One of the simplest things you can do to break the cycle of fear and promote relaxation on your horse is to breathe, Now, I know you’re breathing or you wouldn’t be reading this! But are you breathing in a way that helps you relax?
1. Let’s find out. First, let’s dissect what you do when you inhale.
Stand up. Take in a really deep breath. Did your shoulders go up? If they did, you’re just breathing in your upper chest. And there’s always tension associated with breathing like that.
To learn how to inhale correctly, put one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your shoulder. Inhale. Let your stomach expand and get “fat” while you keep your shoulders DOWN. By doing so, you’re lowering your diaphragm and taking in a really deep breath.
I call this “belly breathing”. To get a good image of “belly breathing”, watch a cat or dog breathe while they’re sleeping. Watch how their stomachs rise and fall with each breath.
2. Now, exhale. Sit in a chair. Inhale as you did above. When you exhale, keep your back straight (don’t slouch), and feel your butt getting heavier on the chair.
3. Now let’s bring this breathing technique to your riding with one addition. That addition is visualization.
Walk around on your horse. Inhale keeping your shoulders down and letting your stomach get “fat”. As you exhale, feel your seat getting heavier in the saddle, and visualize that your butt is dissolving into your horse’s barrel. In your mind’s eye, pretend you’re a mythical centaur.
By the way, not only do I practice breathing like this to promote relaxation in my daily ride, it’s also the last thing I do when I circle the arena with my horse before I go down the centerline in competition. I take 3 deep breaths. It’s a sure-fire way to keep those show nerves in check. For more tips, sign up for my free newsletter at http://www.janesavoie.com