiment of that – a fullness of being in the moment and calmly accepting the interplay between your mind, your body and your horse.

I’ve long known that I’m simply a happier person when I’m riding regularly.  Just being in the barn has a calming effect on me, but riding several times a week is what is most important to maintaining a positive mental state.  This spring and summer, my practice of mindfulness while riding helped center me and allowed me to focus not on my problems and fears, but to focus only on being in the moment.

Cardoon May MorvenOver time, that started to bleed over into the rest of my life and allowed me the mental space to figure out a plan to move forward with the rest of my life.

The side benefit?  More time in the saddle to prepare for our season of showing Third Level!

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