Relaxation and horse riding might not seem like obvious bedfellows, as any good rider knows it’s super important to stay alert and on guard whenever you’re around a horse. But, when it comes to being in the saddle remaining calm and composed is the aim of the game. A confident and relaxed rider is much more likely to get through sticky situations than one who is tense and nervous.
We’ve all been there, perhaps you’ve recently had a fall or you’re a first-time rider. There are plenty of things that can be super nerve-wracking about riding a horse, the trick is to learn some relaxation techniques that come in very handy for those days when the nerves get the better of you.
Learning mindfulness will not only help you to feel calm around horses, it will also impact on the rest of your life. From grooming your horse with awareness to practicing the art of relaxing your body before you ride, mindfulness is a great tool when dealing with the nerves associated with riding. Pay attention to your actions as you groom, making sure to feel the horse’s pulse and how the hair feels as you move the brush over the horse’s body. Focus on your breathing and monitor the horse’s responses to your touch. This will help you to harmonize with the horse and feel calmer in its presence.
Before you mount the horse, take a moment to focus on each part of your body, relaxing each part as you move around your body in your mind. When you are riding, pay attention to your breath and keep it as deep and relaxed as possible. Deep breathing has a wonderfully calming effect on the mind, so if you catch yourself taking short, shallow breaths, try to lengthen and slow them down again. When you get the hang of it, try to time your breathing with the horse’s movements so that you have a clear mind and can keep your balance.
Take up another discipline
The skills you learn from participating in other calm and relaxing disciplines can also have an impact on how your mind works when riding a horse, take Liv Boeree for example. One of the most successful poker players of all time, Liv has the ability to retain immaculate composure while playing against huge poker stars, a skill that she translates to her favorite pastime – horse riding. If poker isn’t your thing, look at enrolling in a T’ai Chi class, or even take up knitting. Knitting is one of the most effective ways to meditate and keep your mind and body focused and in sync.
Use your posture
Riders who slouch or let their posture become overly relaxed will not instill confidence in the horse or themselves. It is super important to retain great posture, remaining tall and strong through your core. If you are not used to holding yourself like this it can feel exhausting and sometimes painful, but it gets easier each time that you do it. Try to hold for longer periods each time you ride and practice in between sessions by regularly correcting your posture. Eventually, holding your body in a toned manner will become second nature.
Loosen your legs
It might seem counterintuitive to loosen your legs, but when you hold your legs in a tight grip, your body is less able to respond to sudden movements. The key here is to remain as supple as possible by loosening and lengthening your legs. If it goes against every instinct in your body, just keep practicing each time you ride so that it eventually becomes part of your muscle memory.
As you can see, there is a lot to remember to stay relaxed while riding a horse. At first it can seem pretty overwhelming, but if you stick with it all of the elements that you practice will fall together, and one day you will find yourself cantering along without a care in the world.