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Breathe Life in to Training - Part 3 of 3
May 14, 2010
In Parts 1 & 2 Jenny explained core breathing and how it relates to energy flow, connection and communication with your horse. She explained how to use the breathe to communicate to the horse to move forward and to halt. In Part 3 Jenny continues with transitions and explaining how breathing can control the horse in lateral movements and circles and bring you and the horse to collection.
USING CORE BREATHING IN TRANSITIONS
FROM WALK to TROT
Walk forwards in a good energetic rhythm and prepare with a deeper inhalation. Then take a deep breath outwards and feel the energy ripple down through your spine, releasing the core and mobilizing the seat. If the horse does not respond by trotting then use your legs once and back up with a tap of the whip, if needed.
Focus on regular natural breathing using deeper exhalation for more impulsion. If your horse is too strong, re-balance with more focus on deeper inhalation and if necessary close your fingers on the reins. Once he has responded, relax the fingers into a more allowing contact. Encourage the horse to listen to core breathing as your first aid when asking for any change, whether in pace or direction. Techniques of breathing can energize a lazy horse or equally will calm anxiety and enhance the harmony between horse and rider.
FROM TROT to CANTER (Right rein)
To prepare for the canter strike-off, ensure the horse is balanced, with sufficient energy and working correctly on the circle. Take a deeper inward breath and feel the horse re-balance, then take a longer and deeper exhalation whilst allowing your inside (right) shoulder and leg to move slightly forwards. As you exhale, breathe into the inside (right) seat bone which will release and energize the canter strike-off.
Allow the elevation of the movement, through your upper torso.
The following exercise on the ground will help you to visualize this feeling:
Walk for a few strides then prepare to take a step upwards, as if climbing a staircase. As you place your foot on the stair, your upper body will elevate to allow the space for your body to lift. In a much more subtle way, this is similar to the feeling of elevation within the upper torso, when you ride. The power from the hind limbs of the horse will create more lightness and mobility, in his shoulders. This elevation can become blocked if the movement is not absorbed by the upper torso of the rider.
When you concentrate it can be easy to hold onto tightness and tension in different places so maintain your awareness of posture and breathing. Sometimes tension is held between the shoulder blades and also within a locked, tight jaw and the horse will mirror this tension. You can reap huge rewards by spending some time on the ground with a focus on self-awareness.
BODY AWARENESS: RIDING A CIRCLE
Body imagery can help to maintain the correct bend when you are riding on a circle.
Imagine you have a rope hanging heavily through your upper torso, down into the center of your core, just below the navel area.
Now imagine a hand twisting the rope, just a few degrees. If you are on the left rein, then this would be a small turn to the left. This feeling instigates a small movement from the center of your core, which slightly turns the whole body, within a relaxed balanced frame. The horse will quickly mirror this slight change in balance. Your legs and shoulders will alter slightly in position, but the balance is instigated from your strong centered core, enabling the horse to follow.
Try this exercise whilst walking the horse on a loose rein and feel how effectively the horse will follow the movement from your core. Walk forwards slowly and feel that deep, centred rope turning left for a few strides then walk forwards for a few strides and repeat to the right. The horse will quickly mirror the changes from your core. Prepare to turn with a deeper inhalation and exhale to release your lower back when you begin to change direction. This will help to control the exercise.
Ensure the horse is standing straight and with little pressure on the reins just take a deeper inward breathe. When you exhale, direct your breathing from the left to right seat bone. Create a flow of backward energy from your core, as if walking backwards. Once the horse tunes into these aids, the pressure on the reins will become minimal as your core and shift in balance will direct him.
CONTROLLING THE QUARTERS
If the horse swings his quarters out from the circle, direct your outward breath to flow down into your outside seat bone. This will create a release and a flow of energy. The horse will feel this pressure and instinctively move away from the outside seat bone to become more centered under the rider.
This technique of breathing into your seat bones can be used to improve feel and flow within all paces, lateral exercises and more advanced collected movements.
BREATHE INTO COLLECTION
Collection can be enhanced when we emphasize controlled, steady core-breathing that supports the upper torso as it absorbs the extra elevation from our horse. Relax the jaw and breathe into 'allowing shoulders' to support the movement of your spine. Fluidity is enhanced as energy is harnessed and released, like a wave in the sea.
The core becomes stronger but maintains mobility and the upper torso lengthens and strengthens with this pattern of breathing. It encourages a feeling of pride and also lightness in the upper body which can more efficiently absorb the extra uphill movement of the horse in collection. These breathing techniques can be the essence of developing passage and lightness where the rider not only moves with the horse but breathes with the movement.
Each day will bring more challenges as we become both teacher and pupil together with our horse. The energetic horse will tune in quickly to the outward breath so more time can be spent riding when we coordinate our breath with our horse’s movement. Ride just a few paces forward and then use the deeper inhalation to regain his attention. The horse will quickly understand that this is the way of going without the constant pressure of leg aids from the rider. Excess pressure from our legs against the rib cage creates discomfort and tightness for the horse resulting in stilted paces and disrupting both stability and balance for the rider.
If we make a conscious effort to feel joyous when riding, our facial muscles will relax, which releases the spine to mobilize and flow with the movement. Our state of mind will control our physical ability to connect. These techniques are a journey of discovery which reveal the connection which can be built between horse and rider, breathing life into training.
Jenny gives clinics with her Iberian stallions. Her book and New DVD are available from her web site www.spanishdressagehorses.co.uk