“1% More” is a new blog series in which we ask World Equestrian Brands endorsed and trainer team riders to give us one booster tip that will help us to improve our competitive edge by 1%. As any true athlete knows, all of those 1%s add up to significant results.
Sharon White is a 5* eventer based in WV. Her incredible, high-performance career has taken her all over the world to represent the USA in FEI Eventing Nations Cup competitions and as a reserve rider for the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games. We look forward to seeing her compete next week at the Landrover KY 3-Day Event.
One of my primary philosophies is that attending to the small details and the fundamentals will serve both you as a rider and a human as well as your horse. Any equestrian sport is one of just inches, so identifying small ways to be better each day can help make up that difference. It’s not only about natural talent in this sport – in fact, that’s one of my favorite things about it! Your decision to put the time in and not rush can pay off in terms of competitive success – and it’s not only about success, it’s also about health.
With our sport, there is a lot of pressure at any given time – pressure to improve, to look after your horse, and to make the right decisions, among other things. Couple this with the sport’s inherent danger, and this can be a pretty intense situation to place anyone in.
This is why I’ve come to appreciate meditation and mindfulness as a part of my daily routine. It is hard to stay present and in the moment when there are always a million things to think and worry about. But with horses, we must have the ability to be in the moment with them, not a hundred miles away thinking about all the things you still have to do that day.
Trust me. I get it! Starting a meditation and mindfulness practice isn’t easy or intuitive, but I promise that taking just a few minutes to practice this each day will make a fundamental difference in your wellbeing (and your horse’s, by association!). As with anything else, it’s a practice, so don’t worry about doing it “right” or “well.” It’s a little different for everyone.
Here are some tips for using meditation and mindfulness in your riding:
1. Make it a part of your routine.
Just like our horses, we also do well on routine. I know it can be hard to establish a new one – especially when you work with horses! – but if you look closely enough at your day, I bet you can find some times when you’re already in some routine. Maybe you like to enjoy a cup of coffee before you head to the barn or work for the day; what about an extra five minutes spent meditating? Even a tiny amount makes a difference when done over time. Or maybe you find some of your chores or work to be contemplative in nature – mucking stalls, feeding, dragging the arena, braiding, for example; try sticking in your headphones and trying a guided meditation while working at these tasks. Think of it as an opportunity for your brain to take a break from thinking five steps ahead!
2. Find a practice that works for you.
The good thing (and, sometimes, bad thing) about the Internet is that there are endless possibilities for assistance. There is no need to try it out alone! Starting with guided meditations is helpful for those who haven’t tried it before. I have a few favorites I’ll recommend to my students if they’re interested in trying meditation, but sometimes you have to try a few different things before you find what works for you.
3. Practice in your riding.
Riding and training horses is a partnership that requires your full attention. We all struggle with thinking about what’s next or what just happened, but this isn’t helpful during a ride. Your horse can read your energy and intention – he knows when you aren’t completely with him! As you work on your meditation habit, try integrating the practice into your riding. Check-in with yourself frequently, asking if you’re truly present or if your mind has wandered to the grain order or the grocery list.
4. Remember to breathe.
Meditation is very breath-focused, as paying attention to your breath is a way to help your mind stay in the present moment. Well, lucky for us, this is also a useful tip in the saddle! Breathing eases tension and relieves anxiety, so practicing meditation will help you become more aware of your breathing, both in and out of the saddle.
With horses, things are bound to go wrong, inevitably. Life pulls us in many different directions, and we all juggle many loads. I’ve found meditation and mindfulness to be very practical in navigating the unknowns of life, and I truly believe that practicing this can help us all become that 1% (or more!) better.