With Thanksgiving coming up I’ve been thinking of the ways that gratitude affects so many areas of our lives, including our riding and horsemanship. When it comes to working with our horses we often have so much to focus on that, more often than not, we put a ton of weight into the physical aspects of it, and neglect some of the mental aspects of it. I know I have! So let’s jump into why I think gratitude can improve our riding and horsemanship.
There are a number of awesome positive effects working with horses, and riding has on our mental health. For me, gratitude is the one that has always stuck out the most, with boosting my confidence being right behind it. I didn’t have money for training to work with horses when I got started, but even though I had to work for my time with horses, I am so grateful for every minute of it. Just thinking of all those goofy little faces I got to see every morning when I got my first barn job still brings a smile to my face.
From a mindset point of view, gratitude improves our awareness of the little things. It helps to get us into a positive state of mind simply by shifting our focus onto the things that have either gone well or by putting a positive spin on the things that didn’t go well so that we can learn from them. Gratitude helps to put everything into perspective, helping us to see the big picture. It helps us learn to be present at the moment, just like our horses.
Gratitude Is A Strength
Being grateful for something doesn’t mean that you settle for where you are at the moment, and never try to improve, it’s really quite the opposite. Anyone can be grateful for the big wins, but it takes a really strong person to come out of a bad round, and keep a positive outlook about what went wrong.
One of my recently learned, favorite concepts is the idea that we are never standing still. We are always either taking steps toward growth, and improving ourselves, or we are moving backward. That absolutely applies to our riding and horsemanship! It may sound stupid to think that being grateful for things like keeping your heels down during a lesson, not fidgeting with your hands as much, or posting the correct diagonal for 3 strides will actually improve your riding. But, gratitude is a part of growth, and the more you focus on something, the bigger that thing becomes. So why not make your main focus what is going well?
How To Practice Gratitude
So how can we apply gratitude in a practical way in our life so that we can see the benefits of it? One way is by writing it down, or if you prefer modern
technology you could simply speak it into your phone as a recorded memo, use speech to text, or take a video. If you are artistic you could draw, paint, sculpt, or collage it. The way you do it is entirely, and uniquely up to you.
For me I have to write it down, otherwise, my mind will get completely sidetracked. When I’m riding regularly I like keeping a detailed riding journal. For me, that has been an awesome way to track my improvement and make notes on what I want to work on in my next riding, or groundwork session. Plus I can easily write down a few things I was grateful for from the day while I’m at it.
Now the reality is, that some days, it’s hard to find something to write down. Either you were in a bad mood, your horse was in a bad mood, your trainer was in a bad mood, or you all tried your best, but just didn’t get the results you wanted out of your riding. Those are the days that make you examine yourself, your riding, or your horsemanship a little closer. By examining the little things you become more aware of them, causing you to be able to make adjustments while you are working with your horse the next time. Pretty soon you will start to be grateful for those seemingly negative little things because now that you are aware of them you have the opportunity to fix them.
An Example Gratitude List
I thought I’d share with you an example of one of my gratitude lists, that way you have something to go off of if you want to try it out for yourself. This one is based on my past 8 years working with different horses on different farms. It may be a little random, so I will explain some of them in parentheses.
Today I’m grateful for:
1 – For Flash! The horse that stole my heart. (His owner sold him, but I’d give anything to get to see him again.)
2 – For trotting horses! (I learned to ride on gaited horses, and 99% of that time was at a walk, for about 1 year, so getting to ride trotting horses is a huge deal for me!)
3 – For getting back in the saddle after a difficult year.
4 – For the friends who helped me regain my confidence with horses, and riding after that year.
5 – For all the experience, and learning I still have to look forward to. (The list of things I still want to do with horses is long, and always growing!)
Practicing gratitude, in even just this one area of your life, is something that will have a positive effect on every area in your life. Give it a try, list a few things you are grateful for, and notice how it makes your day a little brighter! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
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