Yesterday I went out to ride and my mind was preoccupied. I had been talking with home about the struggles of someone I truly adore and when I got on Batialo I wasn’t thinking on him, but worrying about home, and when I should go home, etc.
Batialo immediately knew that I was “off with the pixies” as mum would say, and he started to be naughty.
Often we forget how much of our sport is mental. I didn’t realise until the week before I was to go the UK back in 2010. I was so nervous about riding Batialo in front of a huge crowd of people, and I transferred that to my horse. I had to get the vet out because I thought he was sick, and the vet said quite simply, “he is depressed, because you are worried”.
The majority of the pain I feel now is actually because my mind has not caught up with my body. I am strong, and the muscles are recovering, but if Batialo jumps or spins, my mind tells my hip that it should feel the shock, and so it does. This is something I have to retrain my brain to accept, the very real thought that “I am ok”.
The power of the mind has always fascinated me, for the good and for the bad. My mum used to tell me that I could do anything I put my mind to, and I grew up believing that.
I also grew up knowing that if the mind loses hope then a person can cease to exist even if they are still existing.
Right now, I have to firstly, accept that my body is ok, and then, put all of that out of my mind when I get on Batialo.
A rider will feel the horse do something naughty and punish him. A true horseman will feel the horse do something naughty and ask what they themselves might be doing to have caused that tension.
The second thing I have to change is my expectations. I have recently been hit with an overwhelming happiness because I stopped expecting people to act a certain way. I often see people get in arguments, particularly in relationships, because the other person has failed to carry out an expectation that they didn’t even know existed.
If you decide or set a level or a predefined guide for how someone should behave, of course you are going to be disappointed, and they are going to be confused and even angry. If you take away all your ideas and expectations you can just see people for how they really are, and not how you want them to be.
We do the same in training. We expect things of our horses when in actual fact they are just horses. They just want to eat, sleep, and roll around in the dirt, and we get disappointed when they are not listening, or are lazy.
I have realised that, just as I have learnt with people, I have to not expect anything from my horse, and that way I can figure out how my horse is on that day, at that time, without any predisposition of how I think it should be.
That’s the moment when you can train the horse each day, according to how he is, and not just carry out a predefined set of exercises and then get disappointed when he cannot fulfill them in the way you wanted him to ;).