Riding can be a form of moving meditation. In this article you will learn how to feel the connection between you and your horse. You impact your horse’s movement and this exercise will teach you to feel how the way that your bodies are joined through motion. Please use safe riding practices while learning how to meditate while riding. For extra support and guidance, download this free series of guided meditations for equestrians.
Now you can build on the mindfulness, connection, awareness and clarity gained through the first two exercises to help build your relationship, communication and performance with your horse. Once you have practiced developing full awareness of your body and your horse’s body you can use it to enhance your riding skills. This is where the practical side comes in for those of you who are not the sort to meditate.
From the state of awareness gained from part one and part two you can start to manipulate your neutral body position and your horses natural walk. Again, we will start by exploring your own body first since that is easier. You should start in a meditative, mindful state. Begin to manipulate your body. What happens if you put your head off balance? Can you feel what else changes in your body? What changed in your horse’s body? What if you make one hand tense? Both hands? Try dropping a shoulder or rotating your shoulders slightly. Each time you make a change feel what happens through the rest of your body and feel what happens to your horse. Go back to a neutral position prior to changing something else.
For example, go back to a neutral position and then try shortening one side of your torso. When you shorten one side of your torso the other side lengthens. What happens with your shoulders? Your hands? Your head and neck? Your hips? Do you now have more weight on one seat bone? Does one leg now feel tighter against your horse’s side? How do your feet feel in the stirrups? Feel how that change in your body rippled throughout your whole body. Then take the awareness down to your horse. Is he still tracking evenly? Moving in a straight line? Are his back and ribs still neutral? What about his head and neck? Once you feel how one change in your body affected your horse go back to your neutral position and try something else.
Once you have played around with small manipulations in your body and start to really feel how everything is interconnected you will better understand why our body position is so important when riding. When your instructor tells you to stretch up or drop your shoulders it isn’t just about looking pretty- it is affecting your horse and your ability to communicate with your horse.
Then you can take it to the next level. Can you start to make movements without moving everything else? This is your independent seat. Can you bring one leg back an inch while keeping your pelvis and body neutral? Can you bring one hip slightly forward without throwing everything out of balance? Can you open one hand out to the side without it affecting your body position? When we can start to isolate each body part it allows us to communicate with our horses with precision and clarity. It is the ability to develop an independent seat that turns a good rider into a great one. Think about upper level dressage riders. They can, through small isolated movements in their body, communicate complex movements to their horse and stay in perfect balance while their horse exerts an amazing amount of power. They become one with the movement.
If you can stay in this mindful awareness while you ride you will start to feel the feedback between your energy and movement and your horse’s energy and movement. It is all interconnected. When you make a change in your body you can make a change in your horse. When your horse makes a change it will naturally have an effect on your body. It is this give and take that allows you to ride in unity. When you apply the proper aids and ask your horse to bend his ribs will swing to the outside and your body should naturally go with that movement to allow it to happen. You must follow the motion and energy of your horse to stay in balance with him while simultaneously isolating specific movements within your body to communicate through your aids. The best way to learn to do that is through the mind body connection developed in the ridden meditation exercises.
Try to maintain your meditative state and build on the basic walk. Start to ask for changes in the length of stride, change of bend, try a lateral movement, walk over poles, do walk-halt-walk transitions, etc. Practice your independent seat, communicate clearly and try to maintain the awareness of your body and your horse’s body. Keep the connection and presence. As you get better you can continue to build on it. You can practice maintaining your ridden meditation while riding the trot, canter, piaffe, sliding stop, over fences or whatever you are working on in your riding. If you can learn to do that it will not only help your communication. If you can feel your body as practiced in part one you will know when you are tightening your jaw or forgetting to breath. If you can feel your horse you will know when he is not tracking up all the way on his right hind when practicing a movement. It will transform your riding and your relationship with your horse.
You may also be interested in:
FREE DOWNLOAD: A 6 Part Guided Meditation Series for Equestrians – Take these audio files with you to the barn and learn new techniques to connect with yourself and your horse. Click the link for more information!
Ridden Mediation Part One – Practice Body Awareness and Fluidity in the Saddle
Ridden Meditation Part Two – Meditate on Your Horse’s Body and Motion
Practice this every time you ride. Share it with your instructor so that she can help support you mastering a sense of feel and communication with your horse.