Going Blank

It’s usually a bad thing.  I go blank when someone is yelling at me. Not a thought in my head.  Zippo. My brain is on some tropical beach, sipping an umbrella drink, leaving me in the lurch.

If my 83-year-old mother is chastising me, I can’t defend my decision to not become a concert pianist, dental assistant, or  hair stylist.  Her goals for me.  Good goals, but not even remotely me.  I stand there with a completely blank mind, and can’t think of one solidly useful thing with which to defend myself.  This is sad, given I’ve had 40 years to come up with something good.

“I’m incredible with frosting”, I say, defiantly.

This is my mom. Frosting doesn’t qualify.  Frosting is not  useful.

A moment of silence please, for the frosting-impaired.

(Please help yourself to a slice of cake, before we continue.)

Yesterday the wind was coming down from Alaska, it was cold, brisk, and icy.  Every horse at the barn was ready to GO or blow up.  I wondered if, even in these conditions, I could get another good ride by being willing to ride badly.

Yes, I could!  And we learned a useful application for that irritating response of going blank.

Hudson takes a long time to warm up in the cold.  A half hour of walking before he’s ready to do the mildest of work.  To make it more fun, we pony Dinero, and have a group walk.  Win-win, Dinero will be looser for his scheduled roping tonight, and Hudson likes company.  A few horses were blowing up in the indoor arena, so we stuck to the access road, before going into the outdoor arena, where the icy gale was going on.  I start worrying about the ride to come.  Blah blah blah.

I yelled at myself.  Which made me go blank.

All of a sudden, I’m thinking: pretty clouds, the creaking leather sounds nice, Dinero is cheerful today, look, the turkeys are bedding down in their sauna again (manure pile = Turkey Sauna), this is so relaxing, the foals on the hill are adorable…

Hudson relaxes underneath me.  I hadn’t registered he had become tense.  Or I’d chalked it up to the wind.

What is not useful with my mother, is useful riding.  I stayed with my stream of consciousness after entering the arena, and ponying at the trot.  Dinero obligingly surges forward. Hudson, pins his ears, telling Dinero to back off.  (Ponied horses are supposed to stay at your knee. They both know the rules.) Dinero pretends not to notice, and I correct him before the two of them can break out into a backseat-of-the-car-Mommmmmm! poking war.

This makes me laugh.

I don’t notice how easy I find it to post his big trot while ponying.

I tie Dinero in a corner of the arena, to go work Hudson. I’ll pick him up again when we’re ready to cool out.

My brain kicks in: you know, we really should…

Hudson yells at me.

“GO!  Go go go go, GO NOW!”


Now I’m riding, experiencing the pure pleasure of brisk wind, his warm muscles, his urge to Black Stallion this ride.  I focus on his feelings, not mine, and we have an incredible ride.  He has great dressage form.  When we’re done, I reward him with a good long gallop.  I don’t think about my position, except to check that I’m in his center of gravity going right.  (My bugaboo.) I’m not.

Instead of shifting myself, which might throw him off-balance, I use my right leg to gently push him left, underneath me.  The error was my bad, but it was a much smoother transition to move him to correct my off-center, and not shift my weight around up there.

I’ve never corrected the problem like this. It was in-the-moment thinking: problem#1; sitting off to the left, dang it.  Problem#2: shifting  my seat is going to screw with the balance we do have.

Solution: open up my hips and move him to correct.  We had instant Plug into Socket. Without the irritating rider-shifting.  It wasn’t a correction, and he didn’t take it that way. Win-win.

If my brain had been allowed a rope with that one, I would have hung myself, as usual, and tried to move myself into place.  I’d be so busy thinking “I need to fix this” that I wouldn’t have created an easier, safer solution.

Going blank is tricky.  When you are first learning to ride (or learning a completely  new concept), going blank is NOT helpful, it’s dangerous.  You are still building the body memory that, ironically, you’ll need later, to go blank.  You have to stay conscious, think, process, stay present, panic, screw up, do it wrong, do it right, try to feel.  It’s overwhelming.  But necessary.  Irritatingly Zen.

Going Blank, another tool to add to the box, if your seat is solid.  Who knew?

9 thoughts on “Going Blank

  1. I love this post! Going blank is so difficult to do. I can’t really do it that well, so I count. The rhythm, the strides, the fence posts, the trees, what have you. It gives my brain something to do so that it stops getting in the way of my riding. Also, I love that you pony Deniro before and after the ride. So fun! Tucker would love that!

    1. Excellent point. I am usually shocked into blankness. But giving one’s brain a mental bone to chew on (so you can ignore it) is a great idea. Tiny loved it when I sang out loud. Hudson? He wants ear plugs.

      The boys love going out together, and I think it makes the work portions more tolerable. I frequently switch out, and ride Dinero and pony Hudson, just so he can say “neener neener, YOU have to work now hahahaha!”.

  2. Going blank is a good idea in my book. I do it quite often you see. But really you’re right I think the more we leave the horses alone and relax the better rides we’ll have not over thinking things. Love the new move to add to the repertoire – shift horse not self. Check.

    A pianist or a hair stylist huh? Why not a brain surgeon or indian chief like my mom used to say or a streetcar conductor?

  3. I love reading about your riding. And of course my one-track mind is trying to apply this to writing at the same time. I especially love all the little details you include. Very zen!

  4. Loving the blog, just stumbled upon it yesterday on a friends Facebook post and I am finding it both entertaining and full of useful info. Keep up the good work! I know I will be an avid reader from now on.

    1. Welcome! Glad you found some entertainment. Useful? Oooooo…bonus points. I produced something useful without frosting? 😉

      Please hold. Calling mom…

      (There’s an incredible bunch of welcoming and inclusive commenters here, I hope you have fun.)

      1. Jane forgot to offer you a donut. How rude…. (I’m sure it just slipped her mind.) Here, there’s one more with sprinkles on it for you. Welcome to TLH!

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