Breathing Exercise Image

There is one thing we could all use more of – time!

Especially when it comes to what we really enjoy, being with our horse and riding, it can seem as if we never have enough time to spend.

You may long to ride five days a week, but right now, all you can fit in is a one hour lesson. Or perhaps you envision spending hours with your horse, grooming them, doing groundwork, then going for a long ride, but in reality, you’re rushing in and out of the barn in 30 min.

We can’t create more hours in the day, and there are often other priorities in life that make taking more time for riding a non-option. However, we can change what we do with the time we have.

There is a factor more important than just the amount of time spent – the quality of that time.

In today’s video, I’ll share what I believe creates quality time and give you one simple exercise that you can use to start any ride that will allow you to get the very most out of the time you have.

If you struggle with anxiety around riding, the exercise I shared in the video above can be very calming as well. If you want to do even more to build your confidence as a rider, Click Here to learn about my Calm & Confident Rider program.

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Comments

75 Responses

  1. Thank you I enjoyed your idea of breathing & calming the rider. Making them present. Very nice idea when working with all ages.

  2. If I cannot ride .and only have time to groom.. (or even if I have extra time pre ride ) … I make a point of using my rubber curry comb and giving extra attention to his grooming …giving a focused and pressured massage to all my horses ‘sweet spots”. He makes the doe-ey eyes and the quivering lips response and you can wstch him relax into annahhhhh body state. I can feel if he’s feeling tight in any muscles and if there are sore areas when I give this ‘ mini massage’ . Quite frankly … he’s so relaxed during this mini massage … that he’s prob happy the days I don’t ride .. then h e can go back to his stall and have a nap . Lol Amanda . Ajax , ON, Canada Loving you short videos ! Thank you

  3. Just Being. Quietly breathing in the smell of his coat, resting my forehead against his neck. Melting bone and sinew, confident he won’t hurt me if he is startled. Best times.

  4. Thank you for a reminder to be present and connect in in a way that furthers a relationship with your horse. It is easy to rush in and hurry to work…rather than move into your ride slowly with grooming, tacking up and slowly into the ride so both you and your horse are ready for your work together.

  5. One problem I have noticed about myself generally speaking, is that I have a tendency to hike my shoulders up. I can be at the kitchen counter and check where my shoulder placement is and find many times I have them hiked up. So I drop them and feel such a relief immediately. This is something I also have to work on in my riding I’ve noticed at the walk and the trot. I think the breathing exercise you mention in this video is something I’m going to try at my next ride. I don’t own my own horse so my riding time needs to be quality for sure. Thanks for the breathing tip! I look forward to the ground work tip in next week’s video as well!

    1. Linda, it will be especially important for you keep in mind to not just filling up the top of lungs but also breathing through your belly. Hope this helps!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  6. Hi Callie, It seems like everytime I open your email its like you are in my brain! This video is completely appropriate… I always struggle for time & then my frustration or anxiety shows up .. which of course my horse keys into. The breathing exercise is great & it works! I just have to remember to do it
    Thank you for these blogs & videos! They really help me as a new rider & hirse owner!
    Julie

  7. Hi Callie! Thanks for this exercise, I think it will really help my riding and time with horses. Last winter, I was riding the stable’s Fresian, when he spooked and bucked me off . Since then, I have been really nervous about riding bigger, taller, stronger horses. I’m only 12 and I’ve been riding for about 3 years. Do you have any tips for shaking off my nerves?

  8. Thanks for positing this. Great reminder. I’m going to bring my horse back to work after a couple months off and I think the breathing exercise will help both of us.

  9. Such a good reminder to be in the moment! The other thing I do is take a moment before I get on to put my hands on the horse, take a couple deep breaths and imagine my feet grounded deep into the earth, imagine the horse’s feet grounded into the earth and then imagine me on the horse and the two of us grounded and riding as one. At the beginning of the lesson I ask the horse to be my teacher, and I always thank him afterwards.

  10. I loved this. I see friends at the barn who come out, brush the saddle area, longe for 10 minutes, pop on for 30 minutes and take their horse back out to the pens. I want to think of my horse as more than a work horse. I spend 30 minutes grooming before and after. One fun thing. At the end of my ride I get off and throw my arms around Frosty’s neck and thank him for taking good care of me. One day I was talking to someone and forgot to do this. As we were leaving the arena, Frosty began lightly nudging me. He wanted his hug! No nudging after the hug. Made my heart happy!

