Ok, this week’s post is running a little late. I have a number of blog ideas meandering around in my head, but I think after last week’s post I want to do something lighter. So instead, I’m just going to blather about ways horseback riding challenges me. Yeah, entirely self-serving here. No horseback riding for a month! Two weeks in and I miss it so hard.
Horseback riding has challenged me in many ways that I never predicted. I mean, I always vaguely (sorta) knew that there was more to it than just sitting on a horse’s back and hanging on, but I never realized just how much. How very, very much.
One thing I’ve been becoming increasingly conscious of lately is just how much I wind up off in my own head. It’s (usually) relaxing in there and easier than staying connected to the world. Horseback riding, however, really pushes me to not do that. Largely because on a horse, I can’t do that. Or rather, I could, but it would be a terrible idea. I’m not on lesson horses anymore, and the horses I ride expect me to be in charge, and will take advantage of me if I slip. Not so much maliciously as sometimes they just wanna do their own thing. So riding helps teach me to stay connected, even when sometimes I want to slip off.
Riding involves multitasking. Lots of multitasking. Here’s a quick off-the-cuff list of things I have to keep watch on while riding
- leg position
- rein tension
- my posture
- the horse’s posture
- what I am doing at that moment
- what I am planning on doing next
- any other people in the ring
- hand position
- keeping myself relaxed
- proper balance
And all of those things are just for while walking. The list gets bigger if I’m trotting, and bigger yet if I’m cantering. On the plus side, many of those, with practice, become increasingly second nature. Muscle memory, motor cortex, however you like to think about those things. And the more things start to come naturally to me, the more things my teacher throws at me to keep me challenged. There is SO MUCH to learn. Plus, it’s an ongoing process. I learned the rough basics of how to post in three lessons. It took me a few years to get enough of the details down that my teacher stopped throwing new things at me about it, and I’ll probably always keep learning in smaller ways for as long as I ride.
Riding forces me to interact with other people. Not a lot, and I’m still woefully awkward with the other people there, but I can’t get away with just silently slipping around. At minimum, when passing other people who are also riding, I am expected to call out “inside!” When I heard someone behind me call that out, I am expected to keep myself to the outside and not swerve in front of them. My teacher likes to yell things at me from across the ring, and at least sometimes I am expected to answer by yelling back. And I can tell you, that was not an easy thing for me to do at first (still isn’t comfortable, but not as challenging as it used to be).
Riding is scary, at least to me. It took over a year before I stopped being scared just to get on a horse. Multiple years to stop getting heart palpitations before trotting. I still get very nervous while cantering. But if I want to get better and learn new things, I have to do the things that scare me, and keep doing them until I’m comfortable. And then do them more. It’s challenging, but it’s also awesome.
Conclusion: riding is AWESOME and at least for me, it qualifies as a form of therapy. ^_^