Freezing and Unfreezing your Body Parts
Riding horses is such a challenge in balance and motion. Focusing on all of the motion you are experiencing and just the sensation of motion can get overwhelming. You and your horse go forward and sideways. In some cases backwards. The horse is moving his body and your body moves over his body so your hips are swinging side to side and up and down as well as being in a forward motion as part of trotting down the long side. You get the lovely task of trying to be 'with the motion' and 'quiet' at the same time. How many times in a lesson have you heard that from your trainer? “Quiet your hands!” “Quiet your legs!” Your brain is recording the motion of just you going over dirt on your horse and your individual body parts all moving at the same time, and now your trainer says to stop moving your legs or hands? What? Your brain goes – BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Overload! That's where this technique may help you in your next training ride.
Since it’s colder now in the US and heading towards winter in this hemisphere, the thought of freezing and unfreezing your body parts is timely to the season, too! When I say freezing, think about clenching the muscles in one body part, like an arm or a leg. You can try this off the horse, too, as this is similar to an isometric exercise when you tighten the muscles and hold a position like a bicep curl but you don't have a weight in your hand. Try tightening just your quad muscle – the muscle on top of your thigh – but when you are not doing an exercise with a weight. That's what I mean by freezing the body part. Then relax the muscle. That should feel like a great relief in your arm or leg. Now let's try it while we're on the horse. While walking your horse, first freeze one arm or both arms. Just don't move them, or move with the horse but with tightened muscles. See what happens to your horse. He may stop, drop his back, lift his head or open his mouth, or all of them. Then start unfreeze your arms and follow again. Now you are really aware of your arms. The brain has taken note of the fact that you purposely did the opposite of following the horse and made the exact opposite aid. You have a little more awareness of your motion. Then try walking again and freeze one leg – like a stiff stick and not following your horse—and see how he responds. Does the horse move away from it, or do you lift your leg a bit when you tighten up all your muscles in the leg? Now release the muscle and feel it drape closer to your horse.
The brain—by focusing on the opposite of what you want for a few seconds (which is ideally following your horse’s movement and being in motion that follows the motion of your horse) – has given you a good compare and contrast in your body. This is a great technique to use off and on to see if you are following well or if there's a particular part of your body that's not following properly. Have fun with it and see how other parts – like tightening your jaw or shoulders—can affect the horse’s movement.