The last time I was in New York, I was asking my voice teacher, Rosa Vento, for some advice on the direction of my career. She gave me several suggestions, but the one that stuck the most was plain and simple: “Get on the horse and ride!”
I may have taken her advice a little too seriously. Last week, I knocked something off of my list of things I’ve always wanted to do. I had my first horseback riding lesson. This was way out of my normal sphere of experience and it was absolutely wonderful. The horse’s name was Candida and I fell in love the moment I saw her.
I was quite amused that the first lesson the instructor wanted to impart on me was about breathing. She encouraged me to breathe low and to feel the expansion in my lower back……..just like I do to sing. She said, “The horse needs two things from you. She needs you to be calm and she needs you to breathe.” She encouraged me to stay mindful of my breath, as if I stopped breathing consistently, the horse would know. She encouraged me to pay attention to my posture and be sure I was sitting on my sitz bones. I had no idea that horses could hear within a half mile radius, so there was a definite emphasis on quiet and calm.
It was an interesting experience to feel the rhythm of the horse…..focusing on my breathing and also to stay balanced! As soon as the teacher started talking about breathing and focus, I knew that this desire to learn to ride was much bigger than just something I’d wanted to do as a kid. There was a certain discipline in being calm and grounded that I needed to nurture in order to be able to do this well. I can only see how these skills could also be of benefit to me as a person, walking around on my own two feet.
I loved the horse……I giggled trying to feed the horse carrots, as even that was a foreign experience to me. It was wonderful just to stand next to Candida and gently pet her and connect with this beautiful animal.
Costanza Cuccaro, an acclaimed lyric-coloratura soprano and professor at Indiana University, wrote an article for Classical Singer magazine several years ago that I still remember to this day. In it, she wrote that artists need to fill up their tanks with beauty. We have to fill ourselves up as artists in order to have something to give. This experience made a major deposit in my tank. I believe these forays out of our comfort zone can only help grow us as people and as artists. I am so excited to have engaged this new adventure. I can’t wait to go back!