Feeling festive

Are you feeling festive?

I’ll speak for myself. It’s only the middle of December and I’m a bit tired of this Holiday season already. It probably has something to do with the days being so short. The noon sun is so low in the southern sky that a habitual twilight-squint has settled in between my eye brows.  It’s hard to find rhythm in all the hurry and fuss. Taking a nap on your nose might pass as an elite act of rebellion!

As Christmas music blasts in every public place, it’s generous for the majority group to remember that not everyone celebrates this holiday. Not everyone has family. Not everyone can keep up. If the Holidays were a trail ride, it would be good manners to slow up so it was comfortable for those with less wherewithal, rather than galloping off and abandoning them in our wake.

Even if you love Christmas, it can be an exhausting, stressful time of the year out in the real world. Not that stress is necessarily bad. Some of the stress is fun; annual parties, people speaking the universal language of cookies, lights strung everywhere, and family dinners. Some of the stress is not so fun; budget breaking expenses, time pressures so huge that you can already be late before dawn, the need to be endlessly cheerful, and…family dinners.

Humans like routines as much as horses, but during this month our usual routines are especially uprooted. We are torn between barn time and holiday obligations. The pressure of the outside world puts speed requirement on every moment and life can feel like a total runaway, only the wrong direction–away from the barn.

At the same time, it’s our daily routines and rituals are truly what keep us polite and reasonably sane. As we have less time and more demands – our healthy routines are usually the first to go, taking along our patience and humor.

Horses display stress in a million ways, including stiff necks, upset digestion, wild eyes and flattened ears. Eating and drinking habits can change. Horses under stress can be moody, cranky and irritable. Do you notice any of these symptoms when you look in the mirror?

Dressage has an exercise called a half-halt. Its purpose is to improve the horse’s balance and attention. In the best application, it is a near Zen-like experience of beginning fresh.

Maybe a human half-halt would help right now – just a pause to catch your balance. You don’t have to gallop along with the herd. You can ride your own path.

If you are really busy, you could choose to just skip the barn visit. Christmas isn’t really their kind of holiday. Horses will wear that stupid Santa hat to please you, but their heart isn’t in it. And if your mind is on everything you haven’t gotten done, you aren’t such great company anyway.

If you do go to the barn, give your ambition a break. This isn’t the time to work on cleaning up that canter depart or beginning half pass work. It’s the season to expect less – some days it’s an achievement to stand in his stall. There is that warm place under his mane and just resting a hand there is a healing. If you are working on listening – and you should be – then let his aid to you be peace. Take the cue. Breathe. Let be. It’s enough.

In the arena, walking can be plenty. Set the clock to horse time. Let the ride be a slow dance. Let your horse’s hips sway you. Resistance melts and warms you from the bottom up. Saunter around until your brain gets soft.

Then take a few minutes and remember. Sometimes in the effort to improve and move ahead, we forget to look at the big picture. You have a pony. The rest is decoration.

*The horses also want me to mention that the Holidays are a good time for a rider to take up equine massage.*

However you feel about the holidays, they are here. Lit up with all the usual blessings and challenges. And like every other day, you are a rider.  You can half-halt, and then take the season at your own pace.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

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