Awareness, mindfulness, being with, attentiveness, being in the moment, or intuitiveness, are all references to this concept of protecting yourself and your mount from potentially hazardous situations with thoughtful grace. They all have the same meaning…, to have Awareness of your horse at all times. You are responsible for yourself, your mount and your mounts impact on nearby riders at all times. You must be prepared to speak out in a timely manner before anyone comes into a perceived danger zone. Polite, respectful words, even if urgently stated, are sometimes needed.  Informing others to watch and ride with care, maintaining safe distances, is always a good practice if your horse has tendencies to certain behaviors. For instance, if your horse is a kicker, begin by placing the red ribbon in your horse’s tail. This will inform others of the kicking danger. Negotiate tight areas, like gates, with a plan that you announce to any rider that is in the periphery. As you increase your awareness, avoiding pitfall situations will become second nature to you and one of your greatest horsemanship assets.

Distractions are all around us. Don’t let one take you out of your mental awareness of your mount. All it takes is a moment of distraction for you and/or your horse, to end up on the losing end of a situation. They can happen anywhere, at home, at a show or event, trail riding, trailering, or basically anyplace involving you and your horse with others and their horses. Be mindful of the times when it is easier to become distracted. Some example of such times are while using a cell phone near your horse or while riding, including taking photos, or while eating food, chatting with a friend, watching another rider, searching in your saddle pack, looking at riders moving ahead of or behind your position, or while focused on your upcoming jump course or flat test as you wait at the the in-gate, riding in the warm-up arena, meeting friends or trainers as you exit the gate area…, and many more.

United States Pony Clubs, Inc. has a rule about cell phone use.  It may be looked up under the Rules for Horsemanship. How about Rules for riding as a group in an arena, or on the road? As most rules in the USPC system have been created with the safety of the horse and rider in mind, they are a valuable reference point for building your “Awareness” education.

Your horse is in need of leadership at all times you are in his/her presence. Establishing this habit and skill with your horse is a great place to begin. Seek the help of a professional in the art of Natural or Liberty training to improve the focus of your awareness and to learn how to “read” your horse. Honing your abilities of awareness and skills of leadership will deepen your partnership with your horse as they will look to you for safe guidance with a listening spirit. It is truly gratifying to be in that trusted partnership with a trusting equine partner.

Written by Debb Moldenhauer   Edited by Donna Mitchell