This week, Sadie the Horse has been sick, laid up for about five days. Here’s hoping she’ll recover, not just for my sake, but for hers. When I first heard this, my first response, regretfully, was “Maybe there’s another horse I could ride in the meantime?” My first response should have been, “My God, I hope she’s OK.” Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa! It turned out that it was quite serious, but now, from what I hear, she’s on the mend.
I had to skip a week this week. I was told that I needed to work on my balance before trying out another horse.
That concept of balance brings out another “holy horse lesson.”
It seems that a large part of balance has to do with 1) the strengthening of the core muscles, and 2) relaxing into the stride. It’s that second one that caught my attention. Anxiety, as I’m sure it is for many people, has been my Achilies’ Heel, not just physically, but also mentally. Each affects the other. So, my first response when I feel as though I would fall off is to tense up. But this is the exact wrong response. Not only does it affect the muscles, but it also communicates to the horse a sense of unease — the last thing a horse needs. (Remember, they’re prey animals, always on the run from a predator who would make lunch out of them.)
The key is to relax those muscles. Breathe. This for me, at first, is counter-intuitive. So, now I have the task of unlearning some of that anxiety – or at least, learning a new way of responding to it.
Not only physically, but also “interiorly” (if that’s a word), this rings true. Anxiety has a way of “unseating” us, in more ways than one. Not only from the saddle, but from that sense of equanimity we all need in order to function at our best in the world. It has a way of scattering our mind, causing us to lose focus. In the Bible, whenever the word “devil” is used, the original Greek is diabolein, literally “to cast across” or “to scatter”. So anxiety can be our enemy if we let it. What do we do when an enemy is present? We resist. How do we do that?
First, the enemy wants to hinder our progress. So he will use our natural reactions against us. In this case, anxiety causes me to tense up. The answer: make a conscious effort to thwart that enemy by deliberately relaxing. In essence, you’re saying, “I’m not going to let you get the better of me. I have a say in this, as well.”
For Christians, this is not simply wishful thinking or “acting as though” we’re not afraid. This is relying on almighty God, putting our very lives in His Hands, knowing that He has everything under His control and power, even the horse. What’s the worst that could happen? I fall off the horse? If so, I just need to remember to roll away from the hooves so I don’t get trampled. Falling off would not be the worst thing. It may even strengthen my resolve to get back on and try again.
The other lesson is the “Two Point” position. This is pushing my muscles beyond their comfort zones. How else will I be able to grow? The Bible often talks about conversion, metanoia – going beyond the mind you already have. They say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. So, I welcome the pain that comes with muscle strain. It says that I’m moving forward.
And, as I always say as I start riding (my lingo), “OK, Horsey! Go!”