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The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One trainer, No tools, Just body language The Goal:

To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.

Five things I can count on

It snowed this week, beautiful white mounds of fluffy snow adorning every surface around my house- the landscape brilliantly beautiful, and yet for me, not as much fun as one might think. Unfortunately emotions and logic don’t always dance in the sane and controllable fashion we would like them to. I can logically appreciate the beauty, yet at the same time find my emotions beating me to a pulp underneath all that beautiful sane logic. Snow and cold send me into panic attacks of vertigo and nausea, blinding anxiety, and difficulty breathing. I am however far too stubborn to let that stop me, so for the most part everything proceeds normally. I have found there are five things I can count on to help. No matter how good, or how bad I feel, these five things will always improve the situation.

Thank-you Sally Swift for creating the five basics of Centered Riding. Thank-you Stephanie Mosely for introducing me to the existence of Centered Riding; and thank-you to all the brilliant Centered Riding instructors who have helped me understand those five basics in deeper and more profound ways.

I have been exposed to, and devoted to many different models of horse training. Each model and idea has created a facet of who I am and how I train today. I would have to say though, Centered Riding remains at the core of everything I do. The principles reach far beyond riding a horse. They apply to every action in life, and within these five simple ideas lies a power to improve any moment.

  1. Grounding – The feeling of having your feet rooted down through the Earth. Sally Swift added this to her original four basics when she wrote her second book. No matter which training idea I am currently working with, taking a moment to wiggle my toes in my boots and feel my feet become grounded always lends a solid and reliable feel to whatever I am doing.
  2. Centering – The feeling of your weight down low in the core of your body, the idea of chi or qi that martial arts talks of, all action originating from the center of your body. This idea always gives me a sense of connection with my horse and that legendary “feel” between horse and rider that instructors are always saying is so essential and so hard to teach.
  3. Breathing – Deeply, using the diaphragm and letting the air fill every part of your body like a professional singer would. This is perhaps the most challenging for me, yet I know how important it is. Horses are herd creatures and are constantly assessing the well-being of those around them. My ability to breath allows me to work at my best and signals my horse that I am feeling ok- there is nothing to worry about in our herd. Constantly I remind myself and my students, when your horse does something you like, just take one deep breath before you do anything else. That deep breath and the resulting positive feeling it brings to you and your horse is the simplest and best reward you can give.
  4. Soft eyes – Using a soft balance of focus and peripheral vision. In an ideal scenario we are using our muscles in a state of release contracting muscles or extender muscles used to the degree we need them. When we use both the contractors and the extenders at the same time an unnecessary tension and stress is present. We tend to create a great deal of stress in the small muscles around our eyes… the relaxation of those muscles allows us to use our peripheral vision as well as our focus.
  5. Building Blocks – The feeling of each part of the skeleton stacked in balance on top of the piece below- using only the essential muscular effort needed to stand, sit or move, nothing extra.

All these five principles can be evolved and developed, pondered and meditated on, however they work best for me in their simplicity. They are just five words to remember, each with a profound impact on positivity in any given moment.

Grounding

Centering

Breathing

Soft Eyes

Building Blocks

So when Myrnah and I are walking through the woods in the snow, my mind tells me this should be a marvelous novelty of fun, while unfortunately, my emotions batter my skull, blur my vision, lay lead weight on my lungs and make me want to cry or throw up. I reach for those five words, because I know they are five things I can count on no matter what to make everything better.

Grounding, I can feel my toes wiggle in my socks, I can feel the snow crunch underfoot, I can feel my weight roll from heel to toe, step by step in harmony with Myrnah. I can imagine that she feels grounded too as we walk together. Centering- Every movement of mine originating from the core of my body, every movement of Myrnah’s felt and followed from my core. Breathing- It’s not easy for me out in the cold and the snow, but if I think about it I can feel Myrnah breath, and I can match her rhythm, let her breath through me, an underlying rhythm to every movement we make together. Soft eyes can feel impossible when for me the world is spinning and everything looks blurry from vertigo, so this is where having practiced on a good day is invaluable. I remember what it feels like to release the muscles around my eyes, I remember what it feels like inside my eyes when I soften them and allow all my peripheral vision to become part of what I see. As I do these things it helps the world become still and more clear. It helps the stress dissolve and the beauty of the day become apparent again. Building Blocks- a nod of the head up yes and then no, smaller and smaller until the center resting point is found, a shrug and circle of the shoulders around until they too find the central balance, the ribs, the hips the knees and the ankles, all have their central resting point, in fluid balance with all the other parts.

Each one of these five ideas has benefit without need for perfection. Simply walking through them with whatever awareness I have on any give day has a power I would not want to live without.

We all have our highs and our lows, as do our horses. We hope that when one of us is low, the other in the partnership can step in and support, building the bond of connection stronger and deeper.

It often feels perhaps I should not train when I am low or stressed. I become afraid of spreading the horror of what I feel like a menacing rain cloud darkening everyone’s day. If I can allow myself simply to be as imperfect as I am and just show up anyway, I find very often my horses seem to enjoy stepping up to the plate to take care of me for a change. We can walk through the simplest of our movements together, my job being to remember my five basics and attend to them with whatever skill I have that day. I can let my horse take care of the rest of the details.

The five things I can count on will always be there for me. High or low, rain, snow, sun or wind. Life isn’t always easy, but with a partner like Myrnah traveling alongside me, it is pretty wonderful regardless.

Elsa Sinclair

EquineClarity.com

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for reminding me of these five principles. I already knew them, but have never seen their use in the way you presented here. Right now I could do with some good Grounding – Centering – Breathing – Soft Eyes and Building Blocks myself! (This is definitely not my most balanced period of the year…).
    Another principle has helped me in the past few days to stay mindful and balanced: I focus on doing everything I do – and I really mean everything, from brushing my teeth to buttering my bread to asking a horse to yield – with the least possible amount of strength/pressure. I’m amazed at how much unnecessary strength I often use with everyday simple tasks. Focusing on this gives me a feeling of peace and smoothness.

  2. Elsa, You are brave to face the panic with your fortitude…and perhaps, Mrynah ‘gets’ that, rather than your inner turmoil. She seems protective in the photos, maybe that’s why. Warm golden hugs 😉 😉 😉 Michael


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