I can hear you now – you’re groaning… the path?? How can “the path” be fulfilling?
You might ask: doesn't “the path” translate to tedious repetitions, lack of acknowledgement or recognition, stumbling blocks, frustrations, steps backward more than forward, and all the other associated negativities that occur when something is practiced day-to-day, week-to-week?
What about the glory of the goal, the clear, final call of reaching the destination, the accolades and the photo finish? How about the sense of accomplishment, the personal gain, the reward of achievement?
Well, you’re right of course. Goal setting is paramount in all activities, especially if they are long-term and difficult to complete. Without a sense of where we want to go, there would be no ‘path’ to speak of. And we all require and crave (at some level) for a sense of recognition and a feeling of a job well done.
But in horse riding, the majority of the time is spent on the path itself. The achievement of goals are short and fleeting, maybe because the horse is a living and breathing entity unto himself, and he has opinions, desires and interests that may not match yours! It is well known that there is a horse somewhere, sometime, that will humble every person. I would argue that the lessons learned from those horses might be the most meaningful of all.
Often, those lessons are not technical in nature. Rather, they teach us about our ability to persevere, to be patient, to set aside personal desires and ego, and so many other deep lessons that are essential in developing wholeness of being and strength of character. They develop our very human-ness and sense of place in the world.
And so, the next time you find yourself stuck on an exercise, struggling to achieve your next desire, and falling flat on your face (hopefully not literally) despite all your effort and dedication, try to step back and see the whole picture. What path are you on? Where have you been and where are you now? How does your current place in the (horse) world fit with where you want to be? What can you do to take just one tiny step closer to the end goal?
And remember, as E. Joseph Cossman put it so well, "The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night's sleep." Sleep on it, and go at it again the next day.
And enjoy the path!
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What You Ought to Know About Instant Gratification in Horse Riding: There is no such thing! Stay in for the long haul or get off!
Top Nine Ways to Prevent Your Horse From Finding His “Happy Place” in Riding: A (mild) rant about the many reasons why horses might not perform to our expectations.
Too Good To Be True? Finding Your Horse’s “Happy Place”: A follow-up to the above post, this time focusing on what TO do to improve your horse’s performance.