May 19, 2010
Take a Deep Breath
Copyright © 2010 Robin Brueckmann
Breathing: we take it for granted, right? If weíre not breathing, weíre dead. So why is it that so very many riders get out of breath while theyíre riding? They are breathing, but not very much. Too often, riders forget to breathe while theyíre riding.
I had an eventer student who swore that she had to get herself to the gym more often. While that may be true, what she needed to do more desperately was to remember to breathe while she was riding. When she did that, suddenly she didnít feel the need to hop on a treadmill. The treadmill wouldnít help her, anyway, if she wasnít taking deep breaths while she rode.
Today, it seems that using your core is a catchphrase. Of course you need to use your core to ride well, particularly for sitting trot. If you keep your core solid, it can then be hard to figure out how and where to breathe, since your diaphragm is an essential part of your core muscle group. Where to breathe, then? Typically, riders select breathing with the upper chest muscles, which is an inefficient way to take in oxygen. Itís more effective to use your back and side body to help you take those important deep breaths. Try this now: hold your hands on your sides, between your ribs and your pelvis. Now breathe so that this area of your body expands as you inhale. Thatís breathing into your side body. Now put your hands on the small of your back, and practice breathing so that this area expands when you inhale. Thatís breathing into your back body. This feels strange, so itís best to practice this when you have some time off the horse before you try to implement it while riding. I practice breathing this way while I drive, of course without putting my hands on my back and sides. I can feel the expansion as I move into the seat of my vehicle.
Notice that you can breathe into your side and back body and maintain the integrity of your core. This is key to good riding. If your core is wimpy, so will your riding be wimpy.
Now notice your balance, either sitting on a chair or on the horse. When you breathe into your upper chest, your center of gravity tends to move upward, and you become unstable and insecure. When you breathe more deeply into your body, your center drops and you become more solid on the horse. Feels better that way, doesnít it? It takes practice and diligence, and it helps to have someone on the ground, even a non-horseperson, to remind you to continue breathing as you have now practiced.
Itís not difficult to see where people are breathing from the ground. Watch riders in the warm-up arena. You can see stiff, tense bodies that are breathing from the upper chest, and you will also see supple, solid riders who are breathing more deeply in their bodies. Notice the relationship between where someone is breathing and how they are able to use their aids. Eerie, isnít it, that you can see it so easily?
Now go practice your breathing. Itís easy, since you are breathing night and day, right? Takes practice to breathe from deeper within your body, and itís worth your attention and effort.