#1 Keep on breathing
As instructor I often see that riders improve instantly if they start breathing again. If a rider is concentrating or ‘doing her best’ they hold their breath. What impact does that have on their body?
If you hold your breath you get tense in a lot of places. If you flex your muscles too much, you cannot move with your horse anymore. In other words you are making it so hard on your horse to move freely that it then becomes harder for you to follow your horses movement.
If have a yoga ball or an office chair you can do this little experiment. Sit on the ball or chair and move forward and backward while holding your upper body still. What is easier? To breathe in while you are moving the ball/chair forward or backward? Why do you think that is? What happens when you hold your breath? Do you feel tension?
On the horse
While riding something similar happens when you hold your breath. Make it a habit that every time you ride along the letter B, you think: “B means breathe”.
#2 Check if there is tension you can let go
Can you wiggle your toes in your boots while riding? Is your tongue relaxed? No, check your breathing again. See if you can relax as much as possible without becoming Jello. My own instructor often said: “Be like a twig: straight but flexible so you can still move and follow the horses movements”. Another tip she gave me was to imagine you “ride with your skeleton, not with your muscles”. Imagine you stack your vertebra, shoulders, neck and head in a balanced pile so you don’t have to use your muscles to keep straight.
#3 Keep your head up
Apparently your head weighs about 5 kilograms. If you tilt your head forward, to look at your horse, your balance is already disturbed. Imagine a stick with a rotating plate on it. How does the plate stay on the stick? Because the plate is balanced on the stick. If the stick was not in the middle of the plate it would fall. Your head is luckily attached to your spine and therefor it will not fall off. But your muscles have to work hard to prevent you from falling off of your horse. That causes… tension. See #2.
Here are a few tips. Make simple reminders for yourself. For example, C stands for “Checking my posture”. Every time you pass along the letter C, you check if you can wiggle your toes in your boots and if your tongue is relaxed. Check also if your head is straight above your vertebra.
Every time you ride along the letter B you remember to Breathe. Ask yourself: “Am I holding my breath?”
Smiling makes you relaxed. Have you ever smiled when you were tense? That is not a real smile. Try it now. Breathe, relax and try a friendly, loving smile and feel how it relaxes your body. So don’t forget to smile while you are riding.