Being Mindful With Your Barn Time

February 12, 2022 3 min read

Mindfulness was first presented by Buddhist scholar T.W. Rhys Davids in 1881 and officially coined by Davids in 1910. Since then, the practice of mindfulness has grounded teachers and students alike with its’ simple concept and calming benefits.

It is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as both “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something,” and “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

Mindfulness is simultaneous decompression and awareness, which can benefit horse owners can and horses in many ways. Horses are good examples of mindfulness because they live entirely in the present. This means practicing mindfulness with them makes complete sense!

Writer Stephanie Van De Ven, of Horse Canada, noted that horseback riding lends itself to mindfulness. Being aware of all parts of your body and your horse’s body requires a huge amount of focus. Taking into account speed, balance and direction are all things you do constantly while in the saddle, and honing your mindfulness will make you stronger as a rider and caretaker.

{take a moment and enjoy this brief Tedx Talkwhere Kat Chrysostom, founder of Benefab®, shares about the transformation in her horse once she began to focus on breathing and mindfulness}

Kat Chrysostom

Here are some mindfulness exercises to try around the barn:

Focus on something tangible

Wherever you are, focusing on something you feel will ground you and bring you into the moment. Could be the feel of reins between your fingers, the breeze softly moving your hair, or the wooden handle of a manure fork. Concentrate on how the feeling and how it impacts you. Are your reins in need of some conditioning? Is the manure fork balanced in your hand as you move through chores? Taking a moment to feel things around you can calm a wandering mind.

Take some deep breaths

Deep breathing is one of the most relaxing and effective self-care practices. We often hear ‘just take a deep breath,’ and totally brush off the instruction. But deep breathing has benefits such as increased oxygen and decreased stress. If you’re coming to the barn with some tension, ten deep breaths can help you reset your mind. With a clearer mind, becoming conscious of the tasks at hand is easier. Taking some deep breaths alongside your horse is a fun mindfulness practice too. Match their breaths for a minute with a hand on their neck and feel your bond strengthen.

Seek the good

Choose to find happiness and reward your horse's efforts, no matter how small. Finding the bright spot in a lackluster lesson, feeding time or general barn chores changes your brain for the better. Abraham Lincoln was quoted saying“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Taking care of your mental space takes constant practice. Making small, mindful choices every day can benefit both you and your horse, and over time will make you both better.

Become a helper

In each situation, look for a way to help. If a horse is struggling with trot poles, removing some of them and lining the horse up to the poles further away can help build their confidence. Choosing to adopt a helpful posture instead of getting frustrated keeps options open for progress.  This is helpful not only at the barn but as you walk through your everyday life. No matter where you are or who is there, there is always a way to help another whether it's giving a simple smile, carrying a heavy object, or honoring someone with your undivided attention.

Write it down

It’s no secret that journaling can help align ideas and encourage thoughtful growth. Taking ten minutes to ‘download your brain’ gives greater freedom in your mind because journaling distances your perspective. The ability to lay thoughts and troubles out on a piece of paper and quite literally walk away for a while is liberating. Journal your days at the barn and progress with your horse. The entries serve as a written record of your dedication and growth as an equestrian. 

No matter which of these options stood out to you, the important thing is to pick a few and consistently add them to your routine. That is where you will find mindfulness to create a meaningful impact in your life.

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