There are a lot of things these days that can making getting to the barn difficult, or even impossible. Hey, from experience, it even can happen when your barn is in your backyard! Work, kids, spouse, meals, extended family, friends, fitness, errands, household repairs and chores, appointments—you name it, they take time, and pretty soon the hours you planned to spend with your horse have dissolved into a few minutes at the beginning and end of your day.
But that old argument for quality versus quantity gets a nod here, because of course both your horse and you can benefit from a short visit—if, that is, that visit is one where you are fully present. And with text vibrating away in your pocket and the mental clocking ticking down in your head, therein lies the modern equestrian challenge: Quiet, focused, undisturbed, tech-free-time with you-know-who. (And don’t forget the carrots.)
In her latest book RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, horsewoman Melinda Folse explores the various traps we fall into as imperfect life and imperfect bodies sap the joy we once found beside or on a horse. Stress, feeling “overwhelmed” and out of control, and the unhappiness with “self” that often goes along with it, can play a big part in keeping us out of the saddle. Here’s one powerful exercise she provides, which she learned from licensed therapist Jill Valle, who was trained at The Mind Body Medical Institute at Harvard Medical School and has run a 15-year private practice, focusing on women and adolescents and body image issues.
The exercise is as easy as 5-3-1…
Any time you catch yourself feeling anxious, upset, or overwhelmed. Stop, take a deep breath, and then ask yourself:
• What are 5 things I see in the room or barn or arena around me?
• What are 3 things I hear?
• What is 1 thing I feel?
Valle says that using this exercise when we feel like the wheels are spinning too fast takes us out of our “loops,” returning us to the present moment by making us “observers.”
In RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, Melinda Folse admits she often feels “overwhelmed by my life’s magical roller coaster ride,” and so she gave 5-3-1 a try.
“At work I got a pop-up reminder that the farrier was coming later that afternoon, so I left my office early, picked up my daughter from school, and headed to the barn,” she writes. “On the way I got a business call deemed ‘extremely urgent’ that necessitated an evening ahead full of damage control. As I pondered this mess, my daughter informed me she had nothing to wear to an important event the next day (oops), and I looked down to discover my inspection sticker was expired on my car. Did I mention we were out of hay?
“Taking a deep breath, I pulled into the parking area near our barn and immediately went for 5-3-1:
“5 things I saw around me? 1) Horses grazing in a turnout pen; 2) the barn manager welding something on his trailer; 3) a friend giving her horse a bath in the washrack; 4) another friend hand-grazing her horse; 5) kittens playing on the clubhouse lawn.
“3 things I heard? 1) The buzz and popping of the welding equipment; 2) horses in the pen behind me running down the fence line; 3) a tractor coming back from raking the arena.
“1 thing I felt? Warm sun beating through the windshield of my car.
“Did this exercise change any of my circumstances? Not at all. But somehow, everything suddenly felt more doable….The turning point toward calm control was Valle’s 5-3-1.”
You can find more easy, horse-life-changing exercises in RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.