Chelsea Canedy offers tips on horsemanship, training, mental training for riders, jumping, flatwork and beyond. Today, she discusses mental consistency and its importance to our horses.
In riding, and especially competing, we talk a lot about why consistency in the saddle matters. However, I most often hear riders discussing the physical aspect of consistency — consistency of seat, aids, ability to see a distance, etc.
I want to talk about mental consistency, and why your horse craves it so much.
Humans and horses like routine — we’re biologically wired to thrive in predictable conditions. Horses even more so than humans, since they are prey animals who are always on the lookout for things that are out of the ordinary, in case they pose a threat. For riders, one of the biggest ways to offer a predictable environment (even when the ring you’re riding in may be different, etc.) is to bring the same mood and energy to each ride.
Since horses are so sensitive and live fully in the present moment, they can truly feel your energy and mood. If you’re hopping on your horse every day with a totally different energy and they never quite know what to expect, they won’t be able to learn as easily.
Imagine if you’re a student, and every day your teacher acted and taught differently. Some days, they taught slowly and methodically, and spoke with a gentle voice. Other days, they seemed totally distracted and mumbled your math lesson to you while looking out the window. And then other days, they seemed agitated or even angry and shouted your lesson at you, or spoke too fast for you to absorb any of the information.
Those would be tough conditions to learn in, right? You’d probably spend the first half of the lesson trying to figure out what was going on with your teacher, instead of absorbing the information they were giving you.
If you haven’t established a daily centering routine — whether it’s a morning routine or a routine that you use just before hopping on — I’m here to tell you what a valuable tool this can be for your riding.
Routines are an excellent way to help you find mental consistency in the turbulence of day-to-day life. This helps you re-center yourself and approach your horse and your ride with the same calm, focused, fully-present mind, regardless of what your day might be throwing your way. Not only does this horse help you and your horse learn more effectively, but also it helps you get the most enjoyment out of your time together — which is what we all want!
Here’s a glimpse into my morning routine that I use before I get on my first horse:
- An important part of my morning routine is my meditation practice. I set aside 15-30 minutes to sit quietly and meditate, using simple practices to still my body, quiet my mind, and connect with my heart. I do have a meditation cushion that I sit on, but meditation looks different for everyone! You can start with just two minutes of noticing the sensations in your body as you sit still in a comfortable position and see what you notice. Be curious…it’s a practice, not a cure. Like anything worth doing, if you give it time and commit to consistency, you will notice positive changes.
- I try not to be on my phone first thing in the morning, before I do my morning practice. It makes my world feel a little less chaotic, and allows me to focus, so it’s helpful for me to give that little gift to myself. Otherwise, I find that I may meet the horses with a busier mind than intended.
- After I meditate, feed my children and have my own breakfast and coffee, I put on my riding gear and try to set an intention for the day ahead. I will do a bit of visualization before riding my horse, Albert, or any of the horses here for training — clearly seeing and feeling them going straight, forward, or whatever my goal is for the ride.
- Then, I find myself ready to head into the barn and meet my horses and clients with a calm, clear mind.
Chelsea Canedy is an event rider and trainer based in Wales, Maine, at her beautiful Unexpected Farm. Her training approach places a strong emphasis on understanding how horses learn, as well as rider mindfulness, and how that translates into better performance. Learn more about her at www.chelseacanedy.com