And as crazy as this sounds, there are many people who ride and work with their horses in just this way. I call it “Defensive riding”. Heck there are a lot of folks who live their lives like this.
I’ll explain. Unlike defensive driving, which most driving instructors would encourage, defensive riding, is riding or working with your horse in such a way where your focus is solely on keeping bad things from happening, such as bucking, running off, charging or prancing through the bit. When one rides like this they have a hard time relaxing. Anxiety tends to build up, their shoulders and legs are tight. They react, often times over- react, to every move the horse makes that they didn't plan for. At these moments they tend to jerk rudely on the reins with very little intention in mind. And after a bit their reins tend to be tighter and tighter, sometimes hanging on their horses mouth, riding in hopes of avoiding any behavior that scares them. And more times than not, this anxiety causes the very problems and behaviors they are trying to avoid.
Instead you’d want to ride “offensively”. You’ve asked the horse to join you on this ride. maybe you’ve asked for your horses help in achieving a task. When you’re riding offensively you are constantly checking in with your horse. “Are you soft here?”, “can you bend or flex here?”, “will you yield to me here?”. Its a conversation where you are checking in to see how your horse is. With some work it becomes a dance, with you taking the lead. Your horse is now a part of the conversation rather than wondering what’s around every bend, or looking for the first opportunity to take over.
Before a horse does anything silly or dangerous, he has to prepare his body. And before, sometimes a split second before, he makes his move, his body tightens. Much like a sprinter setting up at the start line. A sprinter cant do very well in a race if they start while leaning , relaxed against the stadium wall. they have to get their body in position and controlled before they can make a powerful move off the line. That is why those dangerous things that horses do NEVER come out of no where as many like to think.
In checking in and engaging your horses mind you not only avoid all the things you were afraid of, but you achieve a nicer moving, responsive, nice minded horse. Not to mention you will also enjoy yourself, I promise.
Similarly folks who live their lives like this, do so in an attempt to avoid things like disease, getting fired, having their hearts broken. They live their lives in total fear. Some like to call this fear “safe’, or “practical”, or “realistic”. No matter what folks like to call it, they rarely if ever, will allow themselves to take the chances in their careers they may feel inspired to take. which might be what skyrockets their career to the next level. Or maybe that risk allows you to start something new that makes your heart sing. This fear also never allows you to take a chance on a relationship that may become a great partnership, a friendship, or a lifelong love.
Start making decisions today that create what you want in your life and in your horses, rather than avoiding or protecting yourself from what you don’t. Because the fact is, just like driving by staring in your rear view mirror, living and riding to avoid your fears will never get you to where you want to be. Whats driving you decisions today with your horses or life? Are you making decision from a place of fear or are you moving towards something?
Engage today and enjoy the ride
See you all down river.