Often times riders are “put” into a correct position with commands of heels down, shoulders back, back straight, sit up tall and now relax. All this putting into the proper place does is to create a false sense of alignment and holding to the point that genuine relaxation and fluidity is lost. A rider cannot hold herself into a measured position and relax at the same time. These two things are diametrically opposed. When a rider is holding onto a false position, the horse has to do the same thing through his body in order to brace the rider and himself into balance. Free movement, feel, and grace between rider and horse is completely caged. It is not possible to position a rider on a horse with a plum bob that imposes strict adherence to external measurements for alignment and then to expect to see both move with seamless artistry.

Genuine alignment is an internal feel for what is right (not what feels normal, we can talk about that later) and that rightness is achieved only through conscious relaxation of excess tension patterns and compensation habits. There are some very simple messages that you can send through your body that cultivates your body’s intelligence to let go of excess tension and restrictive holding patterns. It makes sense that if we can teach ourselves to be uptight and stiff through unconscious messages of fear, we can certainly teach ourselves to consciously relax and let go. It is not that difficult for our bodies to relax, what is difficult is our trust in faithful adherence to the practice of letting go and not expecting to suddenly get it so that we can have the luxury of going back to unconscious messages. It doesn’t work that way and it is easy to fall back into old habits. Every time I ride I work at being physically conscious and open and each time my understanding of relaxation deepens so connection to my horse gets softer and more interactive.

A fun practice:

Here are a few grounds rules, however. No nagging yourself about not getting it because that is just adding more tension. Do worry that you are not doing it right or not getting it. There is no right or wrong only letting go! Relaxation in varying degrees, some days easier than others. Struggling with balance is very chaotic and neurotic. NOTICE when you are struggling and remind yourself to simple let go and quite it! Please, know this is not an admonishment…I notice when I am struggling and fidgeting to find my way. Your horse will pick up on it and he will struggle to make sense of it! Oh, gotta love the feedback from them! So, no nagging and no struggling.

Try this next time you are riding and enjoy the feel you are beginning to cultivate: Quietly go through this conversation from your mind to your body.  Remember it is a conversation. Relax my toes, relax my heels, relax my knees, relax my inner thighs to my belly, relax my hips, relax my lower back, let go of my ribcage, armpits and shoulders and soften my jaw. Go slowly so you can notice what happens. Notice what your horse notices and build on that. Go through this conversation while riding a quiet walk and you will begin to observe that your legs will want to naturally reach down and softly wrap around your horse. Notice that as you relax your inner thighs your upper body wants to come upright naturally and as your upper body comes into place your shoulders drop long to your elbows allowing your hands to be soft and giving. As you relax your ribcage you will breath naturally and you won’t have the need to force or practice your breath. As your body relaxes it will begin to breathe on its own…after all, you are designed to function that way! Stop micro managing! You have to let yourself be and through relaxation allow yourself to be drawn into balance and alignment from an internal state of being.