“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot
Riding brings us into the present moment. It is very difficult to focus on a jump course if we are thinking about work, or school, or all the groceries we need. Even just being around horses on the ground requires a certain level of focus. Riding has always been my escape when life is stressful. Horses lift my spirit if I’ve had a bad day, and calm my mind if I am feeling scattered and unfocused. I oftentimes lose time when I am at the barn, it is like the outside world doesn’t exist.
However, it is sometimes difficult to let the outside world fall away when we our with our horses. Stress, whether it be work, school, or personal can greatly impact our riding if we are not able to let it go and be present during our rides. And let’s face it, life is really stressful. There are endless reasons to worry: money, career stability, grades, illness, family issues, the cable bill. The list goes on and on. Let’s also not overlook the fact that we are constantly packing our schedules with obligation after obligation. It almost seems trendy to be ridiculously busy, sleep deprived, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. If we are not, then we aren’t doing enough. This crazy busy lifestyle is bad for our mental and physical health, personal relationships, and – for us equestrians – our riding. Horses can feel all of our worries, but the problem is that they do not know why we are feeling this way; for all they know it could be them making us anxious, or there could be a monster in the arena that we haven’t told them about. Being around and riding horses can really help us through stressful times. There is something very calming about them. Horses are used in many therapy programs; from programs for special needs children, to rehab programs. Riding and being around horses can improve our mental and physical well-being immensely, but we must be able to let go of our daily stresses for them to do so.
I have struggled a lot with this over the past couple of years. I would let myself get so busy and overwhelmed that could not be present at the barn. My mind would be racing in a million different directions, and Chance would have no idea what was going on. I read a ton of articles about calming the mind and dealing with stress. I practice yoga, meditate, write, drink calming teas, use essential oils. But I really did not start feeling a difference until I started trying to not have so much stress, and to not worry about things I have no control over. I realized that, most of the time, worry is a choice. I have been working on not over-packing my schedule; for many “obligations” are also choices. Knowing when to step back, and decide that the extra thing I thought I needed to do could wait, was liberating. I also started trying not to check my phone much when I am at the barn. Things have not been perfect by any means, I still have a lot of stress when work is busy, but learning how to let it go at times (such as when I am riding) has made a huge difference. Chance and I have been getting along so much better, and I just feel better overall.
Trying to be more present in other areas of my life has enabled riding to once again be a calming haven. I am able to focus. Riding once again brings me into the present moment every day; and once again, I can forget that the outside world exists.