Learning to Ride Horses Can Help You better Navigate Life
Learning how to ride horses has a number of benefits, but one benefit you may not have been aware of is that the skills you learn while working with horses can translate into your everyday life. Learning horsemanship skills and riding skills is unique in one very specific way, and that is that you are working with a very large, sentient animal. One way that horses have survived and continue to survive is their high level of awareness. This elevated level of consciousness provides humans with instant, honest feedback from horses. Below you will find 4 life lessons you can gain from your time on a Montana Guest Ranch.
1. Pressure and Release
One way that horses are rewarded is when a person releases the pressure they are applying to the horse. What this means is that when you want a horse to do something, like go forward for example, you apply pressure with your legs and as soon as the horse moves forward you must stop applying pressure. If you continue to apply pressure you will be on the farthest mountain top while the rest of your riders are still enjoying the scenery behind you. In life, just like with horses, people have to find the balance of knowing when to apply pressure and when to release the pressure.
2. Set your Intentions
Horses interact with their surroundings by picking up their herd’s energy and the energy of predators around them, so when you get on a horse it is important that you are clear with your hopes and intentions. If you are thinking this horse is going to take off and not pay attention and you are spending all your energy on that thought, there is a good chance that may be the exact thing that will happen. Now, if you get on the horse and set your intentions on doing your best and enjoying your ride, that is more likely to be the outcome. This is the same in life, if you put thoughts into the universe they often come back to you; it is important to be mindful about your thoughts and actions.
3. Lead with Assertiveness
Horses have a very well developed hierarchy in their herd. The purpose of this hierarchy to to survive predators or dangerous situations. This hierarchy is based on leadership abilities. A horse, as a prey animal, depends heavily on leadership to survive. Prey animals look to their human as a leader, so assertiveness and confidence are important characteristics to a horse. If a person gets too pushy or aggressive with a horse, the horse will not feel safe. This is actually the same with a passive person, if a horse can push a person around, the horse will know that that person is not equipped to keep them safe, therefore this person is also considered unsafe. Now, if a person is assertive and respectful to the horse, they create an environment that shows the horse they are able to maintain their role as leader and therefore create a safe space for the horse.
4. Get Aligned
The last lesson that can be learned by horses is an important and unexpected one. Horses feel safest when they are around people that are aligned. What this means is that when a person’s insides match their outsides, they are aligned. An example of this would be if you are terrified to get on a horse, but you decide to act fearless the horse will pick up on this inconsistency and begin to feel uncomfortable. This is not because horses are wanting people to be more honest with their feelings and thoughts, rather it is because the horse depends so heavily on understanding energy that when a person is not aligned, they are picking up mixed signals and this causes them to feel uneasy.
If you are feeling terrified, the best thing you can do is just be honest with yourself. To get aligned all you have to do is acknowledge what is happening for you internally and then move on. If you are in this situation and you’re feeling fearful of the horse, your internal monologue could sound something like this, “I am feeling nervous around this giant animal.” At that point it is best to take a deep breath and move forward. When people do this, horses often show signs of moving into the parasympathetic nervous system. This means they move out of flight or fight and into a state of relaxation, this is evidenced by the horse licking their lips, putting their heads down or releasing a big breath. Living a life aligned is a wonderful way to live, but there really is not many options for honest, instant feedback as to how to reach this state. Horses can provide that environment.
Many guest ranches and dude ranches offer horsemanship skills that would help one develop and foster the skills mentioned above. For example, Upper Canyon Outfitters offers an Equine Facilitated Learning class that focuses on leadership and personal development. But even if you do not take a guided class on these skills, the horses are there to be life coaches!
*Blog written by Cassie Ubaldo. Cassie is the Equine Program Coordinator at Upper Canyon Guest Ranch. She has her undergrad in psychology and a master’s in education. She has found a way to mix her formal education with her love of horses.