On Sunday Toby and I braved the unseasonable wind and ventured out into the unknown on our first off property trail ride. We followed Mel and Jake down the neighborhood lane where trash cans lurked around corners and large rocks stood as sentinels. The little paint looked at each new object with cautious curiosity but never spooked.
As we wound through the wooded path he eagerly stepped out, I think enjoying his new vocation. He flit from one side of the trail to the other trying to take in all the new sites, smells and sounds. It was like trying to ride a butterfly in the breeze. He carefully picked his way through the rocks but when it came to move around the long limbs of a cholla my leg cues became ineffective. I ended up dismounting and leading him around the cactus, there was no need to make this pleasant afternoon a disaster. When we made the turn back for home Jake began to jig and bounce. We stopped and Mel worked him through one of his nervous moments, Toby waited patiently like a seasoned trail pony.
Our decent down the hill proved to be my mounts biggest nemesis. Although he willingly accepts a rider, he’s still learning how to carry their weight. As my center of balance moved over his shoulders he naturally turned across the hill to traverse. I instead pointed him back down the slope and offered him steady support as he learned to bring his haunches under his body.
We retuned back to the barn with a sweaty saddle pad and an itchy backed horse. This big outing had left Toby tired and me with a list of arena work, legs cues there at the top. It’s back to schooling for us but Toby and I sure did enjoy our first field trip.
Not every training ride goes as planned. Toby and I have graduated from the arena to riding around the property. We were following Mel and Jake over logs, around trees, and Toby was handling every obstacle like a champ. I became over confident and thought it was a great idea to video our awesome training ride. As the horse in front disappeared around a corner Toby became nervous and wanted to catch up. I was busy playing videographer instead of trainer. When I added my leg to aid Toby around the large cactus bush, he didn’t pick up on the cue and aimed strait for the cholla. I’m pleased to report that both horse and rider avoided the prickly, instead I escaped with only a mouth full of pine needles from a near by piñon tree. When I’m asking a horse to learn they deserve my full attention. Although it was Toby’s training, I’ve definitely learned my lesson.
I’ve embarked on a new endeavor. When our yoga instructor Nicole moved to Kansas City I decided to take over her position. Following in Nicole’s footsteps, I signed up for the ten month, 200 hour course at Grassroots Yoga here in Albuquerque. For years I have been doing my best downward dog in class and adding in a YogaGlo session to my work out plan. The transition into instructor should be as easy as a vinyasa flow. Although my natural flexibility and strength has carried me through many sessions, this course proved that I have mearly been splashing in the toddler pool of yoga.
The yoga philosophy can be as intimidating as the deep end of the swimming pool with a sky scraping diving board. To even contemplate the idea of standing on that high dive and delving into the true depth of yoga, I must first learn to swim. With a head overflowing and body aching, I ended my first weekend of classes with one solid precept, everything in life must start with a foundation. In yoga that foundation is Tadasana, or Mountain Pose.
Tadasana, the act of standing… so that all other asanas can be achieved.
Tadasna, the act of standing, grounds the feet, engages the shins and thighs, stacks the pelvis, lifts the belly, broadens the collarbone, draws back the shoulder blades, lengthens the neck and aligns the head so that all other asanas can be achieved. When one element is left out the body sinks, much like swimming without kicking. No matter what plank or dancing warrior I enter into, every pose has elements of Tadasna. When I’m wobbling in a standing asana, I can refer back to Tadasana to adjust and stabilize my balance. This asnasa gives me a place to trust in order to achieve more complicated poses and the confidence to push myself through intimidating asanas, such as Half Moon.
Groundwork, the act of establishing communication between horse and rider… so all other schooling can be achieved.
As I lay in shivasana one morning, waiting for my body to absorb the practice, I started to contemplate the similarities of yoga and horse training. With any new horse I start training with groundwork, because it builds a foundation out of many different elements, much like Tadasana. Groundwork, the act of establishing communication between horse and rider, grounds the feet from rearing, engages the legs in movement, lifts the belly to elongate the back in work, and aligns the head so all other schooling can be achieved. If one element is rushed then the horse can become confused and panic like a drowning swimmer. So when my horse refuses to step into a stream, I can refer back to the elements of a well built foundation in order to adjust and stabilize the forward movement. This trust built between horse and rider will give them both the confidence to push through uncomfortable situations, such as crossing a water obstacle.
Whether it is diving into the pools of yoga or crossing a puddle on horseback, with a solid foundation neither will seem so deep. A foundation is formed slowly, methodically, and by mastering one element at a time. Once established it will be the cornerstone of all other challenges and the basis to return to. The more I learn about the philosophies of yoga the more it coincides with my philosophies of horse training, and both can be applied to life. Live in the now, don’t be in a hurry, and kindness is the root of communication. I am excited to further my understanding of the correlation between horse and rider as I finish my instructor course. Please keep a look out for more Equi Yogini musing.
He said, "Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." -Roald Dahl