After completing my latest blog, I posed a question to some of my readers asking for ideas on what they’d like to see me write about. I received three replies: 1) to talk about how going slow when working with your horse actually translates into “getting there” faster, 2) ways of supporting our horse in various situations, and 3) how to know when to step in to help a student or fellow horseman and when to stay out of their way. At first glance, these suggestions appear to represent three very different ideas. And yes, one could probably write a book on each subject. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they all require the same thing: an ability to be present, or said another way, an ability to focus on what is at hand rather than everything we think we already know.This ability is already inherent within each of us, but because we are a part of a society that values outcomes above all else, we tend to focus on getting to the end-product at the expense of what we had to go through to get there. I am not saying that end-products are not valuable, or that we don’t need goals to carry us forward. Indeed, the goal creates the purpose of our process. For example, if I want to ride my horse in a straight line, it’s important to know where I’m headed so that I very clearly understand my points of reference. But here’s where it gets interesting. Along the way I have several choices about how I ride that straight line. 1) I can focus primarily on getting to point B from point A, 2) I can focus primarily on trying to keep my horse straight along the way, 3) I can focus on what constitutes straightness without referring to points A or B, or 4) some combination of the above. Here’s the other really interesting thing: any of these methods followed to their conclusion will get me to my goal of riding a straight line. But not every choice will get me to my goal with a feeling of harmony, with my horse’s comfort and happiness intact, or in a way that expands my understanding of my horse, what I’m trying to do with my horse, or why I’m doing it in the first place! For starters, how many of us really understand the importance of straightness? Is it only important because it’s given a score in dressage tests? Who among all competitors riding tense horses have ever bothered to ask, “Why is straightness important to my horse?” If they had, and then followed through on learning what actually constitutes straightness, they would not be riding tense horses. Hmmmmm… So… what was the topic of this blog again?
Okay, and what does that have to do with straightness?
Learning how to ride a horse straight is just one of an infinite number of examples that can inform us about being present in order to slow time down but get “there” faster, support our horse, and know when to step in to advise someone else and when to stay out of their way, among many other things. Mastery is not about having all the answers, it’s about honing a frame of mind that allows us to discern where to look for a way through. We can only do that when we’re present and focused on what is at hand, seeing things for what they are rather than what we once supposed they were.
So, how can riding our horse straight help us learn about being present?
Jot down a few of your own answers, then tune in next week for a continued discussion.