The Parellis emphasize the importance of mental, emotional, and physical fitness for both horse and human. It takes all three to have balance.
What follows is intensely personal and not really about horses; it’s something I want to record here for myself so I can look back at it in six months or a year and place the feelings in the context of my horsemanship journey.
It is perhaps ironic, given how out of whack I’ve been for the past few years, that I found the physical balance exercises in the Savvy Club “mastery manual” to be fairly easy. Interesting, valuable, thoughtful, validating, and useful — but not too difficult to do. (Caveat: I haven’t tried the mounted ones yet.) Makes me wonder what kind of comeuppance I’ll discover when I ask Erin if I can ride her unicycle.
Lately, I feel like I, personally, am letting Linda Parelli down because I am not fit enough (have never been fit enough, will never be fit enough, could not possibly ever score higher than “fair” on the fitness chart, am imagining the past in which I ran 12 miles a week and practiced yoga two or three days a week and hiked or skated on the weekends….). Is it just me or has she been saying things like “it’s our responsibility to be physically fit for our horses” a lot more often of late?
This anxiety — this catastrophizing that I will always be unfit and never be fit — is kind of funny, as I’m not planning to go out to the arena in the morning and ride Linda.
However, like all ridiculous fears, it’s based on truth. My evenings involve too much food and often if I have a glass of wine it becomes two (“ah, the glass is empty, let me pour myself the other half”).
And I’m spending too much time reading — not just escaping into but consuming novels. The one thing I do better than anything else, the number one reason I required a profession with flexible work times (although I could have chosen something that required fewer hours, duh me), the one thing for which I will put aside everyone and everything else, is reading. But reading is not physical exercise, even at my reading speed (950-1200 words per minute, according to this simple speed reading test; 600-650 on the nonfiction portion and 800-850 on the fiction portion of this more complex test that only scores you up to 850).
Combine a fiction addiction with a vocation (not to mention half my social life) that keeps me at the computer for mumblety hours a day and, well, here I am. I not only could stand to drop two stone, but activity that used to feel almost effortless now completely overwhelms me before I even get my shoes tied.
I’ve known for a long, long time that what overwhelms me is an emotional backlash, not a physical one. But what I’ve come to understand through Parelli is that this pattern of right-brain reactivity creates a mental block. It’s the mental block that roots my feet to the ground, not the emotional recoil. Classic right-brain introversion: I can’t think, I can’t move my feet, I don’t feel safe, I freeze. And then I explode: boom, I’m at the kitchen table, with food and a book, comforted and pleasured by the familiar ritual and physical sensations. Besides, if I’m eating, my (figurative) fight or flight must have succeeded. Eating tells me I am alive and not mortally wounded and therefore my biological stress system can relax.
What would I do if Rocky went right-brain? Interrupt the pattern. Would I chastise him for it? Nag him? Berate him for it? Start putting always and never on him and not even look for, much less recognize, the slightest try? Hell no.
Maybe I need to hire someone to keep a rope on my nose and whap me when I start to flip.
I can’t make any physical change right this minute. It’s after one in the morning and I had a long, difficult work day, and then wine with dinner. Best I can do at this point is make sure I brush for two entire minutes and floss thoroughly.
But in the morning I can take Rocky to the arena and help him keep his mind engaged while we walk around to toughen up his sore bare feet. Pushing a ball to discover cookies; using barrels to help him put his front feet on the pedestal; practicing the change of direction without disengaging the hindquarters (whoopsie); finishing with some of the “aren’t I riveting?” game from the Liberty & Horse Behavior Problem-Solving DVD. New things, rewarding things, activities that engage the mind to discourage the emotional opposition to encourage the physical fluidity.
And then we’ll have to see how the day goes when I put the physical motion first rather than pretend I’m going to get to it after work.
Headline quote from Daily Parelli.