Clip-clop…clip-clop. The steady rhythms from my horse – a beautiful, well-groomed stallion, dark, tall, noble, and handsome – propelled me forward, deeper into the Mount Kenya National Park. My companion and I came across a thick part of the forest with dense foliage and a swelling stream. My new companion was in no rush, calm and collective – definitely not how I felt with the idea of a flash-flood in the back of my mind – and he gracefully galloped through the water majestically to higher ground. Soon, in an open field with tall grass just barely tickling the souls of my shoes, my companion found his stride, taking it slow as if he knew I was in awe of the stunning view before me – Mount Kenya, clear and magnificent. Perhaps he was admiring the view as well. Steadfast, my companion’s hooves marked a steady pulse, inducing a fantasy-like The Chronicles of Narnia-style hypnosis.
It became clear to me, at the sight of an exclusive breakfast with a welcoming maître d ready to pop a bottle of chilled Brut, that even though the destination may have seemed marvelous – champagne breakfast on the slopes of Mount Kenya – the journey, together with my new four-legged companion, was one of the most memorable experiences, which can only be described as being more real than waking reality.
Riding Horses Can Help You Find Balance
When you saddle up, immediately your limitations and what’s familiar to you – physical, mental, emotional or social – are immediately challenged. Finding true freedom in a place where nothing is rehearsed, such as riding a horse for the very first time, truly challenges how well one can find balance.
Riding a horse is an active process. You don’t simply sit in the saddle and leave the horse to do all the work. Your body subtly needs to be in tune with the horse’s movement and rhythm. Shifting your body weight depending on if you’re heading up- or down-hill. Keeping your ankles down will help with finding a balanced and correct posture. If you don’t, you’ll be suffering from aching muscles the very next day.
There is nothing better than you and your horse moving as one. The power they have is so much stronger than our own, taking you to places you are unable to reach alone. Perhaps it’s the higher vantage point, but from a saddle a few feet above the ground, you will notice things that you’ve never seen before. Like the beautiful young leaves on the ends of higher branches, colourful birds hovering around blooming buds, and butterflies shimmering in the dappled early morning light. Even the air from up there smells different. You can develop your sense of body awareness through your new found one-ton companion, progressing through space and time together, elegantly.
When you first grab hold of the reigns, your natural reaction is to fight it. You must get over the fear of the perceived lack of control. Much like in everyday life, most of us find it difficult to surrender control and trust either people, or that the outcome of your career choices will turn out just fine. How does one trust a one-ton animal – its power and majesty is absolutely intoxicating, raw and full of pure instinct – which clearly does not communicate in the same language or social contexts as you, to transport and guide you to your intended destination? You need to find balance.
It’s teamwork. Trust, in regards to human relationships and also those with a horse, cannot be galvanized individualistically. One party needs to show, through consistent actions, that they can earn the trust of another individual. The other must then give trust, but also when it is not deserved, to assert authority, and to take it back. Riding a horse is the same: you must trust until given a reason not to.
Easier said than done, but eventually, what begins as a struggle and intense relationship of fear, will find the peace and tranquility that trust brings. A novice rider will build their trust with a horse once he or she also learns to trust themselves to let go and be able to share the power. Once you master when you can loosen your grip on the reigns and when to tighten, finding balance, you will feel empowered like never before. Most importantly, when you focus on syncing yourself with your horse, they ground us in the present moment.
Riding a horse will teach you to find balance in more ways than one: being cooped up at home versus enjoying a day filled with fresh air and new experiences in the great outdoors, and following versus resisting. Unsurprisingly, you will feel happiest when you find balance in everything you do in life, including riding a horse. Finding peace and balance is a lifetime pursuit as it is with mastering how to ride a horse, but the special bond between you and your horse and the rewards that you will reap, will also last just as long, if not longer.
Transport, accommodation and horse ride arranged by Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club.