    1. Linda, it is really tough sometimes with schedules to fit everything in – I know there are days where I only have time to fit in a 20 minute ride and not much room in between for grooming I do mostly slow work on those days and end with an apple, just so my horse knows how much I appreciate her!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    2. Fabulous comment! It breaks my heart when I see people ‘using’ their horse as a machine, they are individuals like us. Touching works well to help us connect before we enter the saddle, and a nice touching thank you afterwards is a common decency often overlooked.

  11. To make my time with my horse quality, I don’t rush. I try to get my personal work and responsibilities organized or completed on that day so I can focus on my horse and our activity. I feel like a kid doing their chores before I go out to play!

  12. Sometimes before I even put the halter on her, I will hang out with Savannah in her paddock. Since I have a little knowledge of massage, I will spend time focusing on her muscular issues. If it gets a little too much for her, she walks away, so I lighten my touch. Most cases, she will just stand there and allow me. I am really focusing on her demeanor, reactions – and in the end, it helps build our relationship!

    1. That is a great way to start your riding time! And way to be observant of her behavior!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  13. To make my time with my horse quality, I don’t rush. I try to get my personal work and responsibilities organized or completed on that day so I can focus on my horse and our activity. And I try to mix it up doing something a little different each day. And lots of time grooming where we both relax. My horse has come to love the grooming and it’s hepled my confidence.

  14. This is such an important topic for so many of us, thank you for addressing it. I have learned over the past two years when I started working with my horse Fonzi that sometimes it is best to abandon all goals when I am pressed for time, and simply enjoy my time with him. Otherwise I try to accomplish something in too short of a time span and get too hurried to do quality work, become frustrated and end on a bad note. So if I only have a little bit of time I often abandon my plans and do something fun and simple instead that both of us enjoy, or I do nothing at all and just hang out with him. I often feel that even if I just hang out, I accomplished more than if I tried really hard to work on something in the saddle but would be rushed.

    1. Uli, I love that point you brought up here! If we are pressed for time and just feeling stressed about it that can definitely not be the most productive way to start a ride!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  15. I like your common sense approach to riding instruction. Sort of “riding instruction for the rest of us”. Dealing with everyday time limitations recognizes the real world constraints of many of us non-professionals and is good input on the quality aspect of riding. Your deep breathing technique and related lowering of the center of gravity brought back memories of martial arts instruction from many years ago! Have done some reading on Zen and horseback riding. Will add breathing awareness to the mix!

  16. OK, don’t laugh: I realize this is actually for me, and my mount can’t understand what I’m saying, but it seems to help center me. I usually ride in the evening. Before I start grooming I face the lesson horse I’m about to ride, and I say, “How was YOUR day?” Of course I’m all about how my day was and how rushed my time was, etc so I turn my attention outward for a minute and I think to the horse, “What kind of day did you have? Have you already done a lesson? Was it a good ride? It’s dinner time and maybe you’ll eat later because I have an evening ride, drag!” Then even when rushed I try to do a grooming job that feels good for the horse and tack up carefully so she’s as comfortable as possible… all the while thinking maybe we’ll both feel a little better ending the day if we’ve had some exercise that’s pleasant, slightly challenging, and not too frustrating. I try to realize it’s not ALL about me; ha. I think this helps coordinate my efforts in the saddle?

    1. I’m glad this exercise is helpful – I definitely believe it can help ‘coordinate’ your efforts in the saddle 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  17. Great, Callie. I am an advocate of “breath work”. Adrenaline requires oxygen, rather than the sudden intake of breath that is then held unconsciously. Meditative breathing is centreing and calming. A little prayer to the god of horses doesn’t hurt either. I ride 4 times a week (Sat, Sun, Tues, Thurs) for about 2 hours a time, on someone else’s almost ruined horse. But a superb horse, and not dangerous. It is all quality time, and a definite routine. Carrot and halter, take the brush with me out into the lane for a short green graze, tidy her up ready for the saddle. Back to the rail for the saddling, rub some fly repellent around her eyes, then leave her in the grass while putting on boots and helmet. I ride out mostly, start slowly, then trot and canter away and walk every step home, varying the direction each ride. If the horse is calm I may do 10 minutes of flat work at the finish. Back at the rail, bridle off , halter on, saddle off, quick scratch with a hard brush, and more graze. I just drop the rope, she’s home, not going anywhere. Its the only graze she gets. Then back in her yard (about half an acre), carrot, halter off and we’re done. I don’t hose, but may in a heatwave, then release her dripping, to get down and dirty. I feel the bit of graze is important, as the fresh unpolluted long grass provides juice for the belly to suck on, and also lets her know I really care. She was snatching at tussocks and grass along the way, and no longer does that. Six weeks ago this mare was literally a screaming pulling mess unable to stand still or go steady. Now we are an item. If only I could train her owner. The mare is otherwise used intermittently for cattle work, which she doesn’t understand, as she was previously a Western Pleasure show horse. We are on a farm in Australia, I am 71 yrs old and hadn’t ridden for 15 years, since all the horses I bred in the 80’s had died out. I love your stuff, Callie, and wonder how you keep coming up with all these great subjects.

