My POKER FACE & BLANK SPACE
My POKER FACE is my emotion, and I do not let it react when I ride my horse.
My BLANK SPACE is the emptiness in my head when I ride. It is CLEAR and devoid of words and chatter.
How do you ride the spicy ones? I just hold my position and don't react. I wish I could write you a long blog post of tips and suggestions to get your emotions and mental chatter under control so that you're horse can hear you and your aids, but I can't seem to put the secret sauce into words other than two metaphors - that I ride with a Poker Face and a Blank Space.
I am a thinker, and I have a little voice in my head that chatters sometimes. But I also have control over my emotions and my mind, and I turn that button off when I ride, and you should too! How can you effectively communicate with your horse if you're still thinking about the dishes you left in the sink, how angry or discouraged you feel, or who you need to text when you get off the horse? A good focused rider is not going to be thinking like that when they are trying to accomplish something on a horse.
I am a bigger believer in living in the present moment. You are riding a 1200 lb horse and your safety depends on being focused and in the moment. Not the future or your goals, not the tantrum your horse had yesterday - just the present moment of now now now. What is "Now?" Or the better question is, "How do I find now?"
When I am riding and I catch my mind drifting I always use touch and sound to bring it back. I feel the reins with my gloves, I listen for the footfalls of my horse, and I redirect my mind to riding in the present moment. If it's not related to a sensation or feeling of now, then it's not the present.
Just a POKER FACE and BLANK SPACE.
Now let's talk about it applied to real life.
First, the POKER FACE. This is your emotional reaction to words, ideas, actions, etc. You know that person that makes big drama out of the weather? The opposite of that is the person that doesn't seem to react or be phased by the upcoming weather. You see, when I hear there is a big storm coming I don't react to it emotionally. I might react in ways that prepare me and my horses like putting blankets on, filling water troughs, etc, but I don't get emotional over it. Compare that with the person that has to tell everyone with words and robust energy that the BIG STORM IS COMING...
Now honestly tell me, which person do you think your horse is going to feel more comfortable with? Obviously, the person that doesn't react emotionally will help your horse feel safe and secure and the person reacting to the storm has already convinced your horse that we are all going to be eaten by tigers and die . So I challenge you to go through your daily life and ask yourself if you are reacting emotionally to the little things that happen throughout the day. It can be as simple as the feelings you get in your body when a text message comes through on your phone, or if you have a POKER face and you just let it roll off and let go.
The next is my BLANK SPACE.
You know when you want to think about a boy all the time? Or that person that drives you crazy keeps coming into your thoughts? Or the little voice inside of your head keeps chattering? I try to not let my mind think about those things. When I feel my mind wander like that, I actively push it out of my mind and focus on the feeling of the squishy mud under my boots or actively coiling up the hose to put it away. I try to live 100% in the moment. That means i'm not thinking about what happened on my horse yesterday. I am also not thinking about what is for dinner. I am ONLY thinking about riding my horse and being in the present moment. Are you?
I challenge you to go through your day tomorrow and try to catch yourself trying to think ahead or in the past and try to diligently bring your mind back to only being in the present moment. So can you ride with a POKER FACE and BLANK SPACE?
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Ashley is a dressage trainer and instructor that loves to train dressage and teach lessons.