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BREATHE LIFE INTO YOUR RIDING
September 4, 2011
This is a series of articles which will help to transform your relationship with your horse through techniques of core breathing.
This journey of enlightenment for me began many years ago as I was training Delfin, my beautiful ex bullfighting Spanish stallion. On one particular day, when we were working in our outdoor school, Delfin was totally inattentive to my usual aids. My frustration grew and my aids became much stronger. He was more concerned with some mares in a nearby field and he was just not willing to listen to me. After several minutes of total inattention, I gave a deep sigh of despair. I then took a deeper inward breath followed by an outward breath and immediately I felt a change. Delfin was tuning in to ME, listening and responding. He moved forwards from my outward breath and as I inhaled, he came back to halt. I was amazed and then repeated this way of breathing with the same results. I decided to finish the session of training on this more harmonious note and wondered if Delfin would respond in a similar manner again.
I experienced huge anticipation before my next ride, but I tried to be calm and attentive to focus on my core-breathing. Delfin again, responded immediately and I felt a huge feeling of elation as this highly sensitive, intelligent horse was trying to teach me a crucial lesson on how to match his sensitivity. He was well advanced in his dressage training and many people said that they could watch him all day such was his great charisma.
Over many years I have continued my exploration and now help to empower riders from across the world to feel the power of breathing and energy exchange to create a deeper connection with the horse.
Correct core-breathing is similar to filling a glass of water - from the bottom to the top. Once the glass is full you empty it from the top to the bottom. This is similar to our pattern of breathing as we breathe air in from our core which fills our upper body. The outward breath releases through our upper torso and flows down into our core. In this way balance and energy flow can be controlled by breathing, which will assist the horse in his own self-carriage. Try this exercise, which demonstrates how core breathing can create more energy. Pick up a ball and throw it to a partner with no focus at all on your breathing. Before you throw the ball again, take a deep inward breath as you prepare to throw the ball. Then exhale strongly and direct the energy towards your hand as you release to throw the ball. As you direct the energy from your breath into your arm, the ball will be thrown with much more intense power and speed.
If we can influence energy when throwing a ball through focus on our breathing, how much more can we influence a sensitive horse?
CORE BREATHING - BUILDING YOUR AWARENESS
Just begin by focusing for a few moments on your core-breathing. Take a deep breath inwards, beginning in your core, allowing your stomach to inflate and fill with air (as if inflating a balloon). Allow the breath to flow, filling the lungs with air. Take the breath into your spine and shoulder blades, which will enhance mobility of your shoulders and prevent tightness. Place a hand on either side of your rib cage and feel the inward breath inflate the rib cage wide and full. Keep your sternum (breast bone) relaxed. Then breathe out naturally, relaxing and releasing throughout your body.
The inward breath will influence the rider in the following ways:
• The chest will expand and widen; the abdominal area inflates creating more stability and power.
• The body is recharged with vital energy
• The spine will strengthen and lengthen - giving stability to your upper body.
• The thigh will strengthen, stabilising the seat.
• The body will naturally rebalance
• The DEEPER inward breath is the essence of the half-halt in training.
The outward breath will send a ripple of energy down through the spine. This releases the lower back (below your waist) a movement similar to sitting on a swing and pushing it forward. This is far more subtle. Allow the release of the pelvis and the energy from the outward breath to encourage forward movement from the horse. You can practise this whilst walking and feel how the body naturally ebbs and flows with a focus on core breathing, like a wave in the sea.
MAKING THE CONNECTION
When we are fully aware of our thoughts, body language and breathing, we can communicate with the horse in a most profound way, connecting with his world. Our busy, over-active thoughts can become more tranquil as we connect through core-breathing with the ‘here and now’ and allow our mind to be, just in the moment. In this way we learn the personal power of just feeling, being and allowing. Just think for a moment how much we rely on using arms and hands. From the time we wake up in the morning we are making breakfast, driving a car, then shopping, cooking and looking after our horses. We are constantly using our hands to connect, yet when we sit on the back of a horse, we need to think of an initial connection from our seat and core. It is too easy to ride the horse using too much strength through our arms.
Within our busy lives we are full of concerns and plans, often multi-tasking. To truly connect with the horse, our mind needs to be more calm and focused. Breathing awareness is the key to support a relaxed mind, which encourages the horse to want to be with us. We are offering him a place of security where a relationship of trust and harmony can be built.
My articles will teach a system of total body awareness ‘top to toe’ to help you to become more tuned into a natural posture for riding, enhanced by core breathing.
Homework: Just spend some time walking – be aware of your core breathing – become aware of your posture – feel the ebb and flow and energy of your breathing. This will become your connection with your horse.
Jenny gives clinics with her Iberian stallions. Her book and DVD ‘Ride from the Heart are available from her web site, www.spanishdressagehorses.co.uk and from RideMagazine.com DVD Store.
Jenny Rolfe is a Classical trainer who has developed unique communication skills of self awareness, breathing and body language to connect with the horse. She gives clinics with her four Iberian stallions to demonstrate these methods. Every rider is looking for harmony and Jenny can help riders at all levels aspire to a deeper connection – in their own self awareness and with their horse. Many of Jenny’s clients are trainers – several have BHSI qualifications seeking a natural approach to training. Several have Pirelli qualifications but seek further education. Jenny seeks to connect the relationship from the ground with her knowledge of Classical horsemanship. Jenny has written an inspirational and highly acclaimed book entitled “Ride From the Heart” published by J A Allen. The book follows a progressive path of horsemanship using techniques of breathing and body language to communicate with the horse. Jenny has explored the Classical principles through her training with chief instructors of the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art in Lisbon. She also writes internationally and within the UK for “British Dressage” and “Classical Riding Club.” The first DVD in a series now has been produced, based upon the teaching within her book. For further information please visit her web site www.spanishdressagehorses.com.