  18. Really useful – yes we all know breathing properly helps, but how often do we actually do it? Making a point of starting a lesson or a ride by doing this means you hopefully don’t forget to do it – and then you are in a good place to progress with whatever else you are wanting to do. I like to start any riding with just a bit of quiet stroking, say of my horses muzzle, before I get on, and then once mounted don’t fuss about stirrups and girths and setting off, but immediately you get in the saddle, just sit quietly and try and connect with the animal beneath you. Well … in an ideal world, and all that!

    1. We all need a little reminder for the small things every once and awhile – that is why we are here 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  19. Breathing that way really helps to calm both you and your horse. I can feel my seat bones sink down into the saddle when I breath out. The horse becomes more responsive.
    As for quality time I love to talk to my horses, make gentle circles on their face and exhale into their nostrils. They also share a banana with me.

    1. Thank you for sharing Kari – too funny that they love bananas! 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  20. Thanks Callie,

    Going to try this tomorrow as we hack up the road to the woods.
    Sure the breathing helps with posture and signals calm to the horse.
    Any advice on nippy horses ? She is a bit girthy. Not always and generally more likely to nip earlier in the ride/ work than later: as if she’s worked of some energy or has just decided to go with my plan.

  21. Thank you for the reminder to just be present when your with the horse. Breathing is such a srong component to relaxation and mindfulness and we could all use a reminder to be presently aware.

  22. thank you Callie,
    wonderful thoughts! Great way to start a ride, I WILL follow this idea. Amazing how long it takes to learn things!!! Years & years…. Love to read all the comments. I’m going to try the “Frosty hug thing”, on my nudgy mare…..and maybe a little horsey prayer next time I’m feeling the pressure. “Remember to Relax” that is the most important thing……

    cheers
    Robyn

    1. Robyn, Callie and I joke that with horses the quote “the more you learn the less you realize you know” quote applies to our work with horses!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  23. Hello Callie,
    I am a new horse owner, and my horse has had an unsettled time in the period before she became mine, although this was being addressed by a friend who has put in a lot of effort to give her a more positive experience. I have not yet ridden her as she is having some “back to basics” work by someone more experienced and capable than me, but I am spending time learning to build a bond with her. After the essential stable and field chores, I am enjoying spending time grooming her and she is clearly enjoying the attention and physical contact that this involves. This is showing in how she is becoming relaxed and confident in accepting the time spent in the grooming, and as I talk to her throughout the process she is learning to recognise my way of communicating with her. Although I am looking forward to riding her, I really value this time spent in giving her some pleasurable experiences, and I hope it will create a bond of comfort and trust between us to enhance future time together. I think your breathing exercise is a really positive way of relaxing with the horse, and I will be trying to bring this into our grooming time even before the riding commences.

    1. Heather, this is a beautiful way to start a relationship with a horse. What was her ‘unsettling time’ if you don’t mind my asking?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. Hello Julia,
        Some of her past is unknown to me. However, from what I can gather there has been very little routine or consistency in her care or training. Whilst her basic needs have been attended to, it appears that simple groundwork to teach her good behaviour has been neglected, and consequently she has no manners. She will barge her way past me in the stable when she wants to look over the door and will not stand still unless it suits her. In the first three weeks she walked to the stable door where I was standing and crushed me against it, cracking my ribs. There was no aggression – she just wanted to look out and I happened to be next to the door! She quite simply kept walking!
        She easily becomes stressed and weaves both in her stable and even in her field, and has also nibbled her stable door (cribbing?). She cannot bear to be without her horse friends and is unmanageable if she thinks she is alone. Yet when they are back around her she becomes calm and is very sweet. There has been no attempt to kick or bite – as I say, no aggression, but she is, at the moment, difficult to handle and impossible to ride – at least for me – and, sadly, the person who was paid to train her does not appear to have done anything constructive and has been very evasive when I tried to discuss it with her.
        I have tried to ride my horse twice. She will not stand at the mounting block and has a habit of throwing her head around. I had one very short ride on her in the school – literally just a couple of walks around the first time, and a disastrous second attempt when I had to dismount very quickly as it was clear that she intended to fight to get me off. She has previously thrown my friend’s daughter, after which she (the horse) received treatment from a horse physio for her back to make sure she was not in pain. The physio has recommended continuing to work her.
        This has become a very difficult situation as I live so far away from her that I can only visit twice weekly and I am not an experienced rider and have no experience of training horses. Having been let down by the first “trainer” I now do not know how to progress with this horse and I am unwilling to keep her as she is. Yet I do not want her to go to another owner where she may be yet again mismanaged and possibly ill treated through no fault of her own. Also, due to her nature of becoming very stressed by slight changes to her routine or lifestyle, I think if a move was involved to another owner it could cause her considerable damage, and nobody else at the yard wants her!
        At the time of buying her, I knew she had been ridden and jumped previously, but I was not aware of how difficult she would be for me to handle. Although not an experienced rider, I have always been comfortable on and around horses, and have done some trail riding and hacking both with friends and alone. I have never previously felt unsafe on a horse. It is very sad that it has come to this but after deep consideration I have put a timeline on how long I am prepared to keep her, after which it would not be worth the time, effort and money for me to continue unless there is some very considerable change in the situation. In the meantime, she will still be loved and all her needs met.

