I was told last week that I have a “hot seat.” Normally, I would take this as a huge compliment; but as it relates to riding horses, I didn’t like it. To put it simply, it means I ride forcefully and sort of insist on my way, my pace, my rhythm. I was riding a horse new to me, and he didn’t particularly like my hot seat; we both were irritated and wound up by the end of the ride.


After I went home and thought about it for a while, I began to realize that my little Welsh Cob mare has been having a similar sort of reaction to my riding lately. She’s very obedient and knows her stuff, but she can get really wound up and barrel around the arena like a freight train – her little legs pumping madly. I’ve found myself in a wrestling match with her many times over the last few weeks. I just attributed it to the fact that she’s a pony mare, and pony mares are known to do things their way without any regard to what you want. I would try to keep my cool and just get more direct and clear with her (and let’s be honest, sometimes stop her, throw my head in the air and yell “BELLA!!!”).


Thanks to some tips from a couple of really amazing mentors, this weekend I took a different approach with her. My goal was to not insist on MY pace and rhythm, but to help her find her calm, even, big horse gait. She’s a pony, so she has to work very hard to move like a big horse, but I know it’s there. It occurred to me that if I wanted her to be calm and smooth, I needed to be calm and smooth.


I focused all of my thoughts on helping her melt into her transitions.


By this, I mean that I didn’t forcefully insist on her moving into a trot or canter or even back down to a walk. I just sort of “thought it” and relaxed and asked very quietly. As you might have already guessed, she was amazing. She was calm, focused and worked very hard for me. There was no throwing her head up in the air and running around the arena like a pony.
It’s never very hard for me to connect the things I learn in the saddle to my daily life. It’s the reason I find riding so incredibly therapeutic. Lately, I have been fighting and trying to control transitions in my life with all of my might. I anticipate them, tense up, get a plan in my head, and attack them with both barrels. And often, I get the right result, but I’m thoroughly stressed out and exhausted by the end of it.


So, not to put too fine a point on it, here’s what I learned from my fuzzy little pony:


When a transition is approaching, instead of tensing up in anticipation, take a deep breath and let it all out. Repeat until heart stops racing.


Instead of attacking change, try melting into it. Think.  Breathe. THEN do.


Change is hard on humans. Give yourself some space to ease into it and time to wrap your brain around it.


Check in with your body. Are you teeth clenched? Tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth? Shoulders up around your ears? Breath coming in fits and starts? Don’t make the transition, yet. Unclench, unstick, stretch, breathe. NOW get started.


Life throws us so many transitions and changes; everything from little things like cancelled appointments to big things like career moves. We can’t always control the outcome, but we can work on allowing ourselves room to move through it gracefully and quietly. Take it from me and my pony, heading into change with a smile and a soft, grateful heart not only gets great results, it makes you happier in the end.