Trail to 2021:
Relaxation and Connection Exercise

For the past 5 weeks in our Trail to 2021 series, we’ve been talking about you designing your unique story with your horse going forward into 2021.

Last week, I dug into the topic of connection. I had such a great response to that video, that I decided to take a little sidetrip and share one of my favorite connection exercises with you.

That’s what this video is all about.


Hi, it’s Barb, and in this series, we’ve been talking about you designing your unique story with your horse going forward into 2021.

It’s so much fun to think about designing your story… and then going for it, and seeing where it takes you.

The first piece is that vision of yourself as a beautiful rider. That’s an important first step.

Then I used the analogy of the mushroom tree on our property as delineating the pieces.

The first piece is your personal strength. That’s represented by the strong trunk and the roots.

Next, we spoke of your technical skills. How will you keep developing your horsemanship in general as well as the skills for your discipline?

Then last week, I talked about another piece of riding that all riders want, but sometimes it’s hard to identify and consciously develop… and that’s ‘connection’ with our horses.

I see connection as that wonderful two-way street of respect for each other, caring, and great communication.

This week, I’m going to give you an exercise you can use any time, and anywhere, and for any discipline to help you develop your connection with your horse.

I think of connection as having these components:

  • Self-awareness
  • Awareness of the horse
  • Effective communication that the horse understands and builds their confidence

So, here’s the exercise.

Remember, step one is self-awareness.

When you get on, do a body scan. Become aware of different parts of your body. Breathe into them to soften any tension.

Do this sequence as you ride. Plan; eyes looking where you’re going; breathe; feel your seat bones moving in the saddle; feel your legs; soften your hands. “Eyes. Breathe. Seat. Legs. Hands.” Repeat over and over for your warmup. Feel a rhythm.

Step two is awareness of your horse.

What is he or she telling you with their ears, eyes, mouth, head, and neck, and body tension?

Let’s walk around and notice how your horse feels beneath you. Is his or her body pulling to one side? How do you feel it in your seat and legs? Keep breathing.

Step three is to communicate effectively.

That starts with staying slow on the inside as you communicate first with your seat, and then your legs and hands. It’s giving yourself time for maneuvers. It’s applying cue pressure and knowing when your horse has responded.

So let me know how that simple 3-step process works. Become self-aware. Breathe through your body and feel your horse through your body. Be aware of how you’re asking for a response. Stay in your core and your seat as you continue to breathe. Ask and release for a try.

Try this at the walk. Play with it. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Leave a comment for me and see you next time.

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9 Comments on Trail to 2021:
Relaxation and Connection Exercise

  1. Joanne Milton on Sun, 17th Jan 2021 4:07 pm
  2. I LOVE this. I have done this every time I ride, for many, many years. Just take stock of my own body & mind first (I do it after mounting, but before I allow my horse to step away from the mountin block), then start to walk & take stock of how he/she feels before I ask anything! It starts every ride in a quiet, communicating frame of mind!

  3. Anne C on Sun, 17th Jan 2021 5:30 pm
  4. Good one, Barb! Am really enjoying the Trail to 2021 series, your pearls of wisdom and words of encouragement. It’s great to have the impetus to reflect on your own riding and connecton to your horse, and to dream and look forward.
    On another note, I came to your courses with cowboy dressage in mind but have discovered how much fun working with cows is! It’s great!! The Cow Connection webinar came just at the right moment and gave me a good basis to start learning this whole new way of riding. Hope to see you taking clinics in Australia some time!

  5. Elaine Bohlin on Sun, 17th Jan 2021 6:44 pm
  6. Thank you for this great exercise. I used to really enjoy just feeling my horse move my body and getting into his rhythm but after returning to horses from a long (15 year) absence, I had forgotten how beneficial this is (and fun!).

  7. Jeanette Fiveash on Sun, 17th Jan 2021 6:56 pm
  8. Thanks Barbara, I am always grateful for your videos. I worked on this very thing today with Jasmine. She is really coming along so nicely with the little bit of time I have to be with her right now. Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with us.

  9. Roberta Rollins on Mon, 18th Jan 2021 10:42 am
  10. This part of a horses training is so very important!
    Unfortunately, the trainer my young mare is with now has a lot of horses, and it’s hurry, hurry, hurry! The riding style is totally different than mine, and unlike that of the way she was trained in her 3 yr old year. What can I do?

  11. Carol MacGregor on Mon, 18th Jan 2021 8:40 pm
  12. Hi Barb, Once again, you and Nic look just great. Honestly I enjoy watching handsome Nic move and respond to you with his body movements, ears, etc. And I like seeing how you “sit” your saddle too–right in the middle, with a good bend in your leg, and heels down, of course. Thank you for this information regarding “connection” with my horse.

  13. Casey on Tue, 19th Jan 2021 12:36 pm
  14. Thank you for this Barb! I love, love, love this exercise. I think I will begin each ride with each of my horses this way, and also just do this when they (and I) start to feel my energy change for the worse.

  15. Claire on Wed, 20th Jan 2021 1:34 pm
  16. Thanks so much Barb-I’m trying to integrate this throughout each ride as well-and it makes such a difference in how much more aware I am becoming of my place in the middle, relaxation, position, breathing.
    Thanks again for your continued joyful generousity! Blessings on your 2021

  17. Judy on Fri, 22nd Jan 2021 8:35 am
  18. Thank you Barb for taking the time to talk to us about connection. It really is amazing what you can identify about your riding when you take the time to notice all these little things you point out. I find my self trying these suggestions all the time and do notice how it affects my connection to my horse. This really is good stuff!

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