Each week I try to experience nature to clear my thoughts. Over the past year I’ve reconnected with my love of horses and horseback riding and as a result, I’ve started to feel more balanced and appreciative. Recently, I went on my first trail ride in a very long time. While I love being in the barn and in the ring, I found that being out on the open trail building trust with an animal as well as my fellow riders proved to be exhilarating.
When you ride a horse, especially in unfamiliar territory, all your attention must be focused: on the path ahead, on the surrounding ambiance, on the potential hazards that can spook a horse as well as excite her. With that focus as a rider, I’m not simply learning to anticipate the horse’s response; more importantly, I’m learning how to control my own response. In essence, I’m learning how to become more poised.
A horse weighs roughly 1,000 lbs. It’s an illusion to think my 110 lbs is really going to be able to control any horse. But when my horse stumbles, I must learn not to panic but stay steady and guide her to smoother trails. If another horse bursts into a gallop ahead of us I must learn not to give in to the peer pressure, but keep us both safely on the path. This practice of grace and confidence is something we can all take away from our outdoor escapades.
Now horseback riding isn’t the most financially friendly hobby, but you don’t need to be on the back of a four-legged animal to appreciate the lessons taught by nature. Everyone who was hiking, running, or riding their bikes that day at the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve also had to be vigilant, courteous, and focused on their task.
I challenge all of you — next time you have an anxious week at work or feel fogged over by a current problem in your personal life, get outside for an hour or two with your most comfortable shoes on. Keep your phone on silent and discover what solutions you can come up with when you’re no longer distracted by a screen or someone else’s two cents. Because whatever you encounter on the trail, you will have to respond to it all on your own and you’ll learn that much more about yourself.