The magic of the breath...
I learned the principle, that how we breathe around our horses is very important, as soon as I came to Pippsway. But it’s only more recently that I’m really beginning to master being aware of how I am breathing, controlling that and then being absolutely awe struck by the results!
It probably seems like I’m having a fit of stating the obvious when I say that how we breathe is fundamental to our state, it’s also true to say that our state has an impact on our breathing. But it’s important to mention, because our autonomic nervous system looks after our breathing and so it is something that just goes on in the background, unless we bring it into our awareness. For our horsemanship, bringing our breathing into our conscious awareness, is essential. Thankfully as I’ve gotten fitter and my horsemanship has become easier for me to manage, by which I mean keeping my mind on all the requisite things at the same time, I’ve found myself more able to focus on my breath and the payoffs have been huge!
Riding out, breathing into my bottom, as Pip puts it, those big slow breaths, has been essential in gaining Bronson’s confidence in my leadership, especially when leading the hack or out on my own. Riding around the canter fields I’ve found that staying relaxed, in my breathing and making sure I’m not carrying tension in my body, or in my arms especially, is paramount to us having clear communication. Having a loose rein, then giving an instruction and immediately loosening the rein and ensuring I am back in that relaxed state, keeps Bronson relaxed and listening. If I become tense then our communications go awry. Resetting, relaxing and deep, slow breathing bring us back to that calm place of clear communication and listening, really this is the opposite of what I used to do before Pippsway. When I was younger if a horse was tense, I would become tense! If things were going wrong, I would become tense. Now I know a horse tensing is simply him asking me if he should be worried, to which my response is my calm assertive energy that reassures him no, he does not need to worry. Learning this new way of being with horses has been amazing!
I’ve known for a long time that how I breathe when I am riding is vitally important. Long slow belly breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth. But I was missing the truth that my breathing on the ground is just as important. Recently my horse taught me that just how I was holding my tongue in my mouth, and the knock on effect of that on my breath, could hugely upset his apple cart when I was grooming, so much so I thought he was being bitten by a horse fly! Despite all the achievements in our partnership of late I was still finding that sometimes Bronson was walking around like a giraffe when I was leading him in hand. So imagine my surprise when I realised that it really is as simple as taking a big belly breath for him to come with me and keep that lead rope slack.
So yes, I’m sure you’ve heard a million times how important your breathing is. But do you know to make sure you are taking big belly breaths, deep and slow the entire time that you are with your horse? It’s been transformative! If there was a pill that could have the same effect on our horses as deep, slow, breathing we’d all buy it. Our breath truly is like a magical elixir when we are around our horses, when we get it right at least!