The lope can be one of the most difficult gaits to master. Riding the lope requires that you relax, which is difficult to do when you’re thinking about twenty different things at the same time. Try out these six methods to help yourself relax at the lope.
Rather than focusing on your riding, focus on your breathing at the lope. Try to breathe deep into the bottom of your lungs, and let your whole body relax as you exhale. Focusing on your breathing can slow your heartbeat and help to relax your body.
When we get tense or nervous, our tendency is to start to curl downward or forward in defense. This action does us no favors when we’re on a horse, since it actually throws our balance off and increases our tension. While loping your horse, think about sitting up and opening up your chest by pulling your shoulders back. You don’t want your position to feel forced, but try to think of yourself as being a proud and tall rider instead.
Feel the Sway
Try to focus on the movement of the lope – rather than trying to ride forward to back, let yourself sway with the gait. Allow your horse’s movement to twist your hips, and you’ll find that you’re better able to relax and sit with your horse.
Focus on Relaxing Muscle Groups
Do you feel tension in your lower back? Your feet? Each time that you lope your horse, focus on those specific muscle groups and will yourself to relax the tension that you’re holding there. Can’t seem to let go? Try tightening up that area even more, then releasing to remind your body what it feels like to relax those muscles.
Wrap Yourself Around the Horse
Visualizing yourself as wrapping around your horse is a great way to better move with your horse, as well as to feel more secure. Visualize your legs as being so long that you can wrap them around your horse’s barrel so that they meet in the middle. As you lope, visualize yourself as being wrapped around the horse, so secure and so at one with your horse that you don’t even budge as he moves.
Ride a Trusted Horse
Sometimes, a change of horse is in order to help you truly relax at the lope. If you’re riding a young horse, or a horse that you don’t completely trust, it can be difficult to relax. Try to ride a trusted, well-trained horse so that you can get the feel of relaxing before switching back to your normal mount.
Horse Courses by Elaine Heney
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There are many different ways that you can help yourself to relax at the lope – what has worked for you?