Riding can be a form of moving meditation. In this article you will learn how to use mediation to feel your horse’s movement as you ride. 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.
After you have practiced, and are comfortable with, part one you can take your ridden meditation a step further. It is hard to quiet our mind and stay in the moment. By bringing awareness into your body you can stay present a bit easier. To take it to the next level you can use your horse’s body as your focus. You are no longer trying to feel what is happening in your own body- let that fade into the background and become connected into your horse so that you can feel what is happening in his body.
Keep soft eyes throughout this exercise. When you bring your focus and attention onto your horse it is not through visual cues. You don’t need to stare at the ears or the neck or the shoulders. You should feel it. You can either blend into this exercise from the previous exercise or use it on its own. If you are starting your ridden meditation with this exercise start the same way you started part one- by becoming fully aware of your surroundings and then you are going to bring that awareness into your horse’s nose. If you are continuing your part one meditation you will take all of the awareness of your body and bring that into your horse’s nose.
Starting at your horse’s nose try to connect into your horse’s energy and sense the air that is passing through his nostrils. The breathing pattern of your horse can give you an enormous amount of feedback about his mental state. Move your attention to his mouth. Can you feel the connection through your reins? Try to sense if his jaw is tense or relaxed. Become aware of his head- what position is it in? How does it move with his stride? Bring your awareness up to his ears. Remember, you are trying to feel your horse’s body not just look for visual cues. The ears can also give you a lot of feedback about your horse’s mental state.
From here move to his poll. The poll is made up of a series of joints- the head connects to the first cervical vertebra, the atlas, which connects to the second cervical vertebra, the axys, and then down to the third cervical vertebra. This is the area of the spine that has the most movement, allows for flexion and provides range of motion for the head. It is the series of joints that really provide the head and neck set that we are looking for when our horse is in a frame. It is also an area that tends to get tense and blocked so really focus on the poll to get a feel for its movement and how it is different from the rest of the neck. You can follow the energy down the neck. What does the movement in the neck feel like? Where is that motion coming from?
Then move to the shoulders. Is one shoulder bigger than the other? Is the movement in each shoulder equal? Can you tell if your saddle is interfering with the motion of the scapula? Remember that the horse’s front limbs are not attached to the horse’s body with bones. They do not have a collar bone like we do. The entire body of the horse (and the weight of your body and saddle) is supported in a sling of muscles between the front limbs. Therefore, any tension or issues in the shoulders or chest can cause a deviation in the movement of your horse. Take your awareness down the front legs. How are the legs swinging forward? Do they swing freely in a straight line or is there a deviation in the swing? Is your horse reaching forward equally with both front legs? Can you feel the point that your horse’s hoof touches the ground and the moment it pushes off again? Is the break over point in his stride smooth?
From there bring your attention back up his back. Is it hollowed out or lifted? There really is very little lateral bend in the back. When your horse bends the feeling comes more from the swing of his ribs. Can you feel the ribs swing as he walks? Some horses have more body swing to the left due to the weight of the cecum. Can you feel his breathing in his chest? Can you sense if he is using his abdominal muscles?
Bring your attention down the rest of the spine and all the way down into the tail. Pay attention to the lumbosacral and sacroiliac joints. The first is where the lumbar spine, or lower back through the loin area, meets the sacral vertebra. The sacral vertebra typically fuse together creating one piece called the sacrum. The sacroiliac joint is where the sacrum runs through the ileum of the pelvis (this is what causes the “jumper bump” or the bony protrusion on the back above the hip joints). These two joints allow the horse to engage his hind end which then allows him to elevate his front end and go in a proper frame. It is also the final area that you are going to get any lateral motion in the spine to generate bend. Many horses have issues in this area so focus on it and see if you can feel the movement. This is the area that allows the pelvis to tip with each stride. What does it feel like? The tail can also tell you a lot about mood, tension and what is going on with the rest of the spine. How does your horse carry his tail? Is it crooked? Is it tense? Is it active?
From here become aware of your horses hind end. This is the power house of your horse can you feel the push and power generate from the large muscles in the rump? Many people forget that the hip joint is actually sitting inside the rump and the motion in the hind legs is generate from this joint and the deep muscles surrounding the pelvis. Bring your attention down the hind limbs. What are the stifles doing? The hocks?
Remember that there are absolutely no muscles in the lower limbs on a horse. All of the movement in the hock all the way down to the hoof is generated from the muscles above the hock (the same is true in the front limbs- everything comes from above the knee). Can you sense how the muscles are creating a pulley system through the ligaments to allow the extension and flexion of the lower limb? Again, feel how the legs swing and how the foot is placed on the ground. Is your horse tracking up evenly? Is he landing flat on his foot? Or is he landing on one part of the foot first?
From here bring your awareness up to the entire horse. The horse uses a ring of muscles to generate movement. When you are riding you are the one who is directing that movement. You take the lead in the dance to determine the speed and direction of the movement. Therefore, visualize the energy starting in your core. You send that energy down into your pelvis and down your legs to ask the horse to move forward. The energy then travels across the stomach muscles and into your horse’s hind sparking the forward motion in your horse.
That energy then travels in waves along the horse’s back. You must allow the energy to travel through your legs. It continues up into the chest and shoulders and then down the neck. From there it goes through the poll, into the jaw and then transmits into the bit and up the reins to where you catch it with your hands. The energy goes up your arms, into your shoulders, down your spine and back to your core. Try to feel this circuit of energy and connection with your horse. I think of it as a figure eight motion or a lopsided infinity symbol. You don’t want to allow a break in the circuit and the energy should flow freely through you and 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 Three – Explore the Dynamic Connection between You and Your Horse
Practice these techniques. It takes a long time to be able to feel some of the subtleties in your horse’s movement. If you can master this technique you will be leaps and bounds above others when it comes to training and riding effectively.