  24. Yes, thank you breathing so important to be relaxed and focussed. I also use chanting which works both for me and my horse

  25. Thanks Callie, good video, I too believe in riding with the breath. Something I do when I ride, is before mounting, I take a few seconds to remember our original goals, or agreements we made in our very beginning. It helps me to stay a bit more connected and on track.
    Delaya

  26. So, Callie! You posed a great question to us all to ponder… I first start with my deep internal appreciation for having this soul occupy the same space as mine in the first moment I lay my hands on his or her body. I then take a moment to let my horses smell me…like really inhale my energy, my intention and what I just left before I got to him or her. I know it sounds a little “out there” but I feel it honors them for what I will ask of them and lets them know I will take care of them while we are together. It never ceases to amaze me how much information transfers between human and animal in mere minutes if we just slow down and just take a moment.
    Thanks for all the great posts Callie…
    From all the way in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates…
    ~Roma

    1. Beautiful description of what you are experiencing Roma, thank you so much for sharing!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  27. Thank you Callie. I just started lessons on my horse yesterday after a fall in April. I will use this creating technique and I will encourage may training to use it as well with our group lessons.

  28. So wonderful to read and listen to your common sense in riding. I wish you were closer and did clinics in this area. I will definitely start this breathing exercise. It seems I am always rushing and that does translate to a much more “choppy” ride. Thank you!

    1. Margaret, you are always welcome to join us for a clinic here at the farm someday! 🙂 We love meeting members of our online community

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  29. Thank you for reminding the breathing method 🙂 I’d like to share another thing I do to make my time with horses more efficient. On my way to the stable I scan my thoughts and check how I’m feeling just to be aware of what’s going on in my mind. Then, if it’s possible I leave all unnecessary stuff in my car 😉 And one more thing – before leaving home I do some exercise to warm up my body – it makes the difference.

    1. Ewa, thank you for sharing the great tip on leaving unnecessary things in the car – wondering if you could be referring to a cell phone 🙂 I know when I’ve left my phone at home I have so much more peace when I am riding!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  30. Great post, Callie. It’s easy for me to fall into the trap of setting my expectations too high — and risking not doing anything at all, rather than setting a more modest goal that is well within my reach. One thing I make sure I do to get more out my time spent riding (and I tell my daughter to do the same thing when she rides our horse) is to make a plan of a few things I want to work on during my ride. Today, for example, I would like to practice the trot-to-canter transition (which for some reason is way harder for me than the walk-to-canter transition 🙂

    1. Julianne, yes having a plan is so important but we also wanted to share the importance of not always being task oriented only when spending time with your horse – especially when you do have your own that you can spend a little quality time with! Having goals is great, but taking some time to quiet your thoughts and enjoy the moment will make those successes even sweeter 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  31. Hi Callie,
    I will try this exercise later today and it looks like a perfect way to begin each ride.
    Like others, I try to empty any negative thoughts or frenetic energy before I walk into the barn and greet my horse. I quiet my mind and smile within to generate kind and positive energy.
    I enjoy the process of grooming and usually give myself 20-30 minutes to do a thorough job on his body, mane/tail and hooves, and I sometimes incorporate a bit of touch therapy or light massage to relax him and send him loving touch. He enjoys it and has created a relaxing and positive start to our rides and time together. At the end of each ride, I give him the gift of choosing to roll in the arena before I clean up and take him back to his stall/paddock. He seems to like this too.
    I feel very blessed to own a horse so I remind myself to cherish each and every moment with him. All of us who spend time with these beautiful and majestic animals are living a wonderful life!
    Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!! Nancy

    1. I know how much you have always enjoyed grooming Nancy! It is great time to get your mind quiet before saddling up fro ride and I am sure Captain really appreciates it!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  32. Hi Callie good reminder for me.
    I had major back surgery in September and have not been allowed to ride but think I will be cleared to do so in late February. I am an older rider who likes a bit of jumping and trail riding which I did practically every day before my surgery.
    Do you think I will have to do anything special with my horse when I’m cleared to ride again. He will have been on “vacation pasture” for 6 months. I’m sure I will feel a little anxiety getting back in the saddle but I don’t want this to spoil my enjoyment of riding.

    Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Maureen, I think the answer to this question depends on your horse’s personality. Is he a typically laid back kind of guy, or if he sits for a few weeks does he get a little hot during your first ride back? I would recommend starting with some simple in-hand exercises at the very beginning and when you do get back on him take it slowly, for both you and him.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  33. Thank you for the reminder to breathe and for showing us how to breathe correctly. Breathing correctly is so important for most of our daily tasks. When I spend time with Utah, whether in the field or in the barn, I try to mimic some of his actions. . . lick and chew, deep breath which is let out audibly so he can hear it. In addition, I stroke him all over in long, slow strokes. Some days he is grouchy about being touched, but most of the time seems to enjoy it.
    Thank you for the breathing reminder. Most of the time, I am trying so hard to improve, I forget that what I do with Utah does not have to be hard. I forget the simple actions.

    1. Carol, I love the point you brought up in your comment – it doesn’t have to be so hard but simply just being can actually be really hard! Thank you for sharing.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  34. This was nice Callie!……..I sometimes sit on Cita and breathe until I relax though I like the meditative breathing while she is walking …. 4 steps is nice. Also keeps me conscious of where her feet are…..
    Two activities I do when I don’t have a lot of time …….after grooming ……I give her a ten fifteen minute massage while really staying focused on her breathing …eyes…ears etc…..I learn a lot.
    Another activity is I take her for a walk around our property, and stay focused with her. It has become a way that I know she is also focused with me……,.walking at the speed I am …stopping and going when I do……
    Leslie

    1. That is great Leslie! I love the idea of walking, I did this with my own horse when she was very young and I think it was very good for both of us!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  35. Very good advice, Callie! I try my best to keep all my words and actions positive rather than negative. For a while, I was just focusing on what I was doing wrong, and when I started to say what was going well, it did help!

  36. Thanks for the great tip! I have an unrelated question – what kind of saddle pad is on your horse in this video? It looks like something I’d like for my horse. 🙂

    1. Jenny,

      They are called Poly pads! I believe this is the Dover Saddlery brand 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  37. I like what you’ve put forth here. My horse can be oh-so-frisky, but if I remember to breathe and soften, he does, too. Per some dabbling in meditation, I learned that I can achieve a stronger release if I allow my exhale to run longer that my inhale. I might breathe in four beats, and breathe out five, for example.

    My older gelding taught me to be present while he was laid up with a stifle injury. I discovered that it was an honor just to be with him, even if we never rode again. Following stall rest, I started leading him on walks, at first very short meanders of grazing, but gradually longer and farther. Sometimes I let him lead. We covered untold miles, side by side, over a period of eight months. One day I opened his stall door, and he gave me a look that told me he was ready. He was. When we went out under saddle again, we both discovered new joy. Feeling that deep gratitude—at doing something I had often taken for granted—helped me learn to be present.

    But it’s not the sort of thing I can ever close the book on, so thank you for the reminder!

  38. Your video came at an opportune time. I am once again starting lessons in a week’s time, and a great start to my first lesson in over a year. Breathing is so important and I’ve been taught exercises to do while playing piano, meditating which I don’t do often enough, and going to sleep at night. Thank you, Callie! I will certainly apply this exercise next week. I’m sure it will calm my excitement & nerves.

  39. Very much enjoy the videos — always new things to learn and think about.

    Being present in the moment is helping my new-to-me Percheron/Arab cross overcome his fear of the indoor arena and create a closer bond between us.

  40. I love your videos and this one is great! I can’t wait to try it. For me, when there’s no time to ride, I try to spend quality time by smelling my horse’s mane/neck and scratching her butt. She loves it:P

    I love this breathing idea so much, that I’m going to incorporate it into my mindfulness work with people suffering the effects of trauma- I will be sure to cite you and CRK, of course.

  41. I love all your videos – practical, useful advice that makes sense! I enjoy my time with my horse so much more when I take the time to breathe and be present form the start,

    Btw I love the vest. What brand is it?

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