I used to hate working out until I discovered Zumba. Dancing is much more fun and mentally refreshing than running like a hamster on a treadmill.
I recently discovered that my Sportie agrees with me.
I often ride in the arena with another friend or two, but our barn hours don't always coincide. I dreaded showing up solo, because Sportie gets bored when he's the only horse working in the ring. It's often a struggle to keep him focused and keep him from making a beeline to the exit gate, signalling the end to our session.
Last month I was reading Anna Blake's book, "Stable Relation," and she often refers to dressage as dancing. Even years before she had an iPod, she would lug a big boombox along with her when she taught lessons, no matter the discipline. Horses naturally move to rhythm and you don't get into trouble -- a spook, a runaway, a balk -- unless there is a disruption to that rhythm. Music is the background to all Blake's training sessions, whether her students are training for a routine in an upcoming show or not.
So last week, after I started our solo warm-up and Sportie was dragging his hooves, I took my phone out of its holster and tuned into my favorite Pandora station. Immediately, Sportie's ears perked up, as mine always do when I hear Keith Urban singing. It helped him enjoy the ride and it definitely helped me relax into the saddle and turn off the monkey chatter in my over-thinking brain as I hummed along. Music is the universal language and joined us together into happy, if not sophisticated, dance partners.
Not even Keith Urban could keep Sportie from making a beeline to the exit gate after a half hour of hard, satisfying work, but that's because it was suppertime. Sportie's ears were tuned into the sound of grain being scooped and that is always music to his ears. At the very least it was a controlled, graceful beeline.