Rider Breathing

Do you sometimes get out of breath, anxious, tense, irritable or tired when you ride? If so its likely that you over breathe.

Your breathing pattern can affect your horse's physiology, health and performance as well as your own. Fortunately you can do something about it.

How your breathing affects you and your horse

There are many signs that indicate if you are over breathing such as frequent sighing or yawning, difficulty sleeping, over eating, 'forgetting to breathe', and lack of energy, to name but a few.  Learn more in this article

But a good test is that unless you can comfortably pause after a normal sized OUT breath without needing to breathe for 45 seconds or more, and then take only a normal breath IN - not a big gasp, you over breathe according to Professor Buteyko.

Most people do.

If you over breathe it is likely that your horse will to some extent copy this and vice versa. It is easily possible for horse and owner to get into a spiral of deteriorating breathing patterns.

Since over breathing causes symptoms and problems this is not a good situation.

From your point of view, over breathing may exacerbate any chronic conditions such as asthma, migraine, allergies, fatigue etc. Your muscles may be stiffer and tenser than they should be, you may find yourself short tempered and irritable and have difficulty concentrating.

You may feel your fitness is not as good as you would like; you run out of puff easily and tend to ride with an open mouth.

Competing can be exciting and sometimes stressful and this encourages over breathing. Many riders find they have to breathe through their mouth when they compete. If you are one of these riders you may be reducing your own and your horse's performance.

In difficult, stressful situations the handler often talks to the horse thinking that this calms the horse. But people often over breathe more when they talk than when they keep their mouth closed so over breathing problems such as tension and irritability are increased. Horses don't understand the meaning of words, but they can pick up on tension, irritability and anxiety in the voice and these are not reassuring. So sometimes keeping quiet can be more helpful.

Soothing sounds can of course be helpful - especially if they prolong the out breathe. This favours the speaker's parasympathetic nervous system which encourages calmness and this transmits to the horse.

Horse rider with mouth open

What to do about it

Equine Breathing is available for your horse....

Find out how good or bad your own breathing is using the test in this video. There is a choice of things you can do to help your breathing ranging from very easy to a bit more demanding.

At the easy end you can keep your mouth shut and not talk to your horse. This will cut down your loss of carbon dioxide, which will reduce stress and help you to relax and focus.

Talking is not necessary for communication with horses as body language is the primary means of communication. Horses don't after all, understand the meaning of words (although they may be taught to act on the sound of certain commands). If you wish to use words as commands then just use the word on its own without a lot of chit chat.

Also on the easy side is to keep your own breathing as gentle as possible when doing Equine Breathing.

A little more difficult is to gradually train yourself to keep your mouth shut through increasingly strenuous activity until you can keep your mouth shut through all your riding and handling situations. You are likely to experience an increase in general fitness as you do this.

If your horse has intractable over breathing symptoms such as wind sucking or headshaking, recovering normal breathing yourself may help their recovery.

Any human/equine partnership that works to regain normal breathing for both partners can hope for significant improvements in health, fitness and even other aspects such as creativity.

Resources available

You can make significant improvements to your breathing, riding confidence and performance, and general health by adopting verious tips and exercises given in Horse Breather articles 42 and 43  - see below.

For those who find these exercises beneficial and want to learn a more powerful approach there is the Rider Breathing Course.

A telephone / Skype version of the Rider Breathing Course is available. It's based on 4 sessions over a month or so.

Excellent book - Close Your Mouth: Buteyko Breathing Clinic self help manual by Patrick McKeown

If you have a medical condition such as asthma, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure, anxiety or allergies you can learn to regain normal breathing and health by doing a Buteyko breathing training course.

Breath - The new science of a lost art by James Nestor.  A must read if you are interested in the latest science and oldest traditions relating to the connection between breathing and health

Capnometer breath training exercise
Equine Breathing

Stress Buster video

A 10 minute breathing sequence to reduce stress and improve fitness and health in people

How good / bad is your breathing?

Test your own breathing.

How breathing affects performance and health.