Mindfulness: Riding and Training with Intention

In a previous article, I opened the door on meditation for equestrian athletes. Something that often comes along with developing a mindfulness practice, and becoming a more mindful rider is the concept of setting intention.

What is intention? Intention is very similar to goal setting. It helps us get a little closer to the values and challenges that build on our performance in and out of the tack.

If you’ve ever attended yoga, group meditations, or the like you’ve probably had some experience with setting an intention for the practice. I find even when I’m working with riding clients, training clients, or therapy clients that it can be hugely beneficial to open a session by asking what their goal or focus is for the day- another way of inquiring about a intention or direction for the session.

Intention is essentially just that. A direction or focus you’d like to uphold. It could be for a short amount of time during a workout, recovery session, ride or meditation. Or intention can be used for bigger picture ways of living.

Read This Next: Meditation For Performance

Some broader scope examples of intention is simply the acknowledgment of riding with intention. When we ride with intention we are choosing to ride in the moment with the focus being on nothing other than what is directly in front and under us in the saddle. This would be similar to “being in the zone” and being mindful.

Choosing to practice riding (and living) in this way is extremely beneficial for those of us who struggle with anxiety, fears, depression, or trouble focusing. As we practice riding with intention (or speaking/moving/working out/meditating/living) we can begin to bring different focuses in. For example; you might set the intention of keeping your awareness on your breath during a ride because you know you have a tendency to hold your breath and that can increase your chances of getting nervous, making mistakes, and losing focus.

When it comes to setting intentions, I find it helps to figure out what your values are behind the things you’re setting intentions around. If you’re setting intentions during a ride- first take a minute and sit with what it is that you’d like to accomplish during the ride (short or long term), why that is important to you and what values it implies for your riding as a whole. If you’re setting intentions for a mindfulness practice it could be of use to settle in and get clear about some things you’d like to explore internally (or alternatively simply acknowledging that you’d like to stay open to whatever arises!), and use those to guide the practice.

Getting clear on our whys and values is a very important step towards any goal, and clarifies intent. When intent has been clarified, it’s a lot easier for our brains and internal workings to support our decisions on the road to success in riding and life.

Intentions can be specific. Setting an intention or a focus on letting go of old thoughts that no longer serve, being grateful, or of drinking more water are all examples of using intention practice to support other long or short term goals.

Intention can also be non-specific. As I mentioned earlier intention can also be a ongoing mindfulness practice. Riding and living with intention means that you are consciously choosing to stick by predetermined values, goals, and habits because you know they are taking you down a path that you would like to uphold. Intention can mean many things to different people, and the simple act of utilizing intention in our rides, meditation/breathing practices, and day to day lives helps us to fully encompass our higher values.

When it comes to setting intentions, I find it helps to figure out what your values are behind the things you’re setting intentions around. If you’re setting intentions during a ride- first take a minute and sit with what it is that you’d like to accomplish during the ride (short or long term), why that is important to you and what values it implies for your riding as a whole. If you’re setting intentions for a mindfulness practice it could be of use to settle in and get clear about some things you’d like to explore internally (or alternatively simply acknowledging that you’d like to stay open to whatever arises!), and use those to guide the practice.

The best way to figure out intention is to just begin setting intent here and there, and be aware (my favourite tool!) of what comes up. There’s no right or wrong answers, just experiences to be mindful of.

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