It was a fantastic week because not only did I get to see my best friend who lives in California and interact with raptors, I was truly at peace mentally for the first time in MONTHS. Two huge things came to resolution right before my trip and I was thus able to completely check-out mentally.
I feel so incredibly revived (mentally) as a result! Such a great place to be knowing that I still have a lot of tough work projects coming up in my near future. They're not going to be easy, but they're not going to be anywhere as stressful as what I just tackled!
During my week of vacation, I had a lot of time to think about things I haven't thought about in ages. I pondered future goals and other dreams that I haven't been able to focus on with any sort of gusto in a long time.
As I pondered what exactly I'd like to focus on for myself and the horses going into winter, I kept coming back to two main things. And as I thought more (and read a lot of equestrian books/magazines that were on the back-burner for the past 6 months), I realized the two things I kept coming back to fit rather seamlessly together: yoga for me & dressage for the horses.
YogaThe advent of a primarily desk-job entering my life 6+ years ago has led to much more sitting than I've ever done. My hips and lower back have cried foul at this since the beginning. In an attempt to ease the pain, I don't sit in the traditional sense much these days: I have a vari-desk that adjusts from sitting to standing and everywhere in between, and I sit on a yoga ball or an adjustable saddle stool when I'm not standing. However, despite these wonderful mitigation measures, I'm still battling tight hip flexors and anterior pelvic tilt more than ever before!
Enter yoga. It's something I have pursued with intermittent regularity over the years. Like any human, I definitely have a weaker side and yoga is one of the few things that helps me build that weakness while stretching and adding flexibility to the strong side. I always feel better afterward and I love how my body awareness increases along with added strength to my weak areas.
Yoga takes a lot of time and miles. It's akin to dressage in many aspects, you can't really cheat your way into the fancy "tricks" like handstands and other inversions. To truly execute those maneuvers, you've got to have a lot of body awareness and focused strength. If you've ever watched a skilled yogi flow through hand balances and inversions, you can't deny the raw strength present in their practice. The minutia behind the strength involved in such practices is both awe-inspiring and fascinating to me.
My two big goals for myself with yoga have always been splits and handstands. I know both are well within my realm of ability, I just have to take the time to pursue daily yoga to advance my flexibility and strength within poses. With a focus on splits first and handstands second, I will strengthen the weak aspects of my physique: hip flexors and lower abdominal muscles. The strength I'll gain along the journey will benefit my posture, my riding, my skiing, my rock climbing, and so many other aspects of my life.
DressageSince learning more about dressage, I have believed firmly that it will help my horses more than nearly any other pursuit. Teaching them how to build their bodies to be strong in the correct places and use that strength in the correct way will only help in the journey to pursue any other sport I choose to dive into.
Dressage is a journey though; it takes time and miles to build a horse up to be able to properly execute the proper steps through each level. Like with yoga, you can't cheat your way to the fancy trick-like maneuvers. If you do cheat your way there, you're bound to encounter other issues that will prohibit lasting success.
Riding dressage, being the partner your horse needs you to be, isn't easy. It takes a certain amount of "feel" along with proper body alignment and strength.
As I dove into a lot of dressage-focused reading on my vacation, I was reminded of just how not easy it is to properly ride a horse. Keeping your sit bones properly aligned underneath you, maintaining proper leg position, and then independently delivering a variety of aids to cue the horse quickly becomes downright complicated. Add in body weaknesses like tight hip flexors and weak lower abdominals and, well, frankly, you're a bit screwed.
But you know what I kept noticing as I read about the minutia involved in proper riding? So many of the notes about how to achieve proper body alignment and involve the exact same things I'm pursuing with yoga in my quest for splits and handstands. "Zipping up" your abdominals and tucking your pelvis will not only help you sit in the saddle properly, it will also help you hold a handstand.
Touché, Universe, I see what you did there.
Goal UnityAnd thus, my winter goals for both myself and the horses have collided into near-perfect unity.
I will be pursuing stronger lower abs and greater flexibility in my hip flexors among other added strength gains to my body through yoga and also ask the horses to carry themselves with more balance and precision through dressage-focused exercises. With any luck, we'll advance together through these pursuits, building strength and skill along the way.
It's my hope that putting these goals into writing in a public space will help increase my accountability toward their pursuit. Only time will tell!
How about you - tell me about a time you pursued separate goals only to find that they benefited one another. Did you find it easier to pursue those goals because they supported one another? Or maybe you don't care one lick about goals and you just came here for the pictures of raptors 😉. Totally okay, if so, and know that I'm happy to field any questions you may have about them/the project - so ask away.