“There are three gears on a horse,” my friend Dave cried over his shoulder. “First gear is what we’re doing right now, just walking. Second gear is this, just squeeze the horse with your thighs and they’ll trot.” It had been some time since I’ve ridden a horse, so when my friend, Dave, a cattle-rancher and real-deal cowboy, invited me to go for a ride out by Point Reyes, I jumped at the chance.
We began our ride through the aged live oaks laced with lichen as the bay trees wafted the misty air with their spicy fragrance. We rode his cattle horses he had tuned with these sort of intuitive commands. It was amazing to see this technique tested and proven. Just by squeezing the horse with my legs it progressed to a trot. “Now third gear is this, just kick it in its side.” I watched as Dave kicked his horse in that particular space on its sides. Just one kick and off he went into a gallop. I ‘kicked’ mine and nothing. Again, nada. “KICK! KICK THAT HORSE! You’re not going to hurt it!” he screamed over his shoulder. Of course that’s what I was worried about. So I did, I gave it one more firm kick and we were off!
It’s true that riding a horse is just like riding a bike, once you do it, you always remember how. You have to, or else you fall off. Riding something this powerful at upwards of 30mph is humbling for most unless you’re some kind of conquistador..or crotchety cowboy like Dave. There’s a sort of balance needed to both, remain in the saddle and prevent yourself from flailing around. As we rode along I practiced getting into this groove…controlling my rear-end in the saddle, positioning the heels in the stirrups, moving with the horse as we rode from 1st through 3rd gears. Towards the end of our 4-hour ride we reached an open meadow. Just as I thought things were winding down, my horse began to speed up. Dave didn’t prepare me for a fourth gear. For those of you who ride, you know this gear is called “going-back-to-the-stable-gear”. It’s the horse knowing that the sooner we get back to the stable, the sooner he gets water, carrots, brushed and YOU off his back. For me this gear was “hold-on-for-dear-life-gear”. Somehow I sensed when my horse flattened its head and neck in parallel line to the ground racing below us that I’d better hold on. He got low, he got fast and because I’m no jockey, it was no run for the roses.
To say that horses are amazing animals would be an understatement. There are some who say horses are dumb, but I think those are the same people who don’t occupy the depth needed to understand the nuanced behavior of animals in general. I bet they’re the same people who say cats have no personality. Horses are majestic and it’s no wonder that in Chinese astrology they say the horse has supernatural powers, heroic and strong. The Chinese used the horse as a comrade in battle, a means of transport, a vehicle, but never as a work animal which was reserved for the ox. This is the Year of the Horse, a year that will transport whatever you are wanting to accomplish. Yet, we know transport, doesn’t always mean a smooth ride. It’s important to navigate this year it as if you were riding a horse.
Riding requires intuitive communication with your horse, not being afraid when it kicks into high gear and holding on for dear life when it reaches warp speed. Riding requires agility, compassion, understanding, courage and most of all…balance.
Here are 3 simple ways to gain that agility and balance as we ride into Year of the Horse:
Grounding! Even while I was in “hold-on-for-dear-life-gear” I sent my ‘roots’ down. Our grounding energy can be found in our root chakra. It’s our grounding force that keeps us from spinning out into oblivion when things get too hectic. It keeps us focused, keeps us from being flighty. You yogis out there know what I mean. Yogi or not, simply feeling your feet on the ground and the ground supporting your feet instantly activates a sense of grounding in any situation…whether it’s riding at Churchill Downs or presenting at your quarterly-end meeting.
Nourishment List: Here it is again, in case you’ve missed it the millions of times I’ve mentioned it before. A big part of staying balanced is staying nourished. We often get so caught up in busy-ness of life that we forget what nourishment is. Right now, get a sheet of paper and jot a list of ALL the things that nourish you…getting a massage, walking by the ocean, yoga class, dinner with friends, etc. Beside each item write how often you need these things. It might look something like this:
- Mani/Pedi – 3xmonth
- yoga – 4xweek
- hiking – 5xweek
- Reiki with Jennifer – 2xmonth
- dinner with girlfriends – 1xmonth
Making this list gives you permission again to enjoy life and reminds you of what’s needed when you’re tapped out. Make the list and post it in a place where you’ll see and be reminded of it often.
Game plan: What is the singular-most thing you want this year? A new job, a great relationship, drop ten pounds? What’s the one thing that continues to nag you for change? Write it down..just this one thing. Now make a game plan. When do you want it? Three months, six months, year-end? Next, get real. Ask yourself what’s needed to get there. What steps do you need to put in place? What will you have to overcome? What patterns will you need to leave behind once and for all? Making a game plan allows us to strategize, it allows us to be methodical and organized in our thinking. This also contributes to balance because when we strategize, we realize that our energy follows our focus. So whatever we focus on, that’s is where our energy is going. Now that you have a game plan, watch those chaotic thoughts, the self-defeating thoughts and return your focus to your strategy.
These three simple strategies will help as your own horse shifts gears, even as it heads back to the end-of-year stable.
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