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Horse Speak® Under Saddle, Explained

“Yoga Reins” & “Hello Reins”

Horse Speak® under saddle is about riding the horse, not the discipline. When you ride with joy, you’ll experience the next level in riding. Ready?

The initiation is all about feel. As the rider, the goal is to consciously find what it feels like to bring your upper body into alignment and balance; consequently, the horse's front end comes into direct correlation to the rider’s upper body. This is an exploration. Don't be judgmental and don't get down on yourself. This is about learning to feel; not about getting right or wrong. If it feels like something positive is happening and your horse feels like he is listening, and you both feel relaxed and comfortable, THAT IS GOOD. If it feels good to you, and if feels good to your horse; then that is good.

How to do it:

Here's the first two steps to get your started. The first step is to think about opening up the armpits and the second step is to just relax your hands and wrists so that your palms are down.

• Open the armpit. Not like flailing like birds, or wagging elbows in the air, but we tend to “clamp” our armpits and that doesn’t do anything good for our upper body and for their front end.

o This is not lifting the shoulder. You’re engaging your armpit and dropping your traps. (Think like a pulley)

▪ Pulley down traps, pulley up armpit. Engaging latissimus, obliques and subscapularis to engage the transverse abdominals and the pelvic floor.

▪ To create deep stability, you have to float your arms, relax your palms and breathe.

▪ Lift your hand to belly-button height when you engage the rein, then you are going to stabilize your core (and your body).

• If you draw the rein down your leg, you’re driving the energy down the front leg

• Instead of thinking "I’m using bit & rein", think: "cheek, neck & shoulder": relax and allow it to come from your (the rider’s) cheek, neck and shoulder, while relaxing.

• Each time you turn, feel it a little differently. Feel how you can create that balance in your armpit as you engage the rein.


• Relax your knees and allow the knees to follow the motion of the horse’s shoulders

o a lot of times you are thinking about what our back and what our thighs are doing, horses don’t like when the rider’s knees are stiff because their shoulders are at “buddy up.” If you allow your knees to move with the motion of the shoulder it enable the horse to move the shoulder forward and explore that.

o Don’t “do” anything with your knees – let them go, and let them flow. Let them organically feel the motion. Don’t over ride it. Don’t be braced. Riders get braced in very sneaky