Believe it or not, this is not actually a metaphor. Ha! This one is for my fellow horse people ;)
I was riding my horse today and I noticed a moment when my ego rose up and I almost let it do my riding for me. There were a few people riding in the arena with me and I felt that little part of me that wanted to impress them in some way (aka my ego). This is not the first time I have felt this, and it's outcome is subtle. I don't race off and do a bunch of showy maneuvers or anything.. More like I might be a little more demanding of my horse than normally, and even more pointedly, my attention will be more on what other people might think of me, rather than on my relationship to my horse. Of course, this is never going to go well. As soon as my ego takes the reins, I am less sensitive, my timing is more abrupt and my horse and I more likely to get into a tension spiral. Thankfully I have gotten good at NOT taking action (most of the time) until my consciousness is seated in the right place. There are times I will literally drop the reins on my horses neck and take a breath in order to recenter before moving on. This is one of the many side benefits of being with horses. They really are the ultimate ego buster. If you let your ego run you with horses, you are more likely to get into wrecks and create dangerous or unhealthy habits. Horsemanship skills aside, a safe and harmonious relationship with our horses is dependent on our ability to know which part of ourselves are running the show. Here are some ways you can tell if your ego has taken root and what to do about it.
- Notice your thoughts. A major tip off that your ego is running, are any thoughts that have to do with other people. Particularly if they are in the ball park of wanting other people to be impressed by your skills with your horse, or impressed with your horse in any way. The flip side to this is thoughts about other people judging your skills or your horse. Either way, you are out of the moment and have jumped into another agenda. If your agenda places what other people think higher in importance than being in the moment with your horse, it will translate to how you handle your horse, and usually to you and your horses detriment.
- Notice your inner attitude/emotional state. When my ego jumps in, it feels like some snotty, arrogant little twit just walked into the room. I think we each have a different "flavor" to our ego. If you learn to recognize it, you are more likely to be able to say; "heck, no missy. You sit your little ass off to the side like a good girl and let the adult handle things." ha!
- Being offended by your horses response to pretty much anything. If your horse spooks and you get pissed off, your ego has probably taken hold. Whenever we think that our horses actions are out to get us personally, we are making the moment about ourselves (and probably what other people think of what is happening) rather than connecting to what our horses are trying to tell us.
- If you notice either of these things happening, the best thing to do is safely and kindly stop whatever you are doing. Take a breath (or 3) and just note to yourself; "Oh, that's just my ego trying to run things again." Often this will be enough to shift you back into presence.
- Don't beat yourself up about it. If you catch yourself being overly pushy with your horse when people are watching, or being offended when your horse is "acting up" in view of others, an easy place to go mentally is to berate yourself about it. This does nothing to help matters and can actually make things worse. An embarrassed ego can be volatile indeed! Better to just note whats happening with as much compassion for yourself as you can muster, and move on from a kinder place.
- Lastly, as a reminder. What others think of you, your horse or your skills has zero to do with your success, enjoyment or harmony... unless you let it!
So, the next time you are out with your horse and there are people around, try to tune them out and just enjoy your 4 legged companion. Your horse will thank you ;)