When I was five years old, I let the world carry me. Free of adult responsibility, the days were filled with wonder, curiosity and a sense of discovery. I remember that recovery was quick from most disappointment. And distractions were clues to the next adventure. I took joy in the small things. Accomplishments were celebrated in small increments. And lofty goals were dreamed of with a touch of vigor and excitement. I enjoy remembering when I was five years old.
As a trainer, I ride many horses but I am teaching, guiding and refining the horse that I’m on. Although I love riding, when I am training, I’m in a working mode and can get caught up in the “work” of it. When I get tired of puzzling out how to get a desired response from a horse, I ride like I am five. I let go of the need to make the decisions, teach something new, and get the perfect response. It is during that magical moment that the horse gives the best answers and solves the hardest problems. It is when I most enjoy my ride.
When I ride like I am five, I giggle and smile. The ride is no longer about how to reach a desired goal. It becomes a game of discovery instead. I am no longer riding for the sake of getting the horse to do this or that. Instead, I am allowing the horse to carry me from one place to another. I become a passenger with a ticket to discovery.
This letting go of control and trusting my horse frees up the horse to do their job, think on their own and relax under me. I can think from the horse’s perspective and feel with clarity the feet moving under me.
When I ride like I am five, I become a centaur. My body blends into the horse and I am moving along with four feet instead of two. I no longer think about cues. I just think about getting from one place to another. If I don’t make it the first time, I just try again giggling the whole way. Mistakes are no longer mistakes. They are tiny increments to celebrate as we move towards a larger accomplishment, an opportunity to practice using my centaur legs. This is the way to making mistakes with a happy heart, smiling as I learn.
Riding this way reminds me that it is never the horse’s fault. It allows me to participate on a deeper non-mechanical manner. And I am able to maintain a secure balance while the horse carries me. The reins are slack with soft contact and the horse is relaxed.
I tell my students to ride like they are five but some struggle to let go of the decision making and control of each step. It is hard for them to trust that the horse wants to do the job and is willing to align to personal desires. I remove the reins from their tight grip and lead their horse around the arena. Only the adults say at first they feel silly. But then their inner five year old begins to show through. Their concerns melt away. They relax into the gentle movement of a walk and their wonder shines through. I hear a lot of “Oh, I’ve never felt that before” or “I didn’t realize I moved with my horse that way.” By the time we are done with the lesson, I am vicariously riding with them, giggling and smiling like I am five.
Ride like you are 5 years old.