This year, my goal was to focus on living more consciously — closer to the earth, using more natural products, eating less processed foods, and trying to have more awareness in my everyday life. With my dream of a slower-paced renaissance lifestyle fueling this desire, images of horses and people horseback riding continued to make their way onto vision boards.
But I never rode horses as a kid, and have only been on one a small handful of times as an adult, so I needed a little help to get this dream off paper. Gratefully, my friend Mckenzie, a trainer at Mill Creek Equestrian Center offered to show me the basics at their beautiful Malibu ranch.
My first formal lesson was a surprisingly focused practice in conscious living. In Mckenzie’s words, “riding is an unseen, unspoken language of subtleties in which the rider and horse are to be harmonious.” (I just love that.) Every action with a horse must be deliberate– how you mount, where you stand, where youre looking, how you’re breathing, even where you tighten in your body. After awhile these things become like second nature, but as a beginner, it took every ounce of energy to stay present!
During our practice of steering, trotting and posting, here are a few of the lessons I took away on conscious practice, courtesy of Mckenzie and Gimli:
Mount from the left. (This comes from Medieval times when all knights were right-handed, wore their swords on the left and therefore mounted from the left as to avoid poking their horse. It’s crazy that it’s still done this way after all these years!)
Always look ahead in the direction you want to go, not at your horse or down at the ground. Your gaze leads your arms, which lead the reigns, which leads the horse. I like this an an analogy for life too- keep your eye on where you want to be, not stuck on where you are.
Be ready for surprises. Riding a live creature means that you’re never in complete control. Like riding a wave, you just kind of have to be prepared to go with whatever happens.
Tighten your core and calves and keep your wrists straight to help with steering. I was shocked at just how much body awareness is needed to keep from falling off a horse! Fortunately practicing yoga offered a good foundation of body-conciousness but the next day I was crazy sore!
Let the horse lead you. Although you want to maintain control, your horse sets your rhythm. Being open and flexible to the horse’s change in gait allows for fluid motion instead of a bumpy ride.
Up on the hilltop, it was hard not to want to burst off the trail and into the woods. Thank you so much for the beautiful experience Mckenzie!
If you’re interested in learning more about horses, trying riding lessons or are interested in competing, please reach out to Mill Creek. They have affordable pricing and a lovely staff to match their gorgeous location.