The Compassionate Equestrian

August 3, 2015

For the benefit of all beings, through horses.


“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?”

Gabrielle Roth (1941-2012, American dancer and musician.)

Have you ever experienced one of those days where it seems like everything you do is “wrong?”
Your e-mails are misconstrued. Your best friend says something hurtful. You receive a complaint from a customer or someone with whom you don’t even have contact. Your gaze begins to lower. Your stomach tightens. Your smile fades. You had no intention of being anything other than kind and compassionate with people, yet, outside forces seem to have conspired to make you define yourself as “wrong.” You start to question your abilities and capacity to contribute to your field or peers.

You want to crawl under a rock and hide on such days. But somewhere, deep inside, you find the courage to say, “No. I did not mean to upset that person. I wasn’t ‘wrong.’” You try to fight back the feelings that arise when you begin to do battle with yourself, then more feelings flood back, and before you know it, your body and mind are both reeling from internal conflict.

Read the full blog on THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN BLOG, a blog written by Susan Gordon, a professional rider training eventing, hunter, jumper and dressage horses, and apprentices with other top trainers in her chosen disciplines.

Susan’s 5R dance with the horse as her partner:

Movement is meditation, medicine, and metaphor in the system of 5Rhythms. It is a way to transform chaos into creativity by attuning to patterns inherent in the natural world. All of life is energy in motion. Here is an exercise you can try that may help take your mind away from anxiety and stress, and into a place of creativity, playfulness, and joy as you put musical styling and specific intention to your ride…

The 5Rhythms™ are:

Flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, stillness

Extrapolating them to your riding, try this:

Flowing – mount with quiet intention, breathing deeply and sinking slowly into the saddle. Ensure that your horse is breathing with you. Then walk off, and listen to your horse’s footfalls. Connect and flow with the energy of the being below you. Be open and receptive to the feelings in your body as you merge with your horse.

Staccato – trot! This is the percussive gateway to the heart. Think of the earth, and feel the ground as the energy rises up through the now stronger and more forceful hoofbeats beneath you. Count the rhythm, and feel for a tempo that balances both you and your horse. This is truth, clarity, and what we stand up for. This is our strength, our “warrior” self, stepping out into the world.

Chaos – what is hard for you and your horse? Canter transitions? Lengthen stride? Circles? This might be messy. Keep a focus on your horse’s body language and potential for discomfort here. This is the journey from “I can’t,” to “I will.” There is freedom in light of your intention to create something from the movements. Play with your horse! Let go of preconceived notions and release tension in joints, in your reins, in your horse. He may surprise you by offering something you didn’t expect. Perhaps your lengthen stride attempt produces the best canter you’ve ever felt. Out of chaos, comes the “big dance”… the breakthrough.

Lyrical – fluid, creative repetitions of lateral movements. Subtle, soft, not asking too much, and never over-flexing or pulling. We are fair, and compassionate to the horse. The expression remains content as you find integrity and dignity in the exchange between you and your horse. In this clarity, and attention to details, we become lighter on our feet.

Stillness – free walk on a long rein. It is a mindful and humble ending to our energetic interaction with this marvellous animal that has agreed to participate in this exercise with us. Stillness doesn’t mean “stop moving,” rather, it is a continuous movement in slow motion that fuses the past, present and future and confirms the magic of the dance we have just created together. We are the vessel that contains our own wisdom, and that of the horse. Dissolve the free walk into a halt, sit for a moment in gratitude, take a breath, and dismount.

Even just visualizing this exercise may put you in a more positive place, or take your mind off something that is troubling. Listen to drumming, or chanting, and tap on a table, or your lap. Find your way to your loving inner self through movement and sound. It will not stop others from judging you unfairly, but it is a tool by which you can begin to bring mindful awareness to your brain’s normal hardwiring and how you can enact powerful, creative, and positive experiences that will possibly help you find some relief and freedom from negative emotions and self-judgments.

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