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By Colleen Cannon
Iceland Horse RetreatPeople often ask me how I got started in sports and if I was athletic as a child. HMMM… I ONLY REMEMBER HORSES!
When I was a little girl I was obsessed with horses. One day while I was roaming the fields of Indiana with my sister when we came across several barns with horses about 2 miles from our house. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, especially because there was one little Palomino pony named Buttercup that I instantly fell in love with. I was 8 years old and little did I know that this love affair with horses would be the reason I became a professional triathlete. In those days we did not have parents that would drive us back and forth and I had no other way to get to Buttercup’s barn but to run.  So, I ran 4 miles a day, 7 days a week for about 6 years. Needless to say I became a pretty good runner.
In high school we moved to Alabama and once again I found horses.  My brother’s friend was going to college and needed someone to take care of her horse for 4 years. I told her I could do it but now the horse barn was 11 miles from my house. I used my brothers bike to go back and forth. I was riding 22 miles on my bike to see the horses several times a week.  This was the start of my cycling career.
Horses brought me so much love, confidence, purpose, friendship and healing as a child and they continue to do so today. I grew up in a big family and my parents were divorced when I was 4 years old.  Finding horses saved me on an emotional level as well.  Did you know that research suggests that a horse’s heart (nine times larger than our heart) has a strong electromagnetic field which can influence us when we are close to them. This effect can help us lower our blood pressure, reduce anxiety and improve feeling of social empowerment.
Here are some of the things I have learned and continue to learn from my horses:
1) SANITY Just the smell of horses can calm me down. Horses have always been my meditation helping me relax and to stay present and in the moment.  Live in the now!
2) BOUNDARIES I have always had mares for some reason and I learned about my space, your space (as my horse friend Mary Ann Simmonds calls it).  Mares especially want you to know about spatial awareness and every day they will test you to see if you are the leader. Mares are generally the leaders of the herds, not the stallions.
3) CLEAR COMMUNICATION Be clear with what you are asking of them and ask correctly.
4) Where you mind goes, energy flows. Horses pick up on everything. They reflect every single thing going on in your mind. For instance, if you are afraid, they will spook. They pick up on every feeling going on inside you so I have learned to “be calm and ride on” and other grounding techniques.
5) They teach patience, and to slow down. Horses have 17 facial expressions but you have to slow down to notice them. They also teach forgiveness and not to hold a grudge.  Real time honesty.
6) Confidence in overcoming obstacles. Just look up, hold on and ride over them.
7) STOP NAGGING! Don’t keep asking the same things of your horse until they are bored to death. Mutual trust and respect builds great relationships and all relationships need fun time together.
8) Release the pressure. No one responds well to constant pressure.
9) Be wild and free. Gallop bareback and bridle-less with arms in the air creating ultimate connection and trust.
10) Enjoy the Ride.  Try to be a human being and not a human doing.