Me again, the Moussetis with the least amount of serotonin. Fun fact about me: I am, always have been, and always will be, that horse girl. You know the type. My childhood bedroom is absolutely plastered with horse posters, and I rode every week for over a decade. So like, I’m legit. I’m even going back to volunteer at my old barn soon in the hopes of riding at least once before school sets in.
So there’s this rule in horseback riding that I always really struggled with. Conceptually, it was simple, but in practice, I could never really get it down. The rule is as such:
Look where you want to go, not where you’re afraid to go.
I know it sounds like something you’d see written in brush script over a sunset on a poster in a high school counselors office. But it’s actually crucial to safe riding. Horses, you see, are clever beasts, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Above all they are empathetic to a fault, which means if you’re scared, they know, and since you’re the one meant to be in charge, it makes them scared.
Something else to consider is that horses generally can feel where you’re looking. On the one hand, this is great for sport. Proper jumping technique states that you should start looking at your next obstacle the moment your horse leaves the ground in front of your current one. That way you know where you’re going, and so does your horse.
But it’s a two-way street. If there’s a commotion, for example, that catches your attention and distracts you from what you’re doing, it will carry over to your horse. And horses, bless their hearts, are prey animals, and evolved to really favor flight over fight in stressful situations. (Which, as someone who has had to fight horses on multiple occasions, I am actually extremely grateful for.) So now both you and your horse are distracted, and your horse is likely to spook.
Now let’s play this out. If you’ve never had the distinct pleasure of riding a spooked horse, it goes a little something like this. First the horse startles, and sometimes that’s the end of it. You both take a moment to calm down and then you carry on. But other times, it gets worse, and your horse can take off. At this point your own fight or flight response kicks in, and that’s where our look-where-you-want-to-be concept becomes of the utmost importance. Because now it’s on you. Your horse is out of control, and you and everyone in your vicinity is in danger. What are you going to do? Look at the group of little girls learning how to lead a pony? Or at the stern woman cooling down a warmblood that looks like he costs more than most cars? Because if you’re looking at them, you can bet that your horse is too, and that’s the direction you’ll end up going.
So you look for where you need to go. You look for an empty space to let your horse run out or you look for a wall to stop them. ‘Cause wherever you look, that’s where you’re gonna end up. The same goes for looking down, if not more so, because looking down is the biggest no-no of them all in equine sports.
Alright, time to apply this to reality. You are the rider, your horse is your life, and everything else is… everything else. If you want your life to head in the right direction, you gotta look in the right direction, right? If you look at the problem, or the disaster, you’ll focus on it, get distracted by it, and end up running right into it. Instead, be aware of it, but only in your peripheral. Your focus needs to stay on where you want to go, so you can guide yourself there. And it doesn’t always work; sometimes that horse is gonna run wherever that horse is gonna run, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The only thing you can predict about life is that it’s unpredictable.
But even if something does go wrong, (you know, like tumbling off your horse and into the dirt) it’s better to fail knowing that you did everything you could rather than wondering if just maybe, if I’d done just this one little thing, it could have worked out. (In this metaphor, the ground is just a metaphor for just failing at something, not dying or anything. That’s a whole other matter.)
And that’s the principle. You look where you want to go, not where you’re scared to go, and that’s how you can guide your life in the right direction. Does it always work? No. But is it better than the alternative? So I’ve heard. Like I said, I’ve struggled with this concept, both in the literal and the metaphorical sense. I’ve hit the dirt my fair share, but that’s a risk we knowingly take when we set out on any endeavor worthwhile.