Therapeutic riding (TR) has broadened my world in wonderful ways. I began riding to heal some old Trauma related to loss. Learning to communicate with a prey animal that is both sensitive and so much bigger than me is helping me navigate other relationships with newfound respect for differences. As I better understand my horse's sensitivities, I have more respect for my own. Speaking "horse" is different than speaking "human." My brain and body get a workout!
Well, in TR, you start at the beginning.
It takes body and spoken language to communicate in "horse." I need to let my horse know what I need. Maybe you grew up with horses and have learned this already. Not me.
My knee jerk instinct is to hold onto my horse - hold on! In fact I need to learn to let go.
Whoa means stop. It's really important to know that I can stop. My horse needs to understand that "stop" is a priority command. STOP, don't take one step more, we need to stop NOW. I need to know that she knows this.
Squeezing in with my legs around my horse means "go."
Relaxing my legs and not squeezing in is part of the body language for "stop."
My knee jerk is to squeeze my legs in when I need to do something quickly like STOP.
I had been telling her "to go" with my body language, and "to stop" with my voice.
She knew I was confused. Like, "what's going on?"
First I had to learn what I was doing then learn to do it differently.
Now I have the steps but boy, not the timing. I'm in Slo Mo:
I think it through:
Sit back in the saddle
Hopefully my horse has already stopped
If not, pull back on the reins
Ideally these happen lickety split. Not yet.
In countless areas of my life, I have to go in Slo Mo, think it through, let go when my instinct is to hold on, recognize this moment NOW. STOP even for a moment. Pay Attention.
Learning how to "whoa" really comes in handy in not saying the first thing that pops in my head, for example. Not being stubborn when I'm just needing love. You know.
TR is offered in many, many places. If you're considering it as a therapeutic modality to tend to some wounds of your own, I recommend going with certified teachers. My teachers are PATH certified. There's an application process involved. Go for it!
If you are interested in horses, I loved this book, "Chosen by a Horse," by Susan Richards. It's a true story about how caring for a horse that came from a neglected owner, helped the author heal old wounds and trust, as her horse had trusted her.