Separate yin from yang – This concept is quite simple yet is an infinite study of discerning where you are at any given moment in time and space and what you are communicating with your body language. It is about separating or sensing up from down, side to side, back to front, and finally dividing the space in you and around you into finer and finer increments of awareness which allows for detection of subtle movements from your horse and control of movements within yourself.  With this in mind, it can first be a study of awareness in subtle weight shifts while riding your  horse. The more sensitive you become to these subtle shifts the finer the communication becomes between you and your horse.

For example, while riding if I have 50% of my weight on my left sitz bone and 50% of my weight on my right sitz bone it’s logical that I am equally balanced right to left in the center of my horse and that the weight of my legs would be equal (ideally…but I haven’t met a symmetrical body yet!) Don’t panic, we’re mostly designed that way and the closer we can get to symmetrical through relaxation the finer our balance will be. So if I subtlety shift 10% of my weight into my right sitz bone my weight would be 60/40 right/left. Becoming aware of that weight distribution is my goal and the ability to play with that in varying degrees and percentages and then becoming aware of what it means to my horse and how he interprets those sifts. Ten percent may seem like a small weight shift to me and maybe I think of little consequence to my  horse; however, I notice how that affects his balance and what he has to do to control his equilibrium. When I shift my weight, is my horse able to understand what it is I am communicating and respond in kind? Separating is not about holding weight distribution static either as that makes movement stiff and stilted. We can imagine what our horses think of that notion.  It truly is a dynamic dance through awareness of our body’s ability to communicate with softness and relaxation as well as subtle control of our internal balance of opposing forces.

With this in mind, can I become aware of the weight I have on both sitz bones side to side? Can I bring awareness to my legs hanging down around my horse which allows my torso to counter balance upright? Can I bring awareness into my arms and hands and what they are communicating while connected to my horse’s mouth through reins to a metal bit? Can I discern the amount of pressure right and left, back or forward, and up from down throughout my entire body? I am not asking for a number here…I am simply asking to help bring awareness into your body and your hands to help you understand that separate yin from yang is an ability to communicate through subtle shifts in body weight, pressure and balance. The finer I can make those increments the more subtle the communication becomes.

What I focus on in clinics is to help riders bring awareness into their body language which can be blocked by tension, stress and forceful intention and through that awareness they can internally dissolve those areas of restrictions through relaxation and turn them into soft lines of clear communication. Your horse has to make sense of incongruent messages coming from confused body language. We all make these mistakes, that is not the problem…the problem comes when we scold our horses for not doing what we think we are asking or we become frustrated and let our horses believe it is their inability to understand us or we blame them for “not wanting to.” This is many times a simple problem of unclear body language. Getting angry with our horse for that is the wrong answer and leaves us with a not so good feeling about our relationship with our horse. If you are like me, when I am finished riding, I want to feel that my horse and I had the best time of our lives, that day, one day at a time. The more we can do to relax, keep our bodies upright, move from our tan tien and separate yin from yang inside of us…the softer our communication becomes with our horse, the happier our horse becomes, the better the ride. We all know the beautiful feeling of The Perfect Ride.

Exercise:  Practice slowly shifting your weight through your seat bones and pay attention to what your horse communicates back to you.  A horse will notice, and you have to notice that he noticed and the dialogue goes from there.  If your horse is immune and numb to your weight shifts and what you intend them to mean to him, it is a good place to work on helping both of you get more subtle and clear with the meaning of those shifts.

Note:  Make your weight sifts by relaxing the muscles in your legs NOT by pushing or throwing your weight from one side to another. Your sitz bones will stay in place on either side of your horse’s spine so what will change is the pressure from side to side. Don’t push down hard into the muscles of your horse’s spine but shift your weight into the direction you want your horse to go. Relaxing your weight shifts will make it much more flowing and easier to follow from your horse’s perspective.