There is a lot of talk nowadays about visualizing your future so you can become the best you can be. Sports psychologist use visualization techniques to coach their athletes because the body has the ability to cement muscle memory when this is done along with physical training. Horse people also know that horses have an uncanny ability to detect the slightest shifts in weight or even to know the riders intentions so positive visualizations can bring on some very positive results.
Where I live it is the time of year where riders (without indoor arenas) get the itch for better riding weather so they can get back to riding regularly again. I used to ride year round but the last couple years as my art business gets busier and my teen agers schedules dictate my schedule more than ever I have not ridden nearly enough during winter months. I have begun to look forward to better footing in my arena, longer days and warmer weather so I can get back to riding.
Of course over the years another thing has happened. My not so athletic body has not gotten any MORE athletic. I will share with you my visualization techniques that help counter the barriers to the ultimate horseback riding experience.
I use what I call 'artistic visualization'. For those of you who are not artistic I will let you in on the inner workings of an artist's mind. It is not unlike a playground. Thoughts spin around the merry go round and catapult off into the clouds of fantasy on a regular basis. This happens whether the artists wants it to or not... it is the curse/blessing of an active creative mind. Most of the times it is a pretty fun place to be which is why many artists lose themselves into their work of creating and maybe don't do quite so well with the mundane things of life... like book keeping or keeping on a schedule.
In traditional visualization techniques a person is advised to see themselves as their best future (riding) self. Or something like that. I'm not too into sports. Or drills or schedules. This requires dedication, long hours and hard work. This requires setting goals and making charts and recording details.... you know.. kind of like bookwork.
The artist's way is a no stress method in which a person visualizes the best rider they think they are. You might need to read that again.... slight difference in wording but huge difference in methodology. See yourself as the best you already think you are.
Everyone has already had experience with this in their life but may have put it aside. Think back to your playground days. You'd run around knowing you were running as fast a s a streak of lightening! Now in reality you might of been the slowest kid on the playground but in your mind that did not matter. You were as fast as a streak of lightening!
Let's apply this to horseback riding. Many of horse enthusiasts consist of people reliving their childhood dreams. When my daughter was 3 I bought her (rescued) a sweet ancient pinto pony for her to learn horse handling skills on. I worked on my big horses and she would brush, lead, bath and clip her toothless, senior citizen pony Trixie. It was a wonderful introduction to horsemanship for her.
Her pony was too old really to actually ride but a 3 yr old does not have the physical abilities yet to really ride anyways so it was not an issue. On occasion we'd put a saddle on Trixie and Trixie would just plod along with my toddler on his back. Very safe and very slow but thrilling for my little girl.
We watched the movie The Black Stallion together one day. Actually as a 3 yr old she only watched ~~ the beach scene~~. Every horse person in the world knows the beach scene in The Black Stallion movie. A young boy rides a stunning beautiful black stallion along the beach and thru the waves bridle-less and bareback, galloping a wild stallion with his arms outstretched. It is breathtaking. And every horsewoman's fantasy. My little budding horsewoman saw that scene and said to me, "Look! That's just like Trixie and me!" My girl knew the value of visualizing the best you think you are.
An adult version goes like this:
A woman rides because she loves horses. Life is full and busy but horses are always a part of this life. Horses are a part of her life because their very essence is a calming thing in her busy life. Grooming and feeding and mucking are enjoyable activities to her. Rigorous training with long hours and a strict schedule doesn't fit into a life with kids, family, work and other commitments, plus that begins to sound a whole lot like 'work' and this horse life is for fun!
The woman has never quite given up her childhood dream of being an Olympic rider or a show jumper or a jockey. Her body, athletic ability, finances, life circumstances or a million other things would of pointed to the fact that she was never going to be these things anyways ... but for a few moment every time she rides she can visualize the best rider she thinks she is. She may be riding a not-so-athletic horse whose life circumstances would of dictated this horse was never going to be anything other than a trail horse or backyard horse but this does not stop her (or her horse) from thinking of themselves as a very fine horse and rider able to do mighty things and to look fabulous while doing it! Mane and tail flying, wind blowing their the rider's helmet (safety first even in fantasy!!! ) as they pirouette and prance along!
So you see this no stress method of visualization crosses all boundaries and is available at any moment to those who allow themselves to dream!
So ride your mighty steed with pride and Dream On! (This method even applies if your mighty steed is nothing other than a stick horse... just requires a bit more imagination.)
To see my equine visualizations come to life visit my web site at http://www.suesteiner.com/ If you ever care to have a concrete visual reminder of your dreams call me and I can paint it for you! :)
equine, animal artist and dreamer.