Friday, February 24, 2012

"To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders."

Frisco Bay-Las Vegas Winter  Fling 2012 Open High Point
I had a bad show, let's call a spade a spade. I can blame it on hormones-both mine and the horses'-but in reality, I let negative thoughts clutter my mind. I let it cause me to fail to ride well enough to fully sooth the emotions of my clients' horses well enough to put in good performances. I didn't do a bad job. I didn't do any harm to their educations, but I sure didn't present them in their best light. Or myself. Call it a case of serious spring fever if you'd like, but, how I handled it was always up to me. I let doubt and insecurity seep in and cloud my mental clarity. I tried to cover this up by attempting to be overly ebullient, overly vocal about my opinions, no doubt offending certain people in the process. I can play the victim, but in the end, that was my choice, I chose to succumb to the negativity. Yes, there were other things on my mind that contributed greatly to my failure to keep my mind clear. But, that's just  more excuses. I rode off course, not once, but four times. Granted, one off course was strategic, due to a wrong lead, so I chose to circle back in the interest of training a not-quite-four-year-old, and make sure he knew clearly which lead he was supposed to take, and also to erase the bad memory of a correction, with the good memory of praise, to help him remember the right way in the future. But the other three times?? Completely unlike me. I haven't ridden off course in probably five years. I've ridden seven tests in a day, with no reader, and not ridden off course. I never use a reader, and discourage my clients also from using a reader. I didn't ride effectively enough to get my horses through and engaged. The negativity that I was feeling about a number of things no doubt was sensed by my horses. They might could have let go of their excitement, had I been more centered in my thoughts.
Just as I was putting a few sugar cubes into my pocket before I mounted up Frisco Bay for our final ride of the weekend(and shortly after having had a very near emotional breakdown), I happened to read the box top of my can of breath mints. "To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders." This quote helped me turn the Titanic around within inches of running into that iceberg. I was on course for the worst show weekend I've probably ever experienced. This quote, by Chuang Tzu, saved the day and salvaged the weekend for me. When I got on Frisco, I could tell: he was tired and tight. He was not his usual freely moving self. He was, for lack of a better word, sticky. But it was all physical. Mentally, he was game, willing, the rock I needed at that moment in time. Doubt, and concern for his tired state, started to creep in again. Was I going to blow an opportunity to earn a Regionals qualifying score under a good judge? Was I going to let the whole weekend be a complete bust? I repeated that quote to myself over and over again during the warmup, and kept my attitude towards my amazingly good-minded youngster positive and light. As we entered the show arena and Frisco didn't puff up like he normally does, doubt once again crept in. Once again, I pushed it aside, and trotted up centerline, having faith in my horse. While he was too tired to demonstrate his full capacity, Frisco Bay, son of Charisma, keeper of my heartstrings, did not put a foot wrong for six minutes. I kept my mind clear, and thus, my aids to him were clear and I was able to let him hear my breathing, something that is an integral part of our normal training, something I'd failed to do on all previous rides that weekend. I'd been holding my breath all weekend. No wonder I couldn't think. My wise decision the day before to take an off course and regroup on that canter depart paid big dividends. I even settled my mind enough to try to work on the balance in his canter work, versus just following whatever movement he offers, which is what I typically do with him, due to his current age and stage of training.
We did it. We staged an upset, came from behind. We won the Open High Point award, and qualified for the Regional Championships. We needed a 68.000%. We earned a 68.000%. Did anything change? Did the things that were bothering me suddenly go away in a split second? Did my horse suddenly wake up, decide to not be tired and get freer in his movement? No. But, my attitude changed. I made a decision, in that instant, to take back the reins, to put that ship back on course, to take responsibility for the things that were under my control. Those things that bothered me are still bothering me, but I will deal with them. And I now have absolute, irrefutable proof that how I respond to adversity is far more important than the actual adverse condition itself. I could not have done it without the love and support of my husband, Dow, and my friend, Brenda, but in the end, it was always up to me. They can't do it for me. Still your mind, friends, and the universe will surrender itself to you, whatever your goals and dreams.