This might be the article where you finally get to inhale! LOL! This is one of the funniest (forward fixes everything maxim – ever heard that one?) and least used riding concept when we are riding, I think. Why do you ask? Because you’re piloting a half ton animal around with anxiety about their environment with a Rider that has anxiety and expect relaxation. Snort!
Relaxation is so crucial and I’ve been challenging myself to find relaxation in my rides during the pandemic because there’s enough stress to go around right now. And horse time is supposed fun with our best partner right? When I do my riding plan for the week, I’ve been purposely planning relaxation exercises for myself and my horse and I must tell you it’s really been a major game changer. Being mentally prepared and aware of my tension and the horses and then addressing it purposefully through an exercise rather than just focusing on being 'less tense' has created results. Why every ride? Because every ride is different in some way and focusing at least one part of the ride on relaxation or using my relaxation exercise to bring my horse and I back into harmony has really changed the enjoyment level for the both of us. How do I add relaxation? Here’s some ideas. Take time over several sessions to craft a warm up for your horse to suit his personality as well as yours. Then find the warm up tweaks for the changing environment – say windy days or the random plastic bag blowing by or my personal fav – the 8 baby potbellied pigs running into and out of the arena repeatedly…. horse and rider leaving the planet anyone? I’ve got a serous tension Tommy I’m riding right now and since I’ve been focusing on finding ways to relax him in all areas of his life, we’ve been growing foundation for better and better rides where he seeks the relaxation exercise when he gets tense. Here’s a list of relaxing techniques to try out and tell me some of your own!
1. Tack fixes and tweaks – for maximum fit and comfort; this bridle, that bridle, that shape crown, this shape crown…. the thick or thin nose band?…. check your tack each ride and at least monthly do a through comfort and safety evaluation for you and your horse.
2. Changing bits and equine dentist. Changing bits back. Changing bits again. Going back to the original bit. This can be frustrating but can make a huge difference in the horses going into connection with the correct bit and comfortable teeth.
3. Working on different warm ups – craft a warm up for the ‘easy, comfortable warm days’; for the weird weather days (storm moving in?); windy days (maybe just stay inside and groom); or shows/clinics. What’s a go to exercise you and horse love and can just release tension when your ride it? When you ride this exercise you really can check do you feel connection improving in the reins and response to the leg?
4. Work on your relaxation in the warm up. You need to do some stretches, some breathing, some focus on the moment and the exercises. Take 5 min before each ride to meditate on what you plan to do, relaxing your muscles as you inhale and exhale and feel the ride being smooth and tension free. Ride your favorite exercise in your mind with just a focus on being relaxed in your body and it moves without effort as you guide your horse.
5. Identifying when tension hits and then ride your different ‘go to’ exercises that when we do them no matter how frazzled we were a few minutes ago we have gone back to clear communication between us such as the spiral in and out at the canter or the trot serpentines. This is like time out for the horse. Some horses this is a walk on a long rein. Some horses I ride lose their minds on a free walk. My OTTB mare likes serpentines at the trot. My gelding likes leg yields. It's important to recognize when frustration and tension are ruining the harmony and when the horse just doesn't understand. There's a bit of a difference. One clue for me is does the horse maintain the quality of the gait and their attention to me and just blew of my leg aid for the shoulder in (maybe lack of understanding) or are they crow hopping and braced (maybe tension)?
6. Relaxation is foundational because you can do so much more with a relaxed muscle than you can a tense, blocked muscle and if your horse is all tense and blocked – the ride is just not fun, enjoyable or beneficial. Too many of those in a row and you have injury and/or loss of confidence.
Horses make life better and make us better at life! Want more saddle success for your horse? Some Dolce Vida? Please email me questions at firstname.lastname@example.org and subscribe at my websiterevelationfarm.combecause there is so much goodness coming! Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RevelationFm