It’s fair to say I am a coffee addict and although I don’t drink gallons of it, I love me coffee in the morning! I was therefore rather pleased to read an article in Saturday’s The Times which explored briefly the research done on effect of caffeine intake on human performance.
Apparently Mo Farah “swear by it” and who are we to argue with the Olympic and World Champion 😉
I do wonder though…Have you noticed a difference in your riding performance/focus/abilities/stamina post a coffee cup?
It is currently believed (according to newest research quoted in the article) that caffeine “releases calcium stored in muscles which in turn, boosts their power”. In simple terms, it allows the muscles to work for longer without fatiguing.
Considering that in riding we need to organise own body very well for fairly long period of times in order to organise horse’s body, it would seem that some added muscular stamina might come handy!
Riders often say, “ah if only I could keep myself straight for longer when he drops his shoulder or struggles for a canter transition” – perhaps it’s time for a quick espresso before the next lesson! 🙂
Let’s start with saying this is not going to be a sports psychology advice…Just a simple story…
I’m sitting here with a cup of aromatic coffee next to me ready to write some of my thoughts on the above subject and you know ,that coffee I just made myself, it made me think . I love stories behind the end products and every good rider as well as every good coffee cup have a hell of a story to tell…
This particular hot, delicious, perfect drink of mine started somewhere in east Africa as a vulnerable, green/white, tasteless seed, planted carefully in a large bed in a shaded nursery. A lot of effort then went into making sure the conditions were as perfect as possible for the growth to happen.
The right amount of moisture in the soil, right amount of natural light, not too much not too little…
Isn’t it a little like the first contact we have with a horse? Before we even sit on one, before we even start seeing ourselves as riders, we simply fall in love with a horse. Or not. The seed is planted. Or doesn’t take.
Those first encounters matter and our perception of riding can be formed at that time.
Back to my coffee. Once the little tree sprouted it was moved to an individual pot and given all the necessary conditions to develop into a strong little plant that can grow independently. It then took its time to grow roots in the well prepared soil until it sat firmly in it and was ready for more growing adventures to come.
Whatever age we start riding at we can’t skip our “seedlings” stage. We need the right conditions, right teachers, right horses at this stage when our roots are still weak and underdeveloped, where smallest changes affect us…
It’s our first lessons at a riding school stage, first walk on a beach donkey or just watching horses in the neighbour’s paddock stage. Spider web thin bodies up into the welcoming air of something exciting.
It took my coffee seed 3 to 4 years of carefully monitored growth to start bearing the fruit…How very coincidental isn’t it? Good few years of basic training, having fun, loving horses, learning about them is what it takes to start seeing the fruit of it all. And that’s still nowhere near that coffee cup of mine.
Once cherries are ready, the harvest starts. Labour intensive and in most coffee countries done by hand.
Every coffee maker knows those steps. Nobody would try to harvest immature plants or make coffee out of seedlings. Every stage of coffee has it’s significance and time especially for it. The finished product is nothing without each and every step.
I find that in riding education we have this very same principle. Even our awkward, uncoordinated, sometimes frustrating phase is supremely important. We can be a very good learner-rider at each of these stages like each coffee plant can grow healthily into a supreme cherry barer. This doesn’t mean we are a great horseperson yet but we can derive pride and joy from taking part in the process.
In the life of immediate pleasures required to be right under our noses at the snap of the fingers it might be difficult to be in peace with slow growth of abilities. It’s important therefore that we remind ourselves about it for the good of the horses we ride and for our own enjoyment of the sport.
Where were we? Ah yes, the cherries. Most of the fruit are picked all-in-one-go in a step called strip picking but some finest arabica cherries are picked selectively i.e. only the ripe fruit are harvested by the pickers who rotate every 8 to 10 days. Long job, costly and time consuming.
Once harvested, the coffee cherries need to be processed…it’s a multi-step process in itself, again time and labour intensive…a bit like seat training…