You needn't watch all of the lectures on the page. Scroll down to Ron Gutman's lecture on "The Hidden Power of Smiling." I'll wait.....
Your smile gives you super powers. How cool is that? This review of research on smiling is about as much fun as I've had lately, and it's worth watching more than once so you really get what this man is saying.
Smiling is critical to happiness and success.
Why bring this up in the middle of summer when riding time is at its peak and depression relatively ebbs in the sun? Because we all need super powers. Children smile more than 400 times a day, and we can't help but smile back at them.
"Smiling is evolutionarily contagious and it surpresses the control we usually have on our facial muscles."
Whoa! Loss of control! How scary is that?
For horsemen, unfortunately, it can be very scary indeed. Part of the reason we dress our horses in leather and chains and use leverage devices is that we crave control over the unknown, and a horse's mind and intentions are pretty much unknown to a human. So we overdo the effort to control.
I was at a horse show last night, and as usual I noted that the riders waiting to enter the arena for their classes were looking pretty grim. In fact, it was notable when one little girl in a leadline class entered the ring laughing and swinging her arm and leaning back in her saddle showing all sorts of relaxation and pleasure. The contrast with the only other rider in the class, who had a pasted-on smile that looked as if it were masking pain, was enough to make me laugh. And I did laugh, which made the pain of sitting in the heat watching the class far more bearable.
So I got to thinking, what if horsemen experimented with honest, flat-out smiling before every encounter with their animals? I'm not talking about faking it, though there is ample research to prove that even a faked smile will make you feel better. I'm talking about approaching your horse with the same real, relaxed pleasure you reserve for a favorite friend or relative. You open Great Aunt Elizabeth's door with real happiness in your heart, and your smile reflects that. What if you opened your horse's stall (or grabbed him out of the pasture where he was having fun till you came along) with the same light-heartedness?
This will take some effort. Try keeping in mind that your horse doesn't need to be there, and one day he won't. Find something fun to try today with that animal, even if it's teaching him a silly trick or sitting on a rock in the pasture with a book till he stops running around you like a Dervish and comes to see why you're not chasing him. Stop seeing your interactions as routine. Hard to believe, I know, but most horses don't need to be ridden. Yes, really. They're just as happy standing around with their friends (or even alone) as being with you. So try thinking of that old guy in the field as a toddler you need to jolly up before he starts to cry and smashes your favorite vase in anger. Be happy he's there and you're there and it's a day unlike the one before or the next one coming.
And smile, dammit!