Horseback riding through breathing and energy – part 1
Most of my guest that join me at the Black Beach retreat are pleasantly surprised when they find out how emotional and sensitive the Icelandic Horse is. When horseback riding on the Icelandic horse for the first time you are not only getting a cultural experience but you are also directly connected to the Icelandic forces of nature. Through my teaching, I have emphasized on how important it is for my guest to be in mental balance before you approach the Icelandic horse. The best way to do that is to take a bit of time beforehand and do some simple breathing exercises in order to get you in mental balance and to be in control of your body. Like I said earlier the Icelandic horse is an amazingly sensitive creature and can sense your level of tension from far away.
My job is to make you feel as relaxed as possible before we start working with the horse. Once we have done our breathing exercise we then make our introduction to the horse – by greeting him humbly, grooming, and touching. While doing this you make sure your breathing is steady calm and that you speak in a low voice. When you have made your introduction its time to take the horse for a walk. I suggest to my guests that are horse riding for the first time that they imagine the horse being a big dog – nothing to it. The rider should be walking by the shoulder of the horse and effortlessly walking forward. During this time the rider should still be focusing on its breathing and building a mental bridge between himself and the rider. The next part of the progress is for the rider to stop the horse. Before we go there you should remember that horses are group animals and there is always some horse that takes the leadership of the group. In this case, the rider will have to take the leadership of this newly created group so the horse will feel confident with its new leader and partner. When the rider stops the horse its important that the rider feels that the horse is paying attention to the assignment. The rider can test this by simply stopping himself and see if the horse will stop. If the horse does not stop fully the rider can then send signal to the horse that he should be calm by letting out energy by breathing out with a sound “HOOO”.
Remember that horses communicate mainly through two means, body language and energy. In this case we are doing both, we are stopping our bodies and by breathing out, exhaling out our energy, we are telling the horse that I, your leader, is calm and there is no danger around. This exercise is the basic horse training for all horses and is perfect to establish the mental bridge between the rider and horse. Now it is time to go horseback riding. Once you are in the saddle the most important thing for the rider is to remain calm and think about its breathing. Do not worry about the horse to start with, remember you have already set the relationship between you – you are the Alpha. After you have made sure that your breathing is calm and deep it is time to go through your seating. You do that by checking that your body is in balance, heels down, straight back along with straight neck. The seating for horse riding is crucial and minor adjustments can make a huge difference. Remember the horse is reading into you the entire time and awaiting you instructions. Just by sitting calmly on a horse, you are sending your horse multiple messages through your feed, seat, and balance. Then as soon as you touch the rains you are sending another batch of messages. This can be hard for first-time riders since most of the time there is tension from the rider that the horse is sensing and makes the relationship between horse and rider tenser. The best way to work through this tension is to focus on your breathing until you and your horse are more relaxed.
Now its time to ride the horse. It is important that once you start riding the horse you increase you energy by tensing up your body a bit until it creates a reaction from the horse that results in the horse will walk. Most riders create this tension by squeezing heals or calves on the sides of the horse, which is fine if done gently, but with most horses making a small sound and tensing your torso is enough to have your first horseback riding experience.