In a practice session at home the other day, someone stopped and asked me about the deep breath I take right before I nod my head to rope a calf. Truth be told, I didn't even realized I'd done it—and that means the work I've been putting in is paying off.
I work on breathing both for my horses and my mental game, with each element going hand-in-hand. Donene Taylor has taught me a lot with her mental preparedness program, and we talk about the correct way to breathe to control our nerves in competition. In the work that Lari Dee Guy and I put into our horsemanship in the practice pen, my breathing affects my horses, too.
I take that breath to try and settle in if I feel unsure, or if my horse gets tight so I can loosen up because I want my horse to free up and ride out.
My deep breath takes the tension out of everywhere I'm tight—from my fingers, wrists, arms and shoulders, to my core, my seat, my legs and my feet. A lot of times Lari Dee will call me out for being tight when I don't even realize I am. I have to take a deep breath just to find where I'm holding tension in my body.
When I take that deep breath, it proves to me that even when I don't realize it, I am tight somewhere because then I can just feel that breath roll through my horse's body and loosen him up. If my horse feels tight in the box, taking a deep breath is one of the first things I try.
I take that breath in practice when I'm working on myself or my horse and when I'm ready to compete. I've got to practice it so that becomes a habit, just like it was when my friend asked me about it the other day. BRJ