Bareback Breathing

guest-150x130 (1)One of the more unexpected discoveries during the research and writing of our book “Perfect Breathing” was the fact that the breath plays a critical role in the training of horses, horse trainers, and riders.

Who knew?

Initially, an article by horse training expert Dr. Ron Meredith caught our attention. He cautions his students to use their breathing to calm and control their emotions when working with a new horse. “You start by paying attention to your breathing so that you develop a rhythm before you even get near the horse.” Throughout the process Meredith reminds his students to constantly check with their breathing to make sure it is rhythmic and relaxed. If the student loses control of their emotions and begin to hold their breath or breathe in an excited fashion they must leave the arena immediately until their breathing is back under control. It is a long process but Meredith states that, “Ultimately your breathing will give you the calmness you want whenever you walk up to a horse.”

We were intrigued and a bit more digging led us to an excellent book by Zen expert and riding trainer Tom Nagel called “Zen and Horseback Riding.” It turns out that horses are extremely sensitive and the way a rider breathes directly affects the interaction between the horse and rider. When the rider’s breath and posture are are in alignment, they provide a very effective communication channel with the horse – even through a saddle. This communication channel lets the horse, in the words of thoroughbred trainer Jamilee Shaffer “know what you want them to do even as you think it.” This seemingly supernatural awareness of our body language and breath makes them “absolutely spectacular to ride” says Jamilee.

The calmness, relaxation, and grounding that result from slow, deep, intentional breathing can profoundly our own experience and performance, but it can also impact those around us – friends, familiy, co-workers, clients – even horses!

If you’d like to read about how we put our new-found horse-whispering skills to use with a real live thoroughbred, check out our latest article “Tall in the Saddle.”

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