There is power in your breath. In fact, you can actually breathe your horse to calmness with the power of breathing. Generally, you probably don’t even think about your breathing – except when underwater or when running or stressed. Yet, it is a powerful tool to employ with your horse.
Impacting a Horse Through Breathing
The first time I witnessed a horse responding to breathing was watching Monty Roberts at The Movement 2019. A fresh, young thoroughbred mare was brought into the large round pen. She was new to the program and deemed “unsafe” upon arrival at Flag Is Up Farm in Solvang, CA. Monty demonstrated with her the steps he takes to get a horse to Join-up ®. This included getting her used to plastic being rubbed all over her body and shook near her.
Eventually the mare accepted the plastic. The next step was Join-up with Monty. The end task of Join-up was the process of getting the mare to go over a plastic tarp on the ground. Monty soon had her walking over that plastic tarp. She followed him willingly without the aid of a lead rope. This action led to impacting the horse through breathing.
Changing a Horse’s Gait Through Breathing
One the most amazing things I witnessed Monty Roberts do with this mare – who just moments before had accepted going over the tarp – was to get her to transition to a walk over this tarp from trotting around the round pen, by breathing. Yes, just breathing. He brought the horse to calmness using the power of breathing. When the mare was trotting Monty would join her rhythm with short strong breaths which changed to slow soft blow outs when she came to the tarp while she went over it.
It took only about three trips around the round pen for the mare to transition to a walk over the tarp, as the breathing slowed. She then picked up a trot again, once she was through the tarp, in cadence with Monty as he returned to the short strong breaths. What an example of how sensitive horses can be to our emotions – and more specifically, our very breaths.
Can a Horse Really Be Breathed to Calmness?
I tucked this experience into my toolbox, not knowing I would be pulling it out to use quite soon.
Two months later, I found myself judging a Trail Class at the West Coast Connemara show. One entry in the Open division was actually a green horse. One of the tasks was for the rider to pick up a slicker from the rail and lay it over their horse’s withers. Well this green horse spooked and jumped while the slicker opened in the wind. The horse “lost it”. The rider fell off and the horse ran off. Its friends were back at the course entrance so naturally the horse cantered and trotted over to them.
The eager riders of the horse’s friends were anxious to capture this loose horse. One was so eager she leaned over and quickly reached out to grab the reins as the loose horse came near. Of course, the loose horse quickly turned away from her fast action. . . all the while I was slowly approaching the horse and breathing “out loud” in long exhales. The loose horse turned from its friends to look over at me. Slowly the horse walked towards me and stuck out its nose to touch me. I gently reached up and captured the loose horse. Join-up occurred and the horse was returned to its owner who thankfully ended up with just some dust on her breeches.
I was quite stunned, and amazed at the same time. You CAN breathe a horse to calmness.
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Be Mindful of Your Breathing
Horses feel tension in us and in their herd. It is one of the triggers of the flight or fight survival instinct. Becoming mindful of our breathing can help us communicate calmness to our horses and can rid us of the tension our horses respond negatively to. Perhaps we are bringing the stress of our day to our riding session. Maybe we’re extra emotional from circumstances in our lives. The horse can feel the tension through our accelerated and shallow breathing. This puts them on edge.
Relaxed breathing is low and slow, it comes more from our belly than a tightened chest. Relaxed, slow breathing allows us to connect with our horse and even bring them to calmness. Become mindful of your breathing.
Come Be a Part of Becoming Mindful at The Movement 2020
You can become more mindful while interacting with your horse and human companions through The Movement 2020, June 21-23, 2020. This year all three days of the event will be live-streamed so you will always have a front-row seat. In addition, if you are unable to watch the live-stream or get interrupted, you can watch the sessions on-demand.
“The Movement aims to help humans and horses live a better life through non-violent forms of communication – essential to build trust and to learn, lead and live together. At this unprecedented time in our lives, now more than ever, it’s important for us understand how horses can positively impact and transform us. Join us at The Movement 2020 where we will equip you to positively impact as many lives as possible through the unique power of horses.” ~ Monty Roberts
Special guest and the Keynote Speaker for The Movement 2020 is Dr. Temple Grandin. She has a unique perspective to bring to animal communication and handling. Overcoming autism and applying those lessons to animal interaction has been a major life focus for her.
Be a Part of The Movement 2020
Come be a part of the Movement 2020 from the comfort of your own home. You will be taken on a three-day journey with outstanding humans and horses who are changing world – perhaps you will be changed too. Tickets are available on-line at The Movement 2020 – Superpowers, Science & Synergies.
Story Photos Credit: Sharon Jantzen Photos except for The Movement 2020 banner
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