Why slow is smooth & smooth is fast
Did you know that studies showed that keeping deep focus is only possible for a limited amount of time? The average number among TOP-students at University was 18 minutes. After that, they took short breaks, especially unaware ones. Starting to chat with the neighbour, watching out of the window, taking a sip of water, going to the bathroom. The mind always finds a way out.
Hopefully, when training with our horses, we enjoy it more than taking an exam. But I think you understand the message. If that’s the numbers, how can we expect of our horses (and ourselves, too) to be present, focused and shard for up to 60 minutes?
Overstimulation is the enemy of focus
The modern world is exposing human brains to overstimulation. We are rarely away from our jobs, always reachable and connected with the world. I don’t know how it is going for you, but I am somewhere around 200-300 messages on my phone per day, not considering email.
Distraction is a symptom of overstimulation
When I have a big event coming up, or experience a busy time in my business, I catch myself checking Facebook 30 times a day, and I cannot remember a single thing afterwards. During riding, suddenly my shopping list pops up in my brain. The brain zooms out, taking the required break on its own when we are not willing to give it some time off.
Creativity needs space
Interesting enough, the best ideas though for my next clinic, next speech or blog I have when disconnecting. When fresh and recharged after a great yoga, under the shower or on a hike out in nature when staring into the fire.
How can we use this for a better Horsemanship?
The brain is a muscle. It needs regular stimulation and training to learn how to focus. When I am training a horse, young or old, the first thing I am training with them in the arena is focus.
The arena is a classroom
I use the arena, indoor or outdoor, as a classroom, where humans and horses can develop and learn with each other. Focus is the lesson to learn, as I expect my ponies to listen to me during class as much as I listen to them. At the start, most horses find it difficult to focus already for a couple of minutes.
Don’t mix up an attentive and easy horse with a tired one. An attentive one is easy to teach. It will remember the lesson learned from last time, and after a quick memorizing the rider can contiune with its learning schedule.
For a tired one, it is impossible to learn. The brain is too tired to understand. Therefore, the horse is not capable of memorizing the session next time, and the rider experiences no development. Than the same exercises need to be rehearsed again and again.
A good rider always is a good teacher towards its own horse. What do you need for filling up your batteries? What do you need for being aware and focused with your horse? What do you need to find a structure and being a good teacher for your horse?
The art of taking good breaks
I weave in regular breaks into my practice. I am doing that for myself and my horse when riding on my own. I am doing that as well when teaching. My students most likely will recognize that often during lessons, when they mastered a difficult or new piece, I will stop them and tell a little anecdote. Or I will lead them back on safe ground. Anyway, I will give their brains and focus a break. With fresh mental focus, they are set up for success again. The brain learns and memorizes faster by success.
Setting up the schedule for success is my strategy as a rider, too. I have learned to listen to my body and to listen to my mental focus. During each training, but as well during my week schedule I have days for just hanging out with my ponies or giving a little massage. Forcing myself through a schedule has never led to anything good.
I like taking a break after my first warm up. I like taking a break when something very difficult was very good. And I like ending the day’s session when my horse and I feel like on a cloud.
You might be worried to lose momentum when taking breaks. That’s a reasonable thing to argue. Nobody forces you to take breaks every 5 minutes. Use the breaks for training your awareness, not against your flow moments.
Stillness in body, mind & soul
Ideally, we find a stillness together with the horse in body, mind and soul within the breaks.
My own practice for that is very different and depending on how I feel. Sometimes, I close my eyes for a moment. Sometimes, I focus on my breath. A deep breath into my stomach, filling up all for corners of my chest, and an active breath out. Taking a moment of stillness before the next cycle of breath comes in naturally. On other days, I focus on readjusting my balance in the break, or cuddling my super hero pony.
Get a regular practice for good breaks that feel helpful for you. Be generous to yourself and your horse, take breaks and let your mind wander together.
You might find that difficult at the start. The moment you take a break you want to check Facebook or the shopping list pops up again. Recognize these thoughts and allow them to be there. An Indian saying is
“If a thought comes in, welcome it but do not invite it for a cup of tea.”
Enjoy the Journey!
Underneath there is space for your thoughts, your experiences , ideas.
How do you use breaks? Do you use breaks at all? What changes do you experience when including breaks in your routine?
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