Part 1: What Your Instructor Can’t Teach You About Riding In Harmony
Your instructor may have the skills to offer you technical guidance, but what about the ability to blend those skills into something more? What if we told you that you already hold the key to a harmonious partnership with your horse?
Often referred to as being "in the zone," Flow State is the ultimate expression of the Mind-Body connection. So what does this have to do with equestrians?
Have you ever had one of those rides where the world just faded away, time dissolved, all your doubts and worries disappeared, and it felt like there was simply nothing except you and your horse? Maybe it was when you were schooling at home, hacking out on the trails, or in the show ring.
Being in Flow is a measurable and reproducible state of consciousness best explained by Steven Kotler in his book The Rise Of Superman 1, “In flow, we are so focused on the task at hand that everything else falls away. Action and awareness merge. Time flies. Self vanishes. Performance goes through the roof.”
Increased Focus, Learning, Awareness, Bonding, and Motivation
During Flow State the “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how” of the activity simplifies as action and awareness merge. We enter into the space between deeply focused and mentally relaxed, which has many benefits for us as equestrian athletes. This state of consciousness has observed effects:
Flow allows us to dial in to what we are doing absolutely. It pulls us into the immediate now, and alters the way that we notice the passing of time. In the moment, that means things seem slower, leaving more time to make decisions and connections that might otherwise not happen.
Learning and skill building in a state of flow can increases by roughly 50%, significantly reducing the time and repetition it takes for learning and assimilating new skills.
Flow slows down or shuts off the part of our brain that plays host to our inner critic. This means that voice in your head that second guesses your thoughts and actions goes silent. How awesome is that?!?
Empathy and feelings of satisfaction increase significantly. In a sport where your teammate speaks a silent language, being more tuned in and empathetic to their experience means greater connection and willingness from them, thereby enhancing team performance.
Flow is the source of intrinsic motivation that keeps us coming back time after time to embracing the challenge of equestrian sport.
This combination of enhanced focus, learning, awareness, bonding and motivation, when applied to our relationship with our horse, leads us to be better teammates for them and aids us in building a more harmonious partnership.
The goal of this four part series is to create a greater sense of harmony and partnership with your horse by giving you a broad understanding of flow state. Get ready to explore ways to build more peak moments in your life with horses!
1 Kotler, Steven. The Rise of Superman: Decoding the science of ultimate human performance. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.