Relax with Focus

Sometimes I think of the most random stuff, but I came up with something good this time.  I was contemplating warm up routines and how to relax on those days when the brain is busy or tired, the arena is crowded, and the horse has the been-in-all-day-and-it’s-cold jitters.

We all have those rides, and at least for me, I seem to “have a feeling” it’s not going to be a great ride before I even get going. For a variety of reasons, on some days it is just hard to settle into work mode.  Sometimes a bunch of deep breaths helps, and trying to relax is usually prescribed. It’s important to let go of unrelated stress when you get on your horse, and excess tension not only hinders performance, it is also exhausting. But TRYING to relax never actually seems to accomplish relaxation, in fact, the harder one tries, the more effort one puts into it, the further from relaxation we seem get!

So it occurred to me that relaxation is really not the state we are after anyways. Relax is what I do when I get home, put on my pj’s, and pour a glass of wine. My body slows down, and my mind slows down.  This is really not the state I want to be in to attempt any sort of athletic endeavor, and especially not while working in partnership with a 1,000+ pound animal.  What I want to be when I am riding my horse is focused.

I want to be focused on my own body, aware of my balance and coordinated in my aids. I want to be focused on my horse, feeling him move, interpreting his responses to my aids, thinking about his schooling. I want to stay in the here and now, not worrying about the future or fretting about the past. I don’t want to be thinking about the noise I heard outside, or the commotion in the barn. I want to stay firmly lodged in my own head, in my own body, and in my horse’s mind and body. And, when I am in that focus, my body also relaxes. My horse relaxes too. We communicate more clearly, we work together more effectively, and we get more productive work done.

So, now instead of working on a warm up routine for relaxation, I am working on one for focus. I want to get on my horse and immediately become aware of my body, and of his. I want the entire world around us to fade away, for nothing to exist but him and me, dancing together. And THAT is a very relaxing image!