What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- The importance of your mood and mirroring
- Being mindful of what you are bringing to the conversation
- How building rhythm can lead to relaxation
- Creating routines that work for you and your horse
As riders, it is easy to only think of relaxation when it comes to riding as something that starts when you get into the saddle. However, relaxation actually begins long before you ever mount up and that is what this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast is all about.
It all starts when we are on the ground, interacting with our horse. This interaction truly sets the tone for each ride and there are ways that you can intentionally improve this tone; which will improve the whole conversation in the saddle.
Your Mood and Mirroring
I want to encourage to you begin checking your mood each and every time before you go to your horse. Your horse will often mirror back to you what you project on him.
I find one of the best ways to maintain a ‘good attitude’ when riding is by setting a basic intention for the interaction with your horse
Let this intention be your focus both on the ground, so grooming and tacking up, and also in the saddle. It is the goalposts that you are working towards with each interaction you and your horse have.
Using Your Horse as a ‘Rescue Remedy’
I find it a little alarming just how many riders I come across who use their horse as a ‘pick me up’. The go to their horse when they are in need of inspiration and a lift in their mood.
Imagine if you had a friend who treated you the same way… They only ever contacted and visited when they were miserable, in order that you could help them feel better. Not such a good relationship and one that you would begin resenting over time.
If you have been using your ‘horse time’ this way, I am urging you to shift that a little. Be the inspiration for your horse for a while and see how the relationship really grows.
Being Open to Things Happening Differently
Setting an intention is great, but only if you are truly aware that things will not go 100% to plan each time. Part of checking your mood and really being a leader for your horse is making peace with this.
Become more supple in your approach. When things go off track, as they inevitably will from time to time, allow your intention be the guide to get you back on track
Act like you would like your horse to act… Model, Model, Model…
Be Mindful to What you Are Bringing to the Conversation
We are all the time trying to improve our conversations with our horses. Part of a good conversation is being present. Remaining focused on the person you are engaging with. Keeping your focus on them, rather than the person behind them or across the room!
Remaining calm, relaxed and interested also help build the conversation. If you can remind yourself to bring those qualities to each of your interactions with your horse – the relaxation will follow naturally.
Focused, present, calm and Interested…
If you can work these qualities into your time with your horse on the ground, before you mount up, it will improve the overall relaxation when you do get into the saddle.
Building Rhythm can Lead to Relaxation
You can definitely begin creating the rhythm for your ride before you get into the saddle. Again, allow your intention for that day to lead the way.
Adjust your routine to compliment what you will later work on when in the saddle
For example, if you are going jumping – keeping things upbeat and energised is a good place to begin on the ground. It sets the tone for a focused and ‘sharp’ ride later.
However, if you are rather working on encouraging relaxation throughout the ride, maybe working through some anxiety in your horse, the opposite will be required on the ground. Slow, steady, calm, relaxing interactions while grooming and tacking up will go a long way to setting the tone when in the saddle.
Creating Routines that Work for You and Your Horse
I personally have different routines to prepare both myself and the horse, depending on what we will be doing in the saddle.
A routine for when time is short. A routine for when you have a lot of time to play with. A routine before jumping. A routine before a hack or trail ride.
A well thought out routine on the ground will help create a rhythm, which will help maintain the relaxation throughout the ride
Working with Your Voice as an Aid
Because horses are not proficient in verbally expressing themselves, it is easy to overlook our own voices when it comes to communicating with them. However, your voice can be a powerful aid and one that, when it comes to relaxation, can work particularly well – both on and off the horse.
The tone of your voice is far more important than what you are saying when it comes to communicating with your horse
Imagine communicating with a toddler. Very often the words themselves are lost on the child, however the tone behind them is enough to allow the message to be understood.
You can also use your body language with your voice to express yourself.
Asking the Question ’Does He Understand?’
A quick question you can ask yourself throughout your interactions together that will help to encourage relaxation. Horses, just like us, become frustrated when they don’t fully know what is being asked of them.
Keep in mind that a ‘wrong answer’ from your horse is usually either down to you not asking the right question or not explaining well enough what you actually want
If at any point he doesn’t fully understand, go back. This is also where mastering the basics helps you progress much more later down the road.
Using a ‘Uniform’ to Help Build Relaxation
Finally, as i just mentioned, horses enjoy knowing what is coming. You can begin using this to build relaxation by having ‘uniforms’ in both you and your horses lives.
A particular set of boots means jumping. A specific pair of gaiters means flatwork. A certain field means relaxing turn out, while another field is for working in.
I really think it is important that, initially anyway, you horse has two separate spaces that you are using. One for ‘work’, such as the arena or pen and one for ‘rest’ such as a paddock or turnout.
It will help him to adjust his mindset for what is coming later.
Build on Each Interaction
Allow each day to build on the previous one. Relaxation and routine being blended together which create a rhythm that you can both work with.
Let the baseline, for each interaction, be relaxation and let everything else build on that foundation
Horses enjoy routine, they thrive in it. Routine is really the conscious blending of time and consistency. Begin creating ones today that allow your horse to feel good because he knows what is coming.
Links mentioned in the episode:-