Sunday Musings

Don’t Forget to Breathe


The other day I was riding my mare in the fields when I was reminded of the importance of our breathing again. We were confronted with a “scary monster” in form of a new object on the ground which had her spook and getting very uptight. My response to her reaction, besides asking her to move forward to tackle the “monster”, was to relax even deeper and to be very conscious of my breathing to support the relaxation of my whole body signalling her that she is safe and that everything is okay. We were then able to approach, explore and pass the scary object without difficulties.


In such situations our natural and instinctive reaction can often be quite the opposite. We almost forget to breathe and our whole body tightens and becomes full of tension. The problem with this is that it makes things worse. It signals fear to the horse and confirms the horse in his worry and anxiousness. The horse’s solution to this is flight. Not really what we want, isn’t it.


The horses’ response to our breathing patterns is not only relevant in situations where horses are spooky or scared but at all times when riding or otherwise handling horses. Shallow breathing creates tension and stiffness in our bodies. Not only are we not using our body as effective as we could, we are also signalling to our horse that there is a need to worry and to be concerned.


Instead, when we allow our breath to flow deep into our body, known as abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing, we not only provide our body with more oxygen, we also create calmness and suppleness in our body which signals safety and which assists the horse in his own suppleness and relaxation.


It is helpful to become aware and remind us of our breathing patterns both when and when not riding or handling horses. Are you breathing deeply into your body making use of the full torso? If you feel that your breath only reaches your chest – as it is the case for many people – practice conscious inhaling and exhaling where the air flows deep into your abdomen. From there you can observe what happens with your breath and the rest of your body. The more we practice, the more of a habit this form of breathing becomes.


Picture: Fotolia (c) Nadine Haase