Carole Herder, President of Cavallo Horse & Rider, shares her thoughts.
Q: Carole, you often talk about leaning on your horses during times of stress. The constant news about COVID has me worried and downright fatigued. What’s the best way that you have found for horses to help during this ongoing pandemic?
A: Horses provide a quiet connection to nature and help us all connect and quiet our minds. We live in the country and enjoy a rural setting. We all have our animals to keep us from feeling too much isolation. They are often the best companions anyway. During this time of pandemic, people are out riding their horses, and they are calling us for advice about how to keep their horses moving and feeling great.
Unfortunately, not everyone is doing as well. For example, my neighbor is negatively affected by this pandemic. By the news, the fear, and the anxiety around COVID. She's not alone. Constantly judging the correct distancing and checking to see whether people are wearing masks has many people upset.
These folks are placing their frame-of-reference on the external forces around them and forgetting to nurture their own internal states. They're letting the news run the show. My friend has a hard time looking inward and is continuously being distracted by the media. She lost her horses last year, and I now see how important they were to her happiness. They helped her focus, be quiet and connect with nature. That's what horses do.
Connect with Yourself Instead of COVID 19
Connecting to the essence of nature changes our perception. The fear of the events, circumstances, people, and things becomes less impactful. While we'll never have that innate connection that horses do (we're simply wired differently as a separate species), we are still part of nature and can work to increase our connectivity to the natural patterns of the world. We can do this by hanging around our horses. It can provide a lot of comfort.
I would rather sit quietly with my horse than sit in front of a television or phone being disturbed by all the news. Horses give us a reality check and help us put perspective on what matters.
A simple way to start calming down is to focus on breathing. Find and feel the rise and fall of your diaphragm. Become aware of your heartbeat. It takes time, but as you practice and master control (or at least awareness of your breathing), you become more in a flow and attuned to the rhythms of nature. You and your horse are both alive, breathing the same air with hearts beating in sync. It's very uplifting.
Being Horsey: Your Super-Power
Being in this quiet place with our horse, you're free of the fear of the 'what's ifs' and the ruminating thoughts. Alternatively, it's hard to connect with your horse when your mind is busy wondering if that guy in the store has COVID and wondering why the woman at the post office was sneezing everywhere without a mask. Humans have more than 60,000 thousand thoughts a day. That's quite a distraction.
Our horses don't overthink. They are present, and you will benefit if you meet them in present time. How do you do it? Through stillness and noticing. You don't usually detect the beat of your heart or the cadence of breathing. You don't usually perceive how your lungs are sustaining you by working as your breathing apparatus. But once you find the stillness, the awareness, and the noticing, you will find joy. You'll find the joy in seemingly little things, like your beautifully functioning organs.
Some people sit and meditate. Some can find connection through a walk in the forest. And horse people can find it through being with or riding their horse. Regardless of how you find it, once you do, you can lose your cares and worries.
Enable the Silence
Meditating while you are at the barn or in nature can help you clear your mind and relax. Some may think this is something "flaky," but we don't have to go far to find real people who have made meditation a part of their lives. Not only football players like Joe Namath, but there's also the media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Entertainers such as David Letterman, Clint Eastwood, Jennifer Aniston, and Sheryl Crow meditate, too.
Meditation helps release the past and disconnect from the future to allow you to truly be in the present moment. It will enable the silence you need to listen to your inner wisdom and spiritual guidance. Meditation keeps you grounded and focused.
When you're first learning to meditate, it can be frustrating and challenging to quiet the incessant chatter in your head. It may be most comfortable to start with guided meditations that help steer your mind. You could also use a mantra – a word or phrase you silently repeat as part of your breathing pattern. Some find that playing soft instrumental music in the background can be helpful as well. For me, it's a distraction because I am always listening to find the melody. We're all a little different. It is usually not something you can jump into for long stretches. If you've never done it, try to be still for just two minutes. Just observe what it is that you are thinking about. If you can quiet the mind to the point where you can track and be aware of your thoughts, the next step is to observe the gap between the thoughts, where your often over-active mind gets a break.
Don’t Run Yourself Out of Time
Once you feel you have mastered that, add a minute. There are people who have ritualized meditation in their lives for decades and only meditate for 15 minutes at a time. It doesn't require extraordinary effort. It is a skill that takes time to build but has tremendous benefits for your mind, body and spirit. People say they don't have time to sit still. They say they are busy, and they are always running out of time. Well, let me tell you, if that is your perception, you will run out of time.
In many ways, taking the time makes you more productive and focused so that you can actually achieve and enjoy more. In these tumultuous, uncertain times, we horsey folks can access the quiet solitude of beauty that resides in all of us. Relieve agitation. Relax fears and anxieties. So, quiet your mind and go sit with your horse.
About the Author - Cavallo President Carole Herder is the author of the #1 International Bestseller "There Are No Horseshoes in Heaven" and the newly released "Hoofprints on The Journey". She has been involved in horse health since 1993. Her company, Cavallo Horse & Rider Inc. develops, manufactures and distributes horse products in 26 countries. Herder designed and developed Cavallo Hoof Boots and Total Comfort System Saddle Pads. She presents training sessions around the world to teach the benefits of keeping horses in a natural state. Herder is an honored recipient of the Royal Bank of Canada Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She is a member of the Women’s Presidents Organization, supporting female entrepreneurs in every industry.
This article originally appeared on Cavallo Horse & Rider and is published here with permission.
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