Mindful Equestrianism

By Ashley Fant, Owner and Head Trainer at Ashley Fant Show Stables

In equestrian life, as in all other aspects of life, we are living under a new set of circumstances.

For some of us that includes time with horses and in the saddle; for others it does not. Whatever your individual situation, it most certainly is not what it was before the pandemic.

In many ways, this “new normal” is minimalistic. Basic needs, essential work, social distance, curtailed spending. In other ways, focus is shifting to areas of life that previously might not have demanded such mindful action: meals at home, time with pets and family, self care. Maybe this wasn’t our plan for 2020, but I think we would be remiss to ignore the lessons to be learned by this minimalist routine. I am reminded of The Byrds song “Turn!Turn!Turn!” (“To everything there is a season”) (written by Pete Seeger, adapted from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes) and this is the season to focus inward, to find the profusion of ways we can improve as individuals, community members, and equestrians.

As we find joy in the mundane, we should take care to protect ourselves from what we left behind. As restrictions are loosened, it would serve us well to be mindful about what we allow to pervade the austerities of quarantine life. We have adjusted, somewhat at least, to living with less. This is an opportunity for personal renewal, a clean slate of sorts, and one that can be particularly useful in our relationship with horses.

Take your minimalist lessons to the barn with you and really listen to your horse. Put aside worldly distractions and pay attention to all your horse has to tell you about their health and emotions. Take your time and find ways to work with what you have and make it the best it can be. This applies to your horse but is also applies to you. If you previously allowed fear, anxiety, and negative thought to be part of your equestrian experience, you don’t have to allow that back into your life. Think about how it would be to ride without those distractions. You have practiced a life of essentials, now apply it to riding. Release yourself from unproductive old habits and replace them with new ones that add something positive to your experience.

Whenever you can get back there, relish each moment at the barn with renewed gratitude. Be mindful and protect your psyche like you have protected your friends and family during the pandemic. Each thing we choose to carry with us has weight. Let’s take this opportunity to carry only the best.

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