Breathe Life Into Your Riding: Part 1

How Breathing Enhances Connection

by Jenny Rolfe


This series of articles will help to transform your relationship with your horse through techniques of core breathing. This journey of enlightenment for me began years ago as I was training Delfin my ex-bullfighting Spanish stallion. On one particular day, when we were working in our outdoor school, Delfin was totally inattentive to me. My frustration grew and my aids became much stronger. He was more concerned with mares in a nearby field and was not willing to listen to me. After several minutes of total inattention, I gave a deep sigh of despair. I then took a deeper inward breath followed by an outward breath and immediately I felt a change. Delfin moved forwards from my outward breath and as I inhaled, he came back to halt. Amazed, I repeated this way of breathing with the same results. I decided to finish the session on this more harmonious note. The following day Delfin again responded immediately; this highly sensitive, intelligent horse was trying to teach me a crucial lesson. Over many years I have continued to explore this breath/energy connection and I now help riders from across the world to create, a deeper connection with the horse this way.

Photo credit Jenny Rolfe

Core Breathing and Building Your Awareness

Correct core breathing is similar to filling a glass of water—from the bottom to the top. Once the glass is full you empty it from the top to the bottom. We breathe air in from our core which fills our upper body and the outward breath releases through our upper torso and flows down into our core.

Begin by focusing for a few moments on your core breathing, allowing your stomach to inflate and fill with air (as if inflating a balloon.) Allow the breath to flow filling the lungs with air. Take the breath into your spine and shoulder blades, enhancing mobility of your shoulders and preventing tightness. Place a hand on either side of your rib cage and feel the inward breath inflate the rib cage wide and full. Keep your sternum (breast bone) relaxed. Then breathe out naturally relaxing and releasing throughout your body. The inward breath will influence the rider in the following ways: the chest will expand and widen; the abdominal area inflates creating stability and power; the body is re-charged with vital energy; the spine will strengthen and lengthen, giving stability to your upper body; the thigh will strengthen, stabilizing the seat and the body will naturally re-balance. The DEEPER inward breath is the essence of re-balancing ( half-halt) in training.

The outward breath will send a ripple of energy down, through the spine. This releases the lower back (below your waist) a movement similar to sitting on a swing and pushing it forward. Subtly, this allows the release of the pelvis and encourages forward movement from the horse. You can practice core breathing while walking and feel how the body naturally ebbs and flows, as a wave in the sea.

Making the Connection

When we are fully aware of our thoughts, body language, and breathing we can communicate with the horse in a most profound way, connecting with his world. As we connect through core-breathing and the ‘here and now’our busy, over-active thoughts can become more tranquil. In this way we learn the personal power of just feeling, being and allowing.

Each day, we rely on using our arms and hands, whether cooking, driving a car, shopping or at work. We constantly use our hands to connect, yet when we sit on the back of a horse, we need to think of an initial connection from our seat and core. It is too easy to ride the horse using too much strength through our arms. Within our busy lives we are full of concerns and plans, often multi tasking. To connect with the horse, our mind needs to be calm and focused. Breathing awareness is the key to support a relaxed mind which encourages the horse to want to be with us by offering him a place of security. Trust and harmony will follow. My articles will teach you about total body awareness ‘top to toe’ so you  become more tuned in to natural posture for riding, enhanced by core breathing.


Photo credit Bob Atkins

Jenny Rolfe has been passionate about horses since childhood, spending much time observing herds of native ponies, learning about their nature and ways. Jenny became inspired by the Iberian horses and also the Classical teaching so she travelled to Portugal with her Spanish stallions to train with both the chief instructor of the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art, Antonio Borba Monteiro and also Classical Mestre Luis Valenca Rodrigues. Upon her return to UK, Jenny’s Spanish stallion, Delfin, taught Jenny the amazing power of breathing as a profound connection with the horse. She believes that breathing and subtle changes in energy are the key to learning the language of the herd. Jenny wrote her first book Ride From the Heart and produced a DVD to demonstrate her concepts.  Her students travel from all over the world to work with her Iberian stallions and study her methods. Jenny has written for British Dressage Magazine, Horses For Life and Dressage Today in the USA. Jenny and her husband Barrie are based in Devon, UK and her latest book has just been launched, Breathe Life Into Your Riding. Jenny’s web site is   www.naturallyclassical.com


Published January 2013 Issue

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