I know what I am doing. When things get tough, I get busy. Since the death of my husband, Sam, I've been hiding in a flurry of activity....lessons, clinics, showing, judging. When I have down time, I hit the gym, preferring intricate cardio routines that occupy my brain as well as tax my body. In moments of stillness, sadness lingers, and so I keep running to avoid them. But, running one hundred miles per hour forever does not lend itself to long-term health or happiness. Regular doses of equine therapy are just what the doctor ordered.
For me, riding is akin to mounted mediation. My horse, Decadance, is undergoing treatment for EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis). This disease causes muscle atrophy, affects coordination, and is a cause of intermittent lameness. Slow and careful walk work is a critical component of his recovery, requiring from the rider a mindfulness and awareness that grows and flourishes in calm and quiet.
And so, I ride and forget all the other responsibilities which typically confine me. At first, I focus only on my breathing. I inhale deeply, and then exhale, acknowledging but not allowing internal dialogue to distract me. As thoughts float in and out of consciousness, my last lesson, my next client , a new project, I escort my awareness to what I'm sensing, seeing, feeling.
The sun shines warmly on my skin as Decadance strides out underneath me. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four beats the rhythm; I hear the sound of each hoof crunch as it hits the sand. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, being completely in the moment, letting go of tension, being present.
We walk forward, inhale, exhale. Decadance lowers his head, blows out and releases. I maintain a steady tempo, feeling his hind legs engaging, lifting, lowering. Reach, stretch, lift, lower, his strides grow longer, his back is swinging. Breathing in, breathing out, we march, now bend, now straighten. Rhythm, relaxation, connection, hind legs stepping under seat bones, I feel the energy flow from my seat out to my hand.
This is not random riding, this is total body conditioning work. With each step, I think about the forward, the frame, the balance. I sense each footfall and it's place in space and time. Decadance is blanketed with the aids, enveloped softly and gently guided. Circles must be round, correct in size and placement, corners and straight lines ridden accurately and precisely. We leg yield forward and sideways, always thinking about the alignment. Shoulder-in is performed on three tracks, with consistent bend and angle. It's not just if we go but how we go, we gymnasticize as we exercise. We want fluidity; we want grace. We want harmony in movement.
With each ride, we grow stronger as we walk the path of rehabilitation and recovery. We do not rush; we do not hurry. Deadlines do not define us. With each session, Decadance improves in coordination and in confidence. I find myself in a place of acceptance and inner tranquility. There is a power and yet a peace in walk work that enriches and rewards us. We are where we need to be. Taking time,, being present, conscious and content with one another, we heal each other as we slow dance.