Folks who haven’t spent much time around horses look at me funny when I say Teddy makes me be more fully present. But if you are a fellow equestrian, I feel certain you’ll understand. Horses know when we are paying attention. They also know when our mind wanders. I’m not sure how they know, but they do.
Lunging is a perfect example. Lately I’ve been focusing on groundwork with Teddy as we build our relationship and learn to understand each other. (He’s only been with our family since late November.) We’ve come a long way in a short amount of time and I’m proud to say that he now listens to my voice. This is a big change from a few weeks ago when I’d ask him to slow his trot and he was like: Pffft. Whatever.
Now, if I ask him to walk, he walks. Trot? Off he goes. Trot slower? No problem. But in exchange for this cooperation he demands my presence. He reminded me of this yesterday, when I was lunging him in the arena and let my mind wander. Just for a second mind you, but it was enough. The moment my mind strayed, it was as if he said, “Oh, you’re not here anymore? Guess I’ll do whatever I want then.” And off he went into a canter, which we have not officially done on the lunge line yet.
I snapped back into the present moment and asked him to whoa, which he did. (Good boy.) But I was surprised by how quickly that connection – that clear line of communication – had fallen apart when my attention shifted. It reminded me of that time Qui-Gon told young Anakin Skywalker: “Always, remember: Your focus determines your reality.” Our minds our powerful, and apparently this extends to the way we commune with our horses.
The way Teddy demands my full attention is good for me. Working with him is almost like a form of active meditation. My usually hyper-busy mind stills and my inner voice quiets. I think this is one of the main reasons being around Teddy recharges me, even after a long and tiring day.
Sometime soon I’ll need to get back in the saddle. I haven’t ridden in a few weeks, after Teddy totally blew me off at the trot and took off at a canter despite my asking him to slow down. (I’m still amazed I was able to slow him down without falling.) That’s when I realized we needed to go back to basics with ground work. Take it slow. Work on our communication. I’m hoping the progress we’ve made on the ground will help us succeed under saddle.