Zen and the Art of Horseback Riding

by Phyllis Coletta

Horses inspire awe and fear in many people, given their massive girth and noted unpredictability. They are, therefore, one of the best teachers we have available to us. Any time we fear something it has power over us. Horses are bred to serve and in fact this service gives them pleasure. Learning to ride a horse, therefore, is less about domination than servitude. If we can appreciate the horse's mission and work with him, riding becomes a shared pleasure.

Surprisingly, men are often more afraid of riding than women. The vast majority of riders under the age of 18 are girls, and much has been written about the psychology of horses and adolescent girls. It is surprising indeed to see a tiny, bony 12 year old standing with confidence next to a 1200 pound mare, both of them swishing their pony tails. Typically, grown men have more muscle mass than women yet they show more fear in approaching a horse, being bred themselves to believe that physical strength means domination and, perhaps, pain. This is why learning to ride a horse is enormously beneficial, and not just for men. Horses challenge us to reevaluate our traditional notions of strength and power.

Like most animals and humans as well, horses respond to love and work best in an atmosphere of acceptance and peace. When approaching a horse, experienced riders and tough old cowboys alike are likely to speak softly, make their presence known early, and convey their desire to be with the horse. There is nothing threatening about the approach of a human unless the human makes it so. Horses are prey animals, not predators, and therefore they are pretty scared of the smallest and silliest things, particularly those things that sneak up on them. This is why horses have a reputation for unpredictability; they shy (or "spook") at the rustling of leaves or the presence of a bee. If I weighed 1200 pounds I don't suppose I'd be afraid of anything but this is one of nature's great ironies: horses are scaredy-cats. It is incumbent upon the rider, therefore, to convey calm and confidence.

When I first moved from the East coast to Colorado I was full of East-coast energy. Everything I did, I did in a big hurry. Needless to say, this didn't bode well for my equine friends. If I came careening into the corral to catch and ride a horse, the herd just moved away from me. It was enormously frustrating for awhile, until I learned to change my inner energy. Now, I can simply stand still and the horses come to me.

This is typical of the lessons we can be taught by horses, lessons unavailable to us in our office, homes, and busy lives. Working with a horse, you learn to change your inner awareness even before you come to the barn. Riding a horse is all about changing your Self and there is nothing more amazing than the synchronicity of moving in rhythm with such a strong and willing animal. Every step of the way, in riding a horse you are developing yourself. There is no need to fear these awesome animals although, like the ocean, the mountains or any other force of nature they are to be respected for their strength. However, unlike other forms of natural strength the horse is there to serve us.

If you decide to challenge yourself with this lesson, start slowly and calm down from there. You will find peace and sweetness in the act of grooming. You will learn to saddle slowly and with care, watching out for the horse's well being the whole time. She will respond to this peace and caring, and try to ride well for you. Take your fear to the barn, friends, and let another species teach you the truth about power.

Phyllis Coletta is a "recovering lawyer," writer, cowgirl, teacher and an inspiration to folks everywhere, especially at Bear Basin Ranch where she and her partner run KB Mountain Adventures. To learn more visit http://www.kbmountainadventures.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/