Three Tips to Letting Your Body do the Riding!

Happy Rider and HorseWhat would you say if I told you “Your body rides better than you do!”?

You might say, “Say what?! How can my body ride better than I do? That’s silly. I *am* my body, aren’t I?”
Well, let’s take a look at it, shall we?
First, for clarity, let’s define a few different mental concepts:
  1. Your Brain – the physical organ that, through chemical and electrical impulses, controls your voluntary and involuntary nervous system.
  2. Your Mind – the part of your brain that synthesizes thought – conscious and unconscious, instinctual and rational.
    • Your Unconscious mind – the accumulated collection of experiences, thoughts, feelings and triggers that your brain uses to filter, categorize and respond to external stimuli.
    • Your Conscious mind – that part of your mind in which you rationalize, use logic, think consciously about external stimuli.

I’m going to use these terms to differentiate between the various ways your physical grey matter can function.

Let’s look at a scenario where your Mind can sabotage your Brain, and ultimately your Body:

You’re totally relaxed and confidently riding your horse down the arena wall, and you notice that you’re coming up on the corner of the arena where he (or she) *always* spooks. Your unconscious mind collects this data, remembers that this is where the horse is likely to spook, and immediately turns on “Protection Mode”. Your brain then sends out the signal “Danger, Will Robinson! Defend! Defend!” in an effort to protect you from potential harm, and your breathing becomes shallow and quick, and your body tenses up in preparation for having to “hold on”. Your horse, feeling your muscles tense up around him, starts looking for the danger, spots the corner, and… spooks!

Your body responds to your brain, and your brain controls every impulse that your nerves, joints and muscles receive. Your *mind* (conscious/unconscious, id, ego, whatever you want to call it) can muck up the works by holding on to fear, tension or stress. And, we all know that horses respond to our “intention”, which is the same as our mental state, and that’s where a lot of things can go wrong. It doesn’t matter how fit or balanced or relaxed you can be on the horse, if your brain takes over and jumps into a fight or flight mode, you have no chance! So, let’s talk about how you can train your mind right along with your body, so it doesn’t sabotage your relaxation.

How do we prevent the above scenario from happening? By training our minds (both conscious and unconscious) to stay in a state of equilibrium while we are riding, so our bodies can stay relaxed. Here are 3 strategies that professionals use, and that you can start doing TODAY to achieve that mental state:

Learn to Breathe

Have you ever noticed that you hold your breath while you’re riding, or that at a certain point in your ride you start panting? That is a sure way to make your body tense, and your horse to start looking for monsters! Go to a yoga class that focuses on the breathing practice (pranayama). Get good at your yoga breathing and bring it to your riding. As you are warming up your horse and/or taking a walk break on a loose rein, practice breathing.

Once you’ve become really comfortable with that, start bringing that breathing practice into any situation that you think might be scary or that you might normally tense up in anticipation of. It’s impossible to hold onto tension and fear when you are breathing really deeply. It physically changes your brain chemistry. You will be amazed at how your horse responds to just that one change!

Talk to Yourself

You read it right… your unconscious mind has been programmed by years of experience and the influences of other people in your life. When the chips are down, it takes over and uses its full complement of experiences and negative messages to protect you from whatever you fear – failure, pain, injury, embarrassment, etc.

Problem is, it’s always responding to the PAST. Your body is no longer the same as it was 6 weeks ago, so your unconscious mind needs an update! So… talk to yourself! Whenever you are looking at a scenario where your horse might do something that, in the past might have unseated you, or scared you, consciously give your brain a message:

“Hey, brain! Listen up! My body can move with the horse better now, I’m NOT going to tense up and risk falling  just because 2 months ago I might not have been able to recover from a spook, so let it go! Just breathe, and everything is going to be perfectly fine! It’s a beautiful sunny day on the beach… somewhere! Let’s be there, right now!”

Do this every time you come to any situation that might make you feel even remotely anxious, and eventually your subconscious programming will start to shift.

Ride The Next Stride

This might sound like anticipation, and it is, but it’s anticipation of the perfect stride, not a spook! So, here’s what it looks like: Look ahead, somewhere other than the scary place, and ride the next stride as though it’s going to be the perfect, most balanced, relaxed stride you have ever ridden. You’ll be setting your brain, and your body, and your horse up for success instead of failure.

In fact, don’t just do this when you are anticipating something scary, do it every stride! Let your imagination run wild with how beautiful, relaxed and joyful every stride on your horse can feel, and then keep that in your mind every single moment of your ride. Your brain will send *those* signals to your body, and your body will communicate *those* feelings to your horse. It’s a win-win, and will give you many more balanced and relaxed strides than tense, unbalanced ones.

Your body is capable of whatever your brain allows it to do, so start controlling your brain by controlling the mental process that trigger it into action, and let your body do what it’s learning how to do best!

Until next time, Ride fit!

P.S., if you haven’t been training your body to move freely with the horse in a relaxed and balanced way, then get on it! If you’re not sure how to start, go ahead and schedule a FREE 60-minute strategy session with us, and we can help you not only map out your path to success, but offer you some really simple, yet powerful strategies to get started, and stay on track! There’s literally nothing to lose, and everything to gain!

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