Winter is a time to work through schooling issues, to develop balance, hone flatwork skills, and prep for the upcoming show season. This year, it has also been a season of working through frustrations and behaviours (largely associated with a long winter, too much ice, restrictions about riding in the sand ring, and poor turnout). It’s easy to get frustrated, to over-think, and to worry about what’s happening and why. Not surprisingly, when I stress about a situation, Chaos’ behaviour magnifies it one hundredfold.
So we have been working on relaxing. Whether it’s an issue in the cross ties, a refusal to stand still at the mounting block, a general friskiness due to restricted turnout, a piece of equipment that “wasn’t there the last time”, or a small drift of snow that has blown in through a crack in the east end of the arena wall (something Chaos feels is so evil that it has to be approached from the left, the right, and the centre with incredible trepidation, much snorting, balking and, if possible, flight), I have found that a deep, heavy and loud sigh, followed by audible chewing on my part, can help us both refocus, and relax.
The minute his body tells me something is not quite right, I stop what I’m doing. I take a heavy, deep and loud sigh, and I chew (think cows chewing their cud). If Chaos doesn’t relax, I repeat the process until I get hear a heavy sigh from him, followed by chewing. His reaction is followed by a release of tension, his head comes down, his eyes soften. No frustration. No argument. Just a peaceful way to refocus him, to regain his attention. It also relaxes me, refocuses my energies, and helps me to problem solve for a positive outcome, rather than a reactive one.
Relaxing is a win-win. It eases tension and stress, it reassures, it helps us succeed in the task at hand. It builds trust and confidence. It centers us both, and enhances our ability to communicate.
|A deep breath. It’s the difference between this…|
|… and this|
So the next time you ride, or you find yourself face to face with an evil snowdrift, take a deep breath and relax. Your horse will thank you, and your body will too.