Pausing and coming to stillness during a ride gives us an opportunity to recalibrate what we are doing. This is a powerful tool for breaking up unconscious habits and patterns than can accumulate when we are “working.” In meditation, there is the instruction, “Begin again,” meaning that if you find your mind wandering, simply bring your focus back to the breath, and start fresh. The intentional pause gives us that opportunity.
While you walk down the long side of the arena or down the trail, pause. Take one or two conscious breaths. As you do this, feel your seat and legs yielding and softening into the back and flanks of the horse. Let your hands, arms, and shoulders soften. Consciously lengthen down into your stirrups and upward through the top of the head. Notice what is around you, including sounds.
Walk on again and after several moments pause again. Imagine the inside of your body connecting with the inside of your horse’s body in this stillness. As you begin moving again, consciously focus on that connection. Leave nothing out: hooves/feet, head/tail, inside/outside. Pause again, this time noticing any tension or bracing that you feel in your body as you stop: Scan your hands, shoulders, legs, buttocks, lower back, face, jaw, feet, and ankles. Consciously send a flow of breath to any parts of the body that feel tense, and at the same time, visualize a spacious, warming relaxation spreading through your body and the body of the horse. Walk on again.
Pause again and soften your focus, like you are looking out of your eyes from the back of your skull as if it were a large empty room. Scan the space around you with relaxed, receptive eyes and a global focus, at the same time noticing where your horse is looking. Begin moving again, keeping the feeling of an easy, expansive focus.
As you alternate between stillness and moving, be aware of both the container and the contents of your body and your horse’s body. Can you imagine the support of the organs, the fluids, and the fascia in both the movement and the stillness?
Bring the relaxed, attentive quality of stillness into your riding so that you can flow seamlessly from stillness into movement without losing feeling or awareness.
In Our Horses, Ourselves, author Paula Josa-Jones explains how to form a closer, more intuitive connection with our horses, so we are more trustworthy, more comfortable in our own skin, and better prepared to act with balance, sensitivity, and kindness in all our relationships.