Last month I was looking for extra assistance with my horseback riding, so I subscribed to an online video tutorial. I watched as the instructor helped a girl with a runaway horse eventually get under control, but at first, she was in panic mode and not listening to him. She had completely lost the mechanics of riding basics and rhythm that she had previously displayed throughout the class. When she finally listened and did the proper technique that she had known by heart, the situation was saved.
“Did you see Viggo Mortensen in the movie ’28 Days’?” the instructor asked his audience afterward. “He gave Sandra Bullock a pitching lesson and told her not to worry about the target. He instructed her how to stand, how to hold the ball, how to throw correctly, where to focus. Then he said that’s all she can control. The results were out of her hands. It was then that she hit the target.”
The instructor turned to the rider and said, “You were so busy trying to control what you couldn’t, as in where your horse was going to end up, that you didn’t control what you could, as in your breathing, sitting deep in the saddle. Instead of thinking about what you should do in the moment you were thinking, ‘Where’s the nearest hospital if we wipe out? Will my husband be able to get away from work to meet me there? And how am I going to afford another vet bill?’ That kind of worst-case-scenario thinking is self-destructive in any situation.”
That was my wake-up call. I had been trail riding in fear for a month after my horse Sportie had badly spooked at a deer running in front of us. Instead of concentrating on my riding basics and beginning each ride after that with a clean slate, my mind was running like a hamster on a wheel, concentrating on looking out for deer which are impossible to spot in the thick underbrush on either side of our trails. Instead of enjoying the breeze on the back of my neck and the sun filtering down through the tree branches, the gentle sway of Sportie’s back and the utter peace of the moment, questions like “Is Sportie tensing up? What if he bolts and I can’t stop him?” were racing through my head.
I determined to listen to the riding instructor and began concentrating on what I could control. Sportie and I went back to the basics and I soon began to feel confident that Sportie and I were as prepared as possible for the trails. I always felt Sportie could read my mind and I soon realized that if I rode as if this was going to be the best ride ever, he thought that way also, and it was.
Self-control is really the only control I have any chance at maintaining.