Monday, January 16, 2017

Riding Without Focus: Don't Be That Way

Focus is the ability to concentrate one's attention entirely on the desired object. Focus primarily affects the lightness and ease with which a horse goes the route the rider intends. Focus is easier for some people to develop than for others. It requires that one be able to look intently at the direction where one wishes to go and to do with with such intensity that the horse feels the rider's focus. Focus requires the rider to achieve another "gear" of awareness of the situation around him. It allows the rider to see everything while being distracted by nothing.

I ride a lot of different horses. The horses that I spend the most time on, Holland and Joey, respond extremely well to my focus. i.e. They generally go where I am looking and where I am thinking. I was a bit surprised when I first started mounted archery. I thought that Holland would be the perfect horse for the job. Instead, everything went great until I focused on the target. At that point he veered hard to the left and ran directly at the target.

He was very confused as I slowly taught him to ignore my focus in just that one instance.

Focus is hard to teach. I am not convinced that children can achieve focus. I believe that focus can be enhanced by playing pool and shooting a bow. Both require a high level of concentration coupled with the ability to visualize patterns and strait lines of movement.

The last week has been a week of not missing the water until the well ran dry. Starting eight days ago every horse that I rode seemed confused, not agitated or stressed, just utterly without an idea of where they were to go. They moved slower and often were placing their feet tentatively as we trotted or gaited along.  I found myself constantly having to resort to using the reins to actually change the horses direction.

I attributed it to the fact that there was snow on the ground. But the snow melted and none of my horses reverted back to our old, comfortable pattern of riding. It was particularly bad over the weekend.

Yesterday as I was cruising along on Manteo, a Corolla stallion, I realized what the problem was. It should have been obvious to me. About ten days ago I had a peculiar fall as I was moving the hogs to prepare for the big snow storm. Seems that I broke a rib. It certainly is not a pleasant situation, but I have broken ribs in the past and have been in much greater discomfort than this time around. In fact, although it was very painful to mount up, after I was in the saddle the pain was not really a big deal.

Or so I thought.

There is enough discomfort to reduce my ability to focus. The horses could no longer read it. Until this thing completely heals I will have to work harder to keep my mind in the game.

It has taken many years in the saddle, and equally important, years in the round pen to develop focus. I wish that I knew how to better teach focus development.

Right now I am stuck in the same place when Lou Grant was asked by Ted, on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, " Why don't people like me?"

Grant responded " Well, Ted, you know how your are,"

"Yes, Lou", Ted interjected.

"Don't be that way," was Grant's advice.

Right now I am stuck with Lou Grant's problem. About all I can really say is, if you ride without focus, "don't be that way."

No comments: