Sunday, January 6, 2008


Yes, it’s the dictionary again…

1a: a feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances
1b: faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way
2: the quality or state of being certain
3: a relation of trust or intimacy

A state of mind or a manner marked by easy coolness and freedom from uncertainty, diffidence, or embarrassment. Confidence stresses faith in oneself and one's powers without any suggestion of conceit or arrogance.

The northeast winter weather and flu season, along with simple logistics of the holiday season conspired to keep me off a horse for more than a month – a period of time which I initially found to be extremely frustrating. Gradually I adjusted and accepted it somewhat, especially as January drew closer and I was consumed with another creative project.
Now that we are back in the saddle, I have noticed a change (dare I say it) in my riding.

Suddenly, I seem to have a newfound sense confidence, and I am trying to figure out what happened, what this means, where it comes from. My more experienced riding friends and mentors have assured me that some day I will become a confident rider who trusts herself and her horse. I know that given my level of obsession, they are probably correct; however, up until very recently, I have felt a constant undertone of doubt and frustration. How refreshing to sense some elevation from what George Leonard might call a learning “plateau.” He describes the process of mastery as a long, winding path or journey, with inevitable periods where effort is applied but nothing seems to be happening.

So what has allowed my confidence to begin to emerge? Is it simply a matter of a certain amount of time logged in the saddle? Maybe the many hours spent immersed in the production of my creative project with ample time for thought and reflection was a kind of gestation period for this new phase. Whatever the reason, it is a relief and a refreshing change – a kind of letting go of fear, a settling down, an acceptance of what might happen when I get on the horse and a willingness to just experience it and deal with it moment-by-moment.

My confidence on the aikido mat has had 24 years to develop, and before I started riding I think I had begun to take it for granted -- but I also remember my early years of training quite vividly. This time in riding reminds me of a day about six months after I began aikido when I was walking home after class and realized that I knew where my center was located and that I sensed an energy moving me forward from that place. Now I understand that experience was a first glimpse into a whole new world and one that continues to reveal itself to me – a process like peeling away layers of an onion.

Finally, these words of encouragement from my wise young riding mentor Liz Rome:

“I have many days where I don’t feel like I find the unity, but I am thankful for the days I do… and you are very close indeed to finding it as well. Once you trust yourself and you can trust the horse you are riding (even if they are being silly) you will have found your secret place. No one can teach that. . . it comes with time. Kind of like kids (and some adults) have to learn to love themselves, riders have to learn to trust themselves.“

The photo above both inspires and instructs me – Annelie exhibits a perfectly confident poise as she receives comments from the clinic instructor while remaining in delicate yet complete contact with her horse, Sober. Notice her solid yet light seat connection and rein contact and the attentive way Sober is “listening” to her.

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