Zen Horsemanship is a holistic approach and takes riding into a realm of deeper spiritual awareness and growth where it becomes an art form. It incorporates all the systems of the horse holistically. This includes body, mind and spirit of both horse and rider/owner.
Each individual handling and riding a horse has a responsibility. This is one of nurturing, training and communicating. It is a mutual understanding based on trust and respect. Communication is precise and the results are happy horses willing to work for their owners/riders.
Many of the problems associated with riding horses originate from the rider. As long as the horse is sound, the position of the rider is utmost important to allow optimum control and communication. The rider communicates through the seat, leg, hand and voice aids. If these are not in harmony with the rhythm of the horse, the communication is not clear and you have a frustrated horse and rider.
Riding is about balance and feel. If you are out of balance you can’t feel the rhythm of the horse, thus, you can’t time the aids. You cannot interpret what the horse is telling you. When you are in balance, meaning sitting in your center as well as the horse’s center of gravity, the energy running through the spine aligns and connects from heaven's energy to earth's energy. This opens a channel and allows clarity of mind or empty mind. This state of mind nurtures a reception center for receiving communication from your horse and the environment. You are better able to sense or read what the horse is thinking about before he has a chance to respond or react in a negative way. This creates a safer atmosphere for you and your horse. Riding in balance allows you to apply proper leg and hand aids in time with the stride of your horse and to recognize any abnormalities in the gait of the horse.
This holistic approach opens a doorway into understanding and connecting with the horse at a level of oneness. All living things are influenced by a life force that flows in and around us. When a balanced rider synchronizes their “Ki” or life force with that of the horse, harmony and a clear line of communication is the result. Both are working towards the same goal instead of in opposition. Applied awareness to all that we do nurtures an atmosphere of growth.
Groundwork is essential to establish your lines of communication and position in the herd. Proper lungeing techniques allow you to prepare your horse for when he is mounted by teaching him to respond to voice cues, leg and hand aids and most important to go forward.
Everytime you handle and/or ride your horse you are training him. The more you become aware of how this process works, you begin to notice the little things you may have been allowing that creates a negative response or behavior and the correction is made to instill only those positive attributes you would like to encourage. It begins with the mind of the rider/trainer or handler.
The horse needs to know who is in charge of the herd. If it is not established, he will become confused or try to take charge. This is established the moment you approach him continuing through to grooming, tacking, and riding. If the horse understands his place and knows what is expected of him, he responds with obedience and willingness to please. If the owner/rider/ trainer is not clear in establishing this simple means of communication, the horse will develop bad habits and vices and possibly become unsafe to ride or handle.