From the subtle to the physical: The Intentional Riding Project

I’ve long been fascinated by the possibility of the connection and communication that’s possible at the subtlest level with our horses. I aspire to be and am inspired by those who practice horsemanship as an equestrian art, who have moved beyond the confines of horse and rider being involved in a transactional relationship and have entered a partnership that includes both artistic and spiritual dynamics.

I can frame it any way I like but at the end of the day, that is what my horses are for me; they are my life and spiritual practice. The arena is my practice mat where I go to meet myself and have all my strengths, weaknesses, heart and emotion reflected back to me. For certain, I have had no better teacher than my horses.

There’s a part of me that has shied away from the discussion of anything spiritual in my work for fear of being discredited, overly woowoo or appearing as though what I teach is not also grounded in logic and the physical. On the one hand, the motivation for this is well intended; I recognize and appreciate that everyone is on a different stage of their journey and is drawn to the things that are relevant to them and where it is they are at. I believed that in my efforts to be inclusive, to not alienate or leave anyone out, it was best to keep conversation to what was expected and accepted and to skip around those which might truly challenge our view of the world or the way that we show up for our horses. In fairness, it’s not that I have avoided it altogether, I just know that I am not sharing at exploring at the depth that I know is possible for me.

I made a decision at the beginning of the year to completely remodel my membership program and within this, I began to use a model of the four intelligences as my muse. Within this, we have instinctual or intuitive intelligence; emotional intelligence; physical intelligence and logical intelligence. As a result of the environment that we find ourselves in- our education system, the organization of the majority of our work lives- most of us have an overdeveloped logical intelligence, and underutilized physical, emotional and intuitive intelligence. We value facts, things adding up and “making sense”, things that are grounded in what we consider to be “real”.

Our feeling selves have come to be known as unreliable and untrustworthy. We have learned to override our intuition, sometimes to the point where it seems barely perceptible. We have become so detached from the wisdom of our emotions that we have compartmentalized them into positive and negative, clinging to the positive and being fearful of the negative. We fail to see the continuum of emotion that provides us with lessons and messages every step of the way if only we were brave enough to consider how we feel.

What’s more, showing up with logic at the fore does little to serve you if you are in communion with a creature whose instinctual and emotional intelligence govern their decisions and responses. It’s a part of it absolutely, but it is not all of it. Detachment and lack of awareness does not mean that those qualities do not exist in us; it just means we are not mindful of how they are presenting to others or the energetic projections we emit. The incongruence between what we think we are presenting and what we are actually presenting is apparent to our horses from the get go, and within this, we are called to drop our facades and show up wholeheartedly if we wish to progress beyond a certain point.

At the core of it, riding and horsemanship can be transactional or it can be transformational. Transactional means that we ride in order to experience a specific result; transformational means we recognize the possibilities of practice that exists when we engage with our horses and the possibility for that to elevate us to states of awareness and consciousness that weren’t available to us previously.

I’ve decided to step into the practice myself and engage in a self-study adventure with my horses to explore intention, breath, the more abstract and the more literal in a project that I am calling Intentional Riding. I’m interested in presenting the work that I teach in tangible form by sharing my own work with my horses, but also in exploring the finer aspects of intention, breath and body to a level that I haven’t allowed myself, or had time to indulge, previously.

I got to thinking how it is that I could make this work transferable- meaning that if I want to be able to share the results of my findings with you in a way that applies to you and your horses also- and so thought about ways that do make the more abstract, quantifiable. The most obvious was to measure heart rate, so I have kitted both myself and my horses out with heart rate monitors so we can collect the data and see how we progress with the various techniques.

Over the next few weeks, I will share with you my thoughts, musings and explorations both in and out of the arena as I move towards developing a new body of work to complement what I’m already doing.

As it stands currently, I have no idea what it will amount to or if the destination I have in mind will be the one that I arrive at, but I am willing to dive down the rabbit hole to find out. So I’m leaping in,  and seeing what’s possible if I open up my listening and curious mind and look to myself first.

xx Jane