Self-indulgence means tying it to the things that happen to you.
Sanity means tying it to your own actions'. -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Now we all know how much people like to judge other people - it’s our best thing! Throw horses into the mix and you have a s*** storm of judgement. It’s the perfect melting pot for a whole load of emotions that aren’t always expressed in the most useful of ways.
The current situation could be throwing up some interesting stuff for some of you. You might be seeing your horse for the first time in a while. Some people on your yard may be leaping straight on and heading out to the gallops. You may feel that you need a week of reacquainting yourself with your horse first. Maybe you would like to do groundwork in walk for a few days. Or possibly you think a hack would be a good starting point. Maybe you’re the person going to the gallops.
For others it been an interesting balancing act over the past few weeks - trying to work out what is the ‘right’ thing to do . To ride or not to ride? Is that a significant enough issue that it warrants me calling a professional or not? Would it be O.K. to travel my horse for anything other than an extreme welfare issue? When is it O.K. to go back out and teach?
What makes this so tricky (other than the somewhat confusing guidance…) is usually our anxiety about what other people might think. Or they may actually take it upon themselves to do more than think it, and actually say it. E.g ‘Why are you/aren’t you riding that horse?’; ‘You should be schooling more’ ; 'You should be hacking more’ ; ‘That’s the wrong colour numnah’ And on and on and on…
Why do people feel the need to pass judgement on what others are doing? I believe there are two main reasons:
1.When you do something differently from me, you are by default implying that I’m wrong
2. If you do what I tell you, then that will strengthen my sense of being O.K. in the world
All ego related and very natural stuff.
Which brings me back round to the Marcus Aurelius quote. Every time we tie our decisions to what other people think or say (and believe me, I’m a sucker for this one) then we too get lost in ego. Is it more important that other people at the yard don't think particular things about you than it is to do what you believe is the right thing by your horse?
Now, they could be right, and in time it might turn out you were wrong. Doesn’t matter. The important bit is to not let the judgements of others inhibit you from doing what you think is the right thing in the moment. If you want to seek the opinions of people you trust, great, that’s another thing all together. However, doing or not doing something to ensure that the gaggle of critics on the fence line don’t start up - that’s something worth resisting.
As you may know, I love Byron Katie. I was re-watching one of her enquiry interviews recently and she was asking someone to share what could be the very worst things someone else could think about them. For instance, maybe you’re worried the yard owner is thinking, ‘That’s the weird girl who only walks her horse’; or, “Why doesn’t she just get on and go for a good gallop, she’s just being a chicken’.
Katie then says, ‘Have you ever thought these things about yourself”. Invariably the answer is yes. In which case, you already know how to live with those kind of judging thoughts, so you have nothing to fear! They have no power over you, you’ve already acquainted with those bad boys - you can just slide on by.
What those interesting old Stoics would remind us is:
1.You can only control you and your actions. Nothing else is your concern.
2. If you live by virtue – that’s your highest order.
Make a decision based on what you think the BEST thing to do is, not what Sandra on the yard might say about you. Thanks to the scholars leading the Modern Stoicism course for providing so much food for thought currently. Look at Marcus astride his steed, see if you can harness him the next time someone asks you why you haven't put a noseband on your bridle.