The beginning does indeed sound like a wise place to start! But where is the beginning? When I first came to Pippsway I said to Pip ‘I want to learn to ride properly’. I had said this to every trainer I had met, in the previous six weeks since my return to riding, and yet had been taught the same old things I would have learned 30 years ago. In my mind learning to ride properly was where the ‘beginning’ of my journey with horses needed to start. Bearing in mind that I had ridden as a child, and had later owned my own horse, this seemed like a reasonable assumption to me.
I soon learned that riding was not the beginning, not even close! So was freeschooling the beginning? Not quite…...Spending my first lesson with Pip learning about how to enter a stable properly and how to groom the horse untethered with the stable door open using only energy, intention and body language was a real eye opener. I then learned how to ‘catch’ the horse properly from the field and lead him down the road correctly. So, was that the beginning? Er….no! What came before all these things was understanding the conversation I was having with the horse every moment that I was in his presence. So, was understanding horse’s body language the beginning? Well, close…..but no.
What I am learning is that the beginning starts inside ourselves. Arriving at the yard in the right state of mind. Being grounded and centred. Being aware of our actions and our thoughts because every single thing we do once we are in the presence of our horse is a conversation. Even if we are not paying attention to what is being said we can rest assured our horse certainly is! He is also talking to us every moment that he is with us. Are we listening?
Later on, when I come to ride, if I have not mastered the art of both self awareness and listening to my horse, I am going to struggle. If I have not learned to maintain the sufficient focus I will likely miss the signs, possibly before I even mount, that my horse has decided I am not worth following, that I am not good enough to be his leader and he is now in charge.
For the first time today I was shown how a horse was asking the question, of the person holding his reins, ‘Are you in charge, or am I?’. The lady in question was busy talking to me and neither of us saw her horse ask this question. Neither of us noticed either that she had answered with her body language. Pip noticed all of it! We were both surprised to be told that the horse had stepped into her space and she had moved back without either of us being aware of it! Had Pip not been there the lady would have been mounting her horse having inadvertently told him that he was in charge. This particular lady is an experienced rider and it highlighted to me that if she is capable of such an oversight then so is anyone! Well…..anyone apart from Pip!
When we begin to expand our awareness of the conversations we are constantly having with our horses we see how much is being said and how much we are saying that would have previously been below our radar.
And so….the beginning…..the very start of learning to be at one with our horse actually beings within us. Only once we have mastered self awareness and mindfulness can we hope to communicate with our horse on such a level as to ever be capable of being at one with him.