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natural horsemanship, classical horsemanship, Pippsway Wellington Somerset near Devon, barefoot

Mindfulness is a word we hear bandied about a great deal these days. I can honestly say I have never met anyone as mindful as Pip. Given that I did an eight week meditation course, have attended meditation groups and been on two silent retreats that is quite the statement! I suspect you’d have to go to a Buddhist Temple somewhere to find anyone else being quite so, and they aren’t dealing with horses! Trying to emulate her makes my brain ache and yet I am learning that it is vital to be mindful at all times when we are with our horses.

At Pippsway I am not simply ‘learning to ride’. I am learning both how to understand and communicate with horses. In all my previous years of riding I now realise I might as well have been blind and deaf! So much information was either passing me by entirely or at best being misconstrued and misunderstood.

Realising that the focus, posture and connection that I am only capable of maintaining for moments right now is the very same that I will need when I am riding has made me realise that my body and mind both need to be more agile. When I can maintain that level of awareness and connection for an entire Freeschooling session I will know I am ready to ride. Until then? I honestly believe riding would be both unrewarding and unsafe. Riding around with any less of a connection is like playing Russian Roulette.

I now understand that before I do anything with a horse be it catch him, groom him, even just enter his stable to scoop the poop, I have to be mindful. Aware of my body language, energy and intention. Aware of the horse’s body language too and at no point can I allow a horse to step into my space or dominate me in any way.

Even knowing this principle I still found it a challenge to remember it at every moment I was with a horse today. It’s so easy to slip into old habits like walking under the horse’s neck when he is tethered….. A big mistake and yet so easy to do after a lifetime of doing it! I must do whatever I am doing properly or not do it at all because every single thing matters. Every interaction counts. To be at one with my horse when I am in the saddle I must genuinely be with my horse at all times mentally and physically when I am in his presence, truly mindful.

This may all sound like too much effort but once you understand that you are in conversation with your horse, and you experience glimpses of complete connection, the idea of settling for anything less becomes impossible. The old saying ‘you get out what you put in’ has never been more true than in your moment to moment relationship with your horse.

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