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And... Breathe!

August 2018 by Tanja Mitton
A riding coach and NLP master coach and mindset coach with over 25 years of coaching and competition experience, Tanja Mitton conducts clinics throughout Australia and recently published 'It Takes Two To Tango' to help people unlock their own and their horse's potential.

Breathing is one of the most natural things to do and yet the hardest thing to remember whilst we are riding. Here are a few tips on how to remember to breathe and how your breath effects your horse.

First of all we have to differentiate between the breath that lowers energy and the breath that raises energy.
Lets start with the ‘Friday afternoon’ breath.

Picture this: 5 pm... Wine time! You sit on the couch after you’ve had a busy week at work and now finally the weekend is before you. You are looking forward to spending a relaxing couple of days doing something you enjoy. The perfect horsey weekend.

Imagine the breath that goes with that picture. Yes, you got it, it’s a big sigh.

Now the sigh is a big breath out. The jaw is relaxed and the breath out is a letting go. Imagine how you feel. That’s right, you feel totally relaxed.

When you apply the ‘Friday afternoon’ breath while you are riding, you will find that your horse also relaxes and most likely slows down or even stops.

As riders, we use this breath to bring the horses energy down as well as our own if needed. This can be useful when you and your horse are in a new environment like a competition, clinic or trail ride. Anytime you want to lower your own and your horses energy to create calmness and relaxation, the ‘Friday afternoon’ breath is the one to use. Very useful in all the “oh shit!” moments.

I can hear you say, “yes but I can’t keep riding around thinking of ‘Friday afternoon-wine time’ because I lose all forwardness and rhythm.”

That’s correct and that’s why there is also a ‘Monday morning’ breath!

Picture this: Imagine you are blowing a bubble with one of the ‘bubble blowing toys’ we used to have as kids. To end up with a big bubble you need to blow a long breath out. Not a big, sharp, short breath out but rather a long, gentle, slow breath out.

While imagining that, check what’s happening to your tummy. Do you find that your belly button draws in as you get towards the end of your breath out? If it doesn’t, do it again until you can feel it.  When your belly button draws in you are automatically engaging your inner core. This breath creates energy and that’s the breath to use whilst schooling your horse to develop forwardness and rhythm.

You will find that during the ‘Friday afternoon’ breath you might start to slouch and that’s ok. Picture a trainer who sits on a young horse that is nervous and anxious. What position is the trainer in when he/she ‘just sits there’ and waits for the horse to relax? That’s right, they use the ‘Friday afternoon’ breath and sometimes slouch while lowering the horses energy.

With the ‘Monday morning’ breath, comes a lifting of the sternum and an opening of the chest whilst engaging the inner core and that helps the rider to sit up straight without becoming tense, which often happens when you are sitting up straight.

Notice that we have focused on the breath OUT in both examples. This is very important as most riders are inclined to take a big breath IN when reminded of their breathing.

A big breath in will automatically create tension. To avoid getting tense while taking a breath in you can just relax your jaw, open your mouth a little and allow the air to come in through your mouth rather then breathing in through the nose. It keeps the breathing more regular and without tension.

Happy riding everyone!

To find out more about Tanja and her new book 'It takes two to tango' click here.