Presence is like a muscle that must be strengthened. We are constantly dropping our stirrups to strengthen our legs but what are we doing to strengthen our presence?
We know that it is best for our ride to create this idea of muscle memory for the physical body, but what does your brain do when it is in default mode?
Well, high levels of stress actually wear down the brain's ability to function properly and affect the prefrontal cortex the most. This cortex is responsible for memory and learning. So all of those things that your trainer has been teaching you? Out the window when you get to a horse show and are nervous, sound familiar?
How do we solve this?
We get mindful and present in and out of the saddle.
How do we do that?
Breathing is the best way to tell the body that it is OK. If your belly is relaxed your brain has to follow. Just like muscle memory your body needs to learn how to breathe through stressful moments so that it is it's "fall back method" that acts subconsciously. This means you need to practice this whenever you feel something slightly upsetting happen. So here are some great exercises to do at home:
Alternate nostril breathing:
Deep belly breathing:
Lay in a comfortable position with your hands on your belly. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold at the top for 7, and then exhale through the mouth for 8.
Play around with it, there are plenty of breathing exercises, find some that work for you. The important part is that you remember to breathe while riding and your memory will increase.
2) Savor it.
Remember to ride for fun. Always end on a positive note and be grateful to be doing such an incredible thing. When we are positive it is proven that we improve faster.
3) Pick something up above you to notice, a tree, anything that you haven't noticed before. It will bring you into the present moment AND it will help to keep your concentration forward.
4) Keep your eyes up!!!
I'm sure you've never heard this before. Practice this not only while riding but while walking around. Keeping a confident posture and looking forward will signal confidence to your brain. When you look down while you walk, why would you magically do it in the saddle?
So next time you're on a walk remember to keep your eyes up and practice deep belly breathing