How to Be Mindful in the Saddle
By Shannon Fox
It might seem counterintuitive to be talking about how to be more mindful while you’re horseback riding. After all, don’t you need to be fully present and aware to even ride a horse? Not necessarily. I challenge you to take note the next time you’re riding of how often you find yourself thinking of other things. It is surprisingly easy to canter a serpentine and simultaneously be considering buying a new pair of breeches from 2KGrey.
As we learned last month, practicing mindful horsemanship can help you build a better relationship with your horse. But mindful horsemanship can also help you achieve your performance goals, whether that’s competing at a horse show or just having more pleasant training rides at home. By practicing these 5 mindfulness techniques, you’ll be able to call upon them when you’re at horse shows, out on the trail, or wherever you find yourself needing to recenter your focus.
- Get Comfortable – Yes, I’m bringing this up again. If your boots are pinching and your riding breeches feel like they’re falling down, you’re just going to be thinking about that instead of emptying your mind and focusing on being present during your ride. Start by making sure your horse riding clothing is comfortable, breathes, and fits you well. The Calecto V Riding Breech not only looks awesome, but has a great amount of stretch and a tapered leg to ensure it tucks comfortably into your boots. With cooler weather on the horizon, this sweatshirt by Kiya Tomlin for 2kGrey will keep you warm and comfy!
- Empty Your Mind – Make a habit of catching yourself when you start thinking about something else. It takes practice and constant vigilance to make sure you’re staying present while in the saddle, but it is worth it. When you’re not fully present, it’s easy to get sloppy in your riding and poke your elbows out or slump your shoulders. And if you’re not present enough to catch your own position faults, you’re not going to do a good job correcting your horse easier. Emptying your mind of everything, but what you’re doing and what your horse is doing will make every ride that much more focused and successful.
- Engage Your Senses – Emptying your mind is just one part of the mindfulness puzzle. You also need to engage your senses to ground yourself in the here and now. What do your horse’s hooves sound like when they hit the ground? Can you feel him breathing? Can you smell his unique scent? What do the shadows look like on the ground? Do you hear the wind in the trees? Can you feel the warmth of his body? How does his mane move when he trots? Can you smell rain in the air? Focusing on your senses not only helps you stay in the present, it also helps you keep your mind empty by not allowing space for those extraneous thoughts to creep in.
- Meditate – Yes, you can meditate on horseback. Not every horse would be a good candidate for this sort of mindfulness practice, but if yours is a good sport, give it a try. You can even have a friend hold your horse if you don’t feel comfortable doing it alone. Start by finding a quiet spot where you and your horse can stand and close your eyes. Focus on just your breathing at first and how your body moves with each inhale and exhale. If you find your mind wandering, be sure to bring your focus back to your breath. Once you have that mastered, you can expand your focus to include the horse’s breath and how his body moves with each inhale and exhale. See if you can synchronize your breathing to his. After just a few minutes of this meditation on horseback, you’ll be feeling a lot more in tune with your horse.
- Get Outside of the Sandbox – When was the last time you took your horse outside of the sandbox to play? Whether it’s exploring the property you board at or trailering out to some nearby trails, riding somewhere different is a great way to make your time in the saddle more mindful. Just as you tend to notice things more when you’re hiking than when you’re walking around your neighborhood, trail riding your horse around a lake or on the beach can open up your eyes to what’s happening around you. Not only do you need to pay more attention to stay safe, your senses are going to be more awakened to the different sights, smells, and sounds.
As equestrians, we are infinitely lucky to be able to do what we do. Not only that we have the means, but also the good health to physically be able to ride and a horse that is willing to let us climb on his back. Practicing mindfulness in and out of the saddle is a great way to keep yourself in tune with all that you have to be grateful for. Never take a single ride for granted, live in the moment, and don’t forget 2kGrey’s motto to Ride With Passion!
Do you have mindfulness tips of your own to share? Leave them in the comments below.