I have a friend who rides Dressage and she is very fond of Friesians. Recently, she got a new mare whom is half Morgan and half Friesian. As we know, the stereotypical Dressage horse of choice is a Warmblood. When I first arrived at my friend’s barn, I encountered her trainer and we watched through the barn windows while discussing the new horse. This was my friend’s second Friesian and I made the comment, “She still likes her Friesians doesn’t she?” The trainer responded that it wasn’t her horse of choice. However, we both agreed that the Friesian was quiet and aided in building the confidence of my friend in the saddle.
We as horse lovers all know the great enthusiasm and joy that go along with a new horse. And, as I thought about my friend’s new horse this past week, I got to thinking about confidence. I hear it all the time. Build confidence with your horse! Cowboy Up!
But what does confidence REALLY mean? And did we ever stop to think that perhaps it is an ongoing process?
Many people believe that high self-esteem is something that they have to build up in themselves, for example by saying positive affirmations to themselves. The idea is that this effort will somehow build up a part of their mind that they feel does not exist. However, from a Buddhist perspective it is not necessary to make such an effort.
Buddhist scriptures tell us that we are already pure and good inside – that it is our basic nature. We all are ‘made of’ this inner goodness which is simply covered up by the negative beliefs that we hold about ourselves. So, all we need to do is to remove our inner negativity which will reveal our natural goodness that was there all along.
How can we get rid of our negative beliefs about ourselves?
The good news is that it is not necessary to say hundreds of positive affirmations daily. Positive self-esteem can be achieved much more easily than that. We simply have to stop saying horrible things to ourselves. This is referred to as the ‘thought diet’. Just like we should stop eating junk-food, we should equally stop saying horrible things to ourselves like, “I was never good at anything-I will never be good at riding!” or “I am a horrible rider. I will never be able to ride like her!” Every time a negative thought ‘knocks at the door of our mind’ we refuse to finish thinking those hurtful thoughts to the end. Instead, we remember how a loving mother would love and comfort her unhappy child and we envelop ourselves in that same caring feeling and focus on it until the self-destructive thought has disappeared.
‘How can I love myself if I am still so imperfect?’
In order to answer this question we need to remember how a loving mother would love her less-than-perfect child. Surely, she would not stop loving her child if she kept picking up the wrong lead or didn’t win a blue ribbon at the horse show. On the contrary, she would love and comfort her child more – not less. In exactly the same way, we give love to ourselves with all our hang-ups and problems. There is no negativity within us – no weakness, no ugliness, not even a shortcoming that cannot be enveloped by our own motherly love.
The Buddha said, "Youou yourself deserve as much love as every other being in the universe!"
We have to send love to ourselves every single time we feel our negative thoughts and feelings arise and I can promise you that it will only take a few days or weeks until we feel much more confident. Apply this to your riding and you will be on your way to a strong, confident connection with your horse!
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