For those whose riding becomes at times a meditation...
To ride with a contact which is at peace and unified with the horse, adjust the flow of blood in your body so that you are warm and relaxed wherever you touch the horse.

There are many ways to do this, but Yoga, Reiki and Therapeutic Touch are three of many paths to achieve relaxation which lets the "human energy field" become effective. Where I live in Cincinnati, all three modes of learning are taught at regional hospitals under the heading "alternative therapies." They are increasingly combined with standard medical and veterinary practice. You may wish to take courses in your area. Browsing the Internet under the heading "alternative therapies" produces an embarrassment of riches with a search engine!

As a natural scientist, I know that the basis for the "human energy field" is the quantum mechanics of the Hall Effect. It is the way electric fields in living things like shark sensory pits and electric eels work. Go look it up in a library, this page will just mention these things at the beginning so those who are so inclined may satisfy their curiosity.

These pages are about learning to ride in harmony with your horse, not train "at" him. Horses know the difference between "at" and "with." Communicate with the life that is within your horse, be responsive to moods, be invincibly soft.

There is a misconception that kindness is wishy-washy. Those who want to get hurt by their horses are wishy-washy. The animal cannot understand inconsistency and will trespass in your space. Horses are leviathans compared to humans, so safety is always a first consideration. The Polish have a nifty saying which describes uninformed good intentions, "Hearts of Gold, Heads of Tin!"

Kindness has a foundation in firmness, mercy, tact and astute observation. The skills you learn with alternative therapies and meditative techniques open you to experiences in which you have been embedded without knowing. As ways of knowing, the alternative therapies are a complementary fit to what you already have learned. A slightly different way of talking about this is found at the bottom of this page.


ONE: As a start for developing relaxation, sit or stand where you are comfortable. Place your fingers together at the tips and concentrate on feeling a pulse in each one. If you have trouble with this, check for tension in your shoulders and wrists. It is not unusual for tight muscles in your upper back to interfere with maximum blood flow in your arms. The more you focus on internal peace, the easier this mental skill becomes.

TWO: When you feel a pulse in each finger and thumb, sit in a comfortable chair or on the edge of a bed. Place your finger tips at each side of one of your knees and again wait until you can feel the pulse. You may also feel warmth: good flow of blood will transfer heat from the core of your body to the surface.

THREE: When you have finished with your knees, repeat the technique at your calves and ankles. You may also wish to relax the base of your neck.

FOUR: Eventually you will be able to adjust blood flow by thinking about a part of your neck, leg or arm.

FIVE: Before you saddle your horse, check its neck, back and croup for cool spots. These will be places where there is the sort of tension which slows blood flow. Make sure you can feel pulses in your fingers, then gently move your hands along (or above) the horse. Starting at the shoulder and making sure that your horse accepts what you are doing, work along the back and rib cage (both sides) paying special attention to the areas where your leg will be. Finally, warm both sides of the neck. Relaxing and warming the girth area will help alleviate cinchiness.

Locate tight/cool spots, relax them as much as possible so that the horse's temperature feels even all over. When a cool area heats up, wait with your hand until it feels the same as the surrounding area. From this inspection, you will know what you need to work on when you ride. If the horse always has a cold, tight spot somewhere on the body, there may be a problem which requires veterinary attention. Hot, swollen places are a red flag that something is wrong (such as an infection or a sprain).

SIX: When you ride, focus on feeling warmth or a pulse between your leg and the horse. If the horse still feels cold or stiff, it may be that several sessions of therapeutic touching are necessary, concentrating on the areas where your lower leg rests on his side. Most horses will chew softly or lick their lips in response to the warmth of the leg aid.

If your leg does not get a response, check for tension in your own body. You can help your thighs relax by taking one hand and feeling for a pulse on the top of your leg, just as you did when seated on a chair. One of the benefits of these focusing techniques is that they make you aware of your own body and mind habits.

As you practice this way of using your leg, the horse's rib cage will become responsive and elastic, which is what you want. Each horse and rider have the potential for a unique bond through this practice of meditation while riding.

SEVEN: Repeat the survey of your horse's body after unsaddling. Groom the horse with a cotton towel, moving your hands along the directions of the hair. Please notice if your horse grimaces or pins his ears at any time. My experience is that people are thoughtlessly rough and uncoordinated with grooming. Going the wrong way of the hair and muscle fibers is often so annoying to a horse that good work under saddle can be undone by careless grooming.

EIGHT: As he cools out, check to see that your horse's excretion is in good shape and give him a drink of clean water and a bit of hay. Get a drink for yourself.

NINE: Wash your hands and arms, then "squeegee" them damp dry by running a circle of thumb and forefinger from above your elbow to your finger tips. Next, squeegee each finger from its base to its tip. You should feel a tingling sensatiion of well being in your hands and arms. Whenever you bathe your horse, you can squeegee him damp dry with your hands and then a cotton towel (no polyester please). My horses love this, especially on their faces and legs.

TEN: There is so much to learn about these alternative skills! Enjoy the quest!

Biomechanics and Dressage: A Rider's Atlas Home PageAlternative Therapies Bibliography (under construction)

Basic Statement of Principles