Book Review: The Zen of Horseriding by Ingrid Soren

The Zen of Horseriding by Ingrid Soren takes a look into the mental component of horseriding from a unique perspective. The result is a book with many interesting insights into sports psychology in equestrian sports, which is sure to be of interest if you’re a thinking rider, riding coach, nervous rider or someone who likes stories of personal journeys with horses.

“How you approach the horse is a reflection of how you approach the world.”

The Zen of Horseriding follows the author as she embarks on two simultaneous journeys of discovery – one into the world of horse riding, the other into the world of Zen Buddhism. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, as although I know quite a bit about horse riding, my experiences with Buddhism are quite limited.

My exposure to Buddhist teachings prior to reading this book consisted almost entirely of childhood viewing of the TV show “Monkey” (aka “Saiyuki”). The show was based on the Chinese story of the origins of Buddhism, which surprisingly seems to have involved a lot of choreographed fighting, and some very cool flying about on clouds. The narrator shared snippets of wisdom relating to the characters’ personal development on their journey whenever they encountered a new problem.

The nature of monkey was... irrepressible!

Having loved the wisdom in the show, I was delighted to find similar snippets of wisdom in Ingrid Soren’s book. This time however, the insights related not to the journey of a Buddhist priest constantly being attacked by demons on his way to India, but to the journey of someone who had previously been afraid of horses, taking on the new challenge of learning to ride as an adult. Those who have ever experienced being out of control on a horse will find themselves back in the saddle as the author describes times when the horse and/or rider’s body wasn’t quite behaving according to plan.

So what is Zen anyway?

Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism… Zen emphasizes experiential wisdom in the attainment of enlightenment. As such, it de-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct self-realization through meditation and dharma practice.”

~ From Wikipedia

For those of you who may be wondering; No, you do not need to become a Buddhist in order to get something out of this book. I am definitely not a Buddhist, but what I have taken from this book is that Zen is about simply living your life, and indeed riding your horse, in a peaceful, reflective and accepting manner.

Now I don’t know about you, but “peaceful, reflective and accepting” sound very much like qualities that I would like in a rider if I was a horse!

Ingrid Soren is a talented writer, which makes for an enjoyable read as you travel through pages of leisurely hacks through the English countryside, riding lessons with a variety of coaches (some more effective and personable than others) and get to know the horses, who really were the best teachers.

Initially I borrowed this book from the library, but it had me reaching for my pen and notepad so many times to jot down quotes and ideas, that I ended up purchasing a copy of it online. It is one of those books that I continually pick up and flick through for a refresher when the mood strikes.

The Zen of Horseriding by Ingrid Soren  is recommended for:

  • Horse people who are interested in Sports Psychology and their mental approach to riding and being around horses
  • Horse riding coaches who are interested in different methods of communicating about riding, and in the variety of ways that different people learn
  • Nervous riders interested in exploring new approaches to dealing with anxiety around horses
  • Anyone who enjoys interesting stories of personal development that involve horses

 

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