I used to ride twice a year with Lee Smith. It was always a great time. It was three days of being around horses, great people, and great food. We'd also stay in a hotel and got to hang out in the hot tub at night with a drink!
After the weekend, I'd come home and repeat the things we learned. The thing I always found interesting and a little frustrating was that I never rode quite as well as I did at the clinic. Why was that?
After pondering this, I believe it was because I was being told what to do. During the clinic, Lee would guide us through movements. Trot your horse. Stop your horse. Back your horse ten feet. You get the gist of it. When you're being told what to do, you don't have to think about the next step.
How often have you brought your horse into the arena and thought what should I do? Maybe I'm the only one, but I started talking to myself. Actually I'm not talking to just myself, I'm talking to my horse also. You may find me in the arena talking out loud, saying things like this: "Lower your head, take a step back, there you go. That side was a bit harder for you. Let's go to the easy side and than try the other side again. Can you step underneath yourself a bit more here? Bend here. There you go that was nice."
As long as I keep talking, I have to determine the next step. This gives my horse direction. She isn't waiting for the next step. It gives her a clear precise step by step guide to work through. If we say it out loud, our body begins to send the next direction to the horse.
Have you ever been on a horse and thought about trotting and the horse begins to trot? The reason for this is that our thought automatically directed our body to trot. The horse felt this and did exactly what we asked!
If you get nervous, talk your way through it. Our brain can only focus on one thought at a time. If you are talking, you can't focus on what is making you fearful. Talking also forces us to breath!!! So for all the riders out there who hold their breath, start talking to yourself. I once had a young child that I was giving a lesson too. He was so nervous that he was stiff as a board. I asked him to recite the ABCs and that instantly relaxed his body.
The next time you find yourself wondering what to do next, pretend you are giving a demo to a crowd. See how this changes your session with your horse.
If you ever stop out and find me talking out loud to no one but the horse, now you know why.