Breathe Deep, Center Yourself, Stay Soft and Ride!

Whether or not you are a horseback rider, this is article is a concise and informative work that shows “Tai Chi in practice.” I don’t often see Tai Chi principles “used,” but I love it and I think it is the only way to practice Tai Chi (or Systema for that matter.) My Tai Chi instructor, Bill Parkinson, often compared our bodies with horses. Bill would say, our spirit needs a healthy horse to lead us to the afterlife. As I have only ridden a horse once or twice in my life, I read this article with my physical self in mind rather than a horse.

I was also reminded of what Mark Zamarin teaches about how our emotional and physical state effects those around us. When we are tense, those around us will respond with tension. As such, we can use tension and relaxation to communicate with our training partners (consider the “half-halt” mentioned in the article,) but to do so, we must first know how to control tension in ourselves. I would like to reiterate an exercise we use in Systema to understand and control tension.

While lying or standing, relax and breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Inhale slowly and tense up the body starting with the head all the way down to the feet. Feel every muscle tense up in a wave-like motion down to the feet. Go slow. When the entire body is tense, pause and exhale as you relax the body from head to feet. Now inhale and tense the feet all the way up to the head, pause when every muscle is tense, then exhale and relax the feet all the way up to the head. You must time your inhales and exhales with the rate that you tense up or relax your body. Next practice rapid inhales and exhales. Inhale and tense the whole body at once, exhale and relax the whole body at once. Exhaling through the mouth will help disperse tension quickly.

This exercise teaches us to recognize the difference between relaxation and tension so we become aware when tension arises. It also teaches us to use the breath to control tension. Inhalation is a naturally tense action and exhalation is naturally relaxing (sighing or the sound “shh, for example.) Thanks!

Leading With Intention - Equine Training


Previously, I listed three key ingredients that I feel are important to develop as a rider.  We have discussed the importance of straightness, and now it is time to focus on the value of breathing properly, and the development and use of ones “core.”  When I use the term “core,”  I’m not talking about developing a six pack, or the need to have super strong abs.  Some “traditional” core strength is very helpful, but my focus in this article will be on developing your core energetically.  Learning to release tension in your body and breathe more effectively will make a HUGE difference in the quality of communication you have with your horse – whether you are riding, or working with them on the ground.  It will also improve every other aspect of your life.  This may sound grandiose and abstract, but it really isn’t.  The quality of energy, centering and…

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