If you’re a rider who suffers with anxiety or nerves when you’re riding your horse or getting ready to ride your horse. I’ve got some really simple, straightforward techniques around breathing that are going to help you to feel a little bit more relaxed, a little bit less stressed, and a little bit less anxious and nervous.

Counting the breath

So the first exercise is to breathe in for a count of five or six. Pause the breath and breathe out, counting for 8-9. Then you breathe in again, and keep counting slowly with each part of the breath. I really want you to focus on slowing your breathing down, really noticing the breath, and breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this a minimum of 10 times.

Breathe into your tummy

The second technique is to imagine yourself breathing right down into your tummy. So when we’re nervous and anxious, you tend to breathe in a quite shallow way and quite quickly. So by noticing and imagining the breath going down through your lungs and into your tummy, you’re going to feel a little bit better, and you’ll also start to drop the shoulders, which is my next tip.

Drop your shoulders down

If you’re really anxious, it’s quite common for your shoulders to be up close to your ears and your shoulders become really tight and anxious. Each time you breathe out, drop your shoulders down.

Singing out loud

The next thing on my list (and people who train with me will recognize this one) is to sing out loud while you’re riding or while you’re preparing to ride. Singing does a few things. It makes you breathe because you can’t sing if you’re holding your breath. It also distracts your mind from what you’re actually doing. So while you’re thinking of the words to 10 green bottles hanging on the wall, you’re not thinking about all the things that you’re worrying about.

Talk yourself through what you’re doing

Another way of using your breath to stay a little bit calmer and less anxious is to talk yourself through what you’re actually doing. So a good example of this is those professional riders who do lecture demos, who will often have a headset on and they’ll be talking to the audience while they’re riding. They might be answering questions, but often they’re talking through the exercise that they are riding. I want you to have a go at talking out loud while you’re riding, as if you’re teaching someone else exactly what to do; the more detailed the better! For example, “I’m coming up to the end of the long side. There is a corner in front of me. I’m going to apply a half halt aid. I’m applying my inside leg at the girth, outside, leg, back, etc.”. By saying it out loud again, you’re focusing on the process, not all the distractions and all the things that might make you feel a bit anxious to try that one.

Breathe in time with your horse’s stride

The last exercise to reduce your anxiety or nerves when riding, is to breathe in time with the horses gait. So you might be breathing in for one stride and breathing out for the next stride in walk. In trot, you might breathe in for three strides and out for three strides. In the canter, you might breathe in for two strides and out for two strides. It will be really interesting if you try this one, to notice the effect it has on your horse’s way of going.

So I hope that’s been useful! It’s just a bit of a short, sharp, simple set of exercises to help you reduce anxiety, tension and nerves when you’re riding. If you found that interesting and useful and helpful, please do pop a comment below.