Eventing Nation: On being present

When you ride are you fully “in the moment”? Lila Gendal explains why being centered is a prerequisite for being successful.

From Lila:

A couple nights ago I was curled up with my two favorite mini dachshunds next to a blazing fire place. One of those freezing cold rainy fall evenings where you want nothing more than to be inside, dry and warm. I sat there watching the second half of the Denver/Dallas game and I was actually glued to the television. What an incredible game, with one amazing play after another, after another. At one point, Peyton Manning basically launched the football ridiculously far (my official football terminology) and extremely accurately into the hands of some receiver I couldn’t tell you the name of. As I watched Peyton throw one amazing throw after another I thought to myself this guy has to be in the zone. He’s 100% focused and neither the annoying crowd, nor the weather, nor anything could break his concentration.

Wouldn’t you agree that this kind of determination and this kind of mind set is what separates the big guys from the small guys in the world of riding? The “big guys” I am referring to are a range of riders. You can be in the zone and be determined going grasshopper. I am not just talking about the upper level event riders… I am talking about anyone who makes things happen while on their horse. I can’t tell you how many times Denny has yelled at students, or anyone taking a lesson to BE MORE PRESENT! What does he mean when he says, be more present?

When Denny tells people to be more present he wants riders to really ride and manipulate their horse. He wants riders to be in the moment and execute. He does not want people to just sit on their horse like a sack of potatoes… he wants you to make something happen, which can be daunting to many.

Arbitrary example: Suzie comes over for a lesson. She just drove 45 minutes to get to Tamarack. She pulls her novice level TB/Percheron off the trailer. She gets on and starts warming up. Her horse is barely loping in the canter. Her horse looks as if he needs to lose 200 lbs and both Suzie and her horse are quite content in this mediocre lope she considers a canter. After she has, in her opinion, successfully warmed up her horse, Denny asks her to trot the small red and white cross rail, and then canter the green vertical. Suzie’s horse crawls over the cross rail and then chips into the vertical and pulls the rail. Denny stops Suzie and tells her you need to make this horse have a better canter. You need to make this horse have a canter that is adjustable and that gives you options. After 40 minutes of struggling and sweating both Suzie and her horse are finally making things happen.

Riding horses requires focus, determination and the will to learn. Riding requires us to be in the moment and present. When we are riding our horse on a Thursday at 2:12 p.m., we should not be thinking about our homework, or a deadline, or a meeting, or what we need to eat for dinner tomorrow night. We need to be thinking about riding our horse at that very moment on that very day. It’s very easy to half ride our horses and half push ourselves to become better riders. We all fall victim to partial riding. We need to get in the zone, whether or not we are going to be an upper level rider, or a beginner novice champion. We all need to focus and be present.


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