Calm Show-Pen Anxiety With Mindfulness

Happy 2019! If you're reading this, then you have made it to another year of possibilities. On this cold morning, I sit sipping coffee and watching Good Morning America. Of course, today's GMA's focus is all about those possibilities: financial freedom, job satisfaction, eating healthy, exercising, and of course, mindfulness. It's all the rage these days, even evolving into practices of mindfulness with animals. Science has proven the mental health benefits of owning a pet and animal therapy programs are helping so many. But, you can now have coffee with cats and donuts with dogs in cafes around the country. You can also do yoga with goats. Now as a farm kid, I'm not one to try goat yoga (it's a manure thing), but if it floats your boat, go for it.


Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years. In the United States, we give credit to Jon Kabat-Zinn for bringing the practice into the American mainstream. In 2013 Kabat-Zinn wrote this definition: “Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.” In other words, mindfulness is about finding the focus to live in the moment, to experience all emotions positive and negative and to find the ability to deal with emotions in healthy ways.


So what can we do with mindfulness besides impact our daily life in a healthy positive way? As riders, we can use it to calm ourselves and enjoy our rides in the show-pen. While this is a benefit for every rider, those of us who suffer with serious show-pen anxiety, it can be game changer. I used to think that my show anxiety was a result of starting so late in life with actual horse showing. I watch those young kids ride around in the pen with what appears to be total fearlessness. But, I know that I would have just been a kid with show-pen anxiety because that is how I'm made. However, there are simple acts of focus we can all do to help us become a better rider. Mindfulness creates a trickle down effect in the show-pen because a calmer mind creates better posture, better posture means quieter legs and hands, and the most important benefit to a rider's calmer mind, is a calmer horse.


"Train Your Brain, Boost Your Riding" written by Jennifer Forsberg Meyer, The Thinking Rider (August 28, 2018) is a nice quick read about ways that visualization can be used to improve your riding. The best part about this blog post is at the end when she shares advice from top trainers on how to become more focused. Just click the title to be linked to the blog. Another great source of positivity and mindfulness tips for riders is Barbara Schulte's, Just For Today which are tips that come free to your email inbox Monday through Friday. Ms. Schulte is a renowned cutting horse trainer, certified personal performance coach, author, clinician, and equine consultant. Her work on mental strategies for confident riding are fabulous. Just click the above link to sign up.


There are so many resources out there to enhance our focus when riding, and I look forward to all of you sharing your comments. And as you begin to plan all your 2019 equine adventures, put mindfulness in those plans, so you remember to take time to live in the moment once those adventures arrive. Mindfulness is an easy way to not only improve your focus, but a way to find joy in every ride. With that, I leave you with this quote to help you as you set goals and dream for a new year, "Riding, like life, doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."


Again Happy New Year,

Brenda Levine,

WDAWI President




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