After 28 years away from playing music, I decided to start practicing the violin again. This morning I was working on some drills for moving the bow across the strings at different speeds. I’ve always practiced these techniques slowly, and increased the speed as it felt more comfortable. Every day for the last two months, I’ve practiced. I’ve felt my shoulders lock, my wrists get stiff, my breathing stop and that sneaky mean low down nasty little voice we all have say – “This is too difficult!” and “You sound atrocious!”
This morning, I started on the bowing drills. Again. Something clicked and all of a sudden I was bowing like top notch fiddle player, the violin echoing in a machine gun barrage of unstoppable notes.
I laughed. And then I put my violin away.
The thing that got me thinking was, we could apply this same commitment to doing things mindfully with our horses.
Horses are masters of movement pretty much from the time they are born. Sidepassing? No problem. Roll backs? Childs play! Capriole (a movement where the horse leaps into the air and kicks out with their hind legs)? Piece of cake. Flying lead changes? Easy peasy.
It is only when we get involved with horses that things can get a little more difficult. Sidepasses, roll backs, flying lead changes – even just backing up – can all feel heavy and difficult and like a ton of effort.
I have seen that when we are able to make a couple of small adjustments, things get easier. The first adjustment is breaking things down into smaller chunks (this is for both the human and the horse’s benefit). The second adjustment is creating a drill of sorts; something we can do with (and without) our horse over and over until both of our bodies sync up and the movement almost happens of it’s own accord. Then the drill disappears.
This is the value of finding an instructor / horse trainer who can guide you through these drills and give you the feel of them.
The rest is up to you.
You get to choose how much to practice, how often to practice, and if that practice is of importance to you. This is why you will often hear Mark and I say that in order to get your horse going more softly, you need to find ways to go more softly yourself. Can you drive softly (i.e. breathing, letting go of the competitive mindset, letting go of your white knuckles on the steering wheel, etc), can you go through the activities of your day with your breath and awareness of each moment more intact? Can you groom and touch your horse with focus and the intent to be soft?
More importantly, can you put that sneaky low down mean little voice in the backseat as you make mistakes, have difficult days, feel like this fumbling will never end?
I believe you can.