While teaching this week I had a conversation with a dear student of mine about resistance.
She was atop my most masterful equine educator on the topic- Rocky. He is a magnificent creature- I joke that he looks like he is made up of circles, something out of an animated kids movie! He is one of my trusty lesson ponies, 15.1 hh and built like a Mac Truck- he was previously a trail horse before I re-educated him on jumping and dressage basics (which he now performs admirably!). However, being a half draft he has his stubborn and heavy streak that can be challenging to learn how to ride gracefully. He is the classic heavy/ dead mouthed draft that leans on the riders hands if given the chance. This can lead to a cycle of the rider getting heavier and more attached to the reins which causes Rocky to get heavier… and we all know who is going to win that fight. Most full sized horses have heads that weigh around 100 lbs on their own, let alone the neck size (Rocky’s is huge!) and then add momentum and a penchant for holding on…This is why I called Rocky masterful- he is the perfect horse to teach non-resistance (while still maintaining boundaries). You can’t resist his holding on, but if you can prevent it from occurring (by nipping in the bud within yourself first) you can have a whole ride resistance free.
What I said to my student was- something along the lines of let your ride be easy, let it be light. Don’t get stuck into him and think you’re going to teach him a lesson. Think of Rocky as a partner that has strengths and weaknesses just like we all do, and you’ve got to ride him in a way that acknowledges and mitigates those weaknesses while capitalizing on his strengths *this theory will definitely apply to all relationships*. Since we know Rocky CAN be heavy and dull to bit pressure, we have bit that is strong (full cheek snaffle-nothing crazy), we do the noseband tight (keeps his mouth closed on the bit to minimize evasion by opening the mouth), we make sure the rider is rooted into her stirrups (lower centre of gravity- more balanced- harder to move-stronger pressure CAN be applied), we have the reins short (but not pulling constantly- pressure is removed OFTEN), we have a plan before tackling his weak spots (downward transitions- sitting him back) and we have gentle cues that we use to support the strong ones (breathe in, hands forward, then squeeze/kick for upward transitions, and breathe out, lean back, and pull for downward transitions).
So how do we take all of those things into consideration and let the ride be easy? First, we master the foundations of good riding- see my post about my version of the Dressage Training Pyramid. We show up understanding these principles, and ready to apply them in the most honest, integrous and compassionate ways possible, and then we LET IT GO. We let go when we make a mistake, we let go when we get confused, we let go when the horse gets irritated, we let go of our day before we got to the barn, we let go of trying to be perfect, we let go of whatever is getting in the way of being here, now. Now, this is difficult (and also the easiest thing in the world-the truth always lies within paradox), especially when we are still learning. But, the good thing about doing this in a lesson situation is, hopefully I as the coach, can keep it simple enough that overwhelm and resistance isn’t part of the experience- for horse or rider!
So, I invite you to take this theory forward into your next interaction with self, other, or horse. Let it be easy, try to feel what it would be like if you were a horse expert, a relationship expert, imagine what it would feel like to be at ease in difficult situations. Let my videos on YouTube under Horse Diaries- be a guide if you are interested. Get clear on your own principles and find what alignment with your goals means to you. Let your dreams of where you want to be, who you want to be, what you want to do, guide your present actions. Let your dreams lead you to reality that is more aligned with what your heart has always longed for. Let your unique perspective, strengths, and weaknesses make you a master at ______. Let Rocky serve as an example that even your weaknesses can be your asset. Let it be easy. Let yourself be the gift that you open in every now moment.