Lessons Learned Outside the Arena

When the rains stops Universo and I will head out the arena gate.  I try to wander out of the arena at least once a week.  My horse is always thrilled to go for a walk around the farm.  We don’t have the land to actually trail ride, but we make the best of our outside space.

We walk up the driveway, through a neighbor’s small hayfield, around a pond, and back to the farm paddocks.  Round the perimeters of the outside paddocks.  Down to the other barn, around it, and around another small pond.  Inevitably, we encounter deer and wild turkeys taking advantage of this small oasis in the middle of neighborhood construction.  Once we stopped and shared stares with a hawk sitting on a fence post.  Another time, a fox ran across the driveway.  An occasional turtle sunbathes on a log and frogs jump into pond scum just in front of Universo’s hooves. 

This is a time for my horse to be entertained and for my mind to be blessedly empty.

However, I found on one of our farm wanderings, I started to focus on the sound of my horse’s footfalls in walk.  A good walk is part of every dressage test, and unfortunately, we do not always score well because tension makes my horse tend to pace.  I have to use relaxation techniques for myself and my horse in order to slow his footfalls and maintain a clear 4-beat walk. 

Anyway, I started trying to count all 4 beats of the walk, which was surprisingly difficult.  I focused on my horse’s left front shoulder and tried to count fast enough to be back at 1 when his left front hoof hit the ground again:  left front, right hind, right front, left hind, and left front again.  Then I started to focus on the sensations in my body at walk.  I felt the slight forward movement of my hips and the slight lift of my buttocks when the hind leg moved forward and the hoof hit the ground.  I tried to focus on my right and left seat bones and feel the sensation of hoof to ground contact.  I focused on the soft swing of my legs against his barrel, back and forth. When the right hind steps under, my right lower leg follows the barrel swinging to the left and when he steps under with his left hind, my left leg swings on to the right. 

Between rain showers, we head out the arena gate - my mind empty, just feeling the movement of my horse – as we wander.