It’s been foggy the last couple of days, which restricts most of us to the arena for safety. It can be frustrating; I had planned to hack today, but really it’s a blessing in disguise.
The week before the clocks went back I was up early riding Llani – in the arena by 6am – in the pitch black. I had the lights on which light up half the arena, and he went really nicely; focused on what I was asking, and I had to really switch on my senses as I had to listen to the regularity of his gaits, feel for relaxation or tension, and feel the bend or straightness of his body as opposed to using my eyes and visual clues.
I noticed the same thing teaching a girl and her pony one evening; the pony is usually very nosey, looking at everything around her, but when you can’t see outside the arena, it’s easier to focus on the job in hand! They got the best work I’ve ever seen from both of them that evening.
In today’s fog I had exactly the same experience with Otis. We were both oblivious to others walking past, horses in the fields, and any other distraction which just takes a fraction of our attention. It sounds silly, and is probably from working with children and young horses, but I am always aware of my environment – alert for early signs of disruptions or distractions, so that I can move children into a safer area or change the exercise slightly (for example, when you’re about to canter a novice child and realise that someone is leading their excitable horse past the fence line. So you do another lap of trot!). The same goes with a green horse.
Anyway, I’ve realised that riding with poor visibility actually helps you fill your mind with your riding – mindfulness, I think psychologists call it. It’s the ability to completely forget about the rest of the world and immerse yourself in your horse and workout.
I’ve only ever found this mindfulness a handful of times. At an event once, and usually when riding early in the morning or late on a winters night. Obviously not being able to see the world helps me forget about it and any pressures fade away, which usually means that I get the best work out of the horses and feel really satisfied with both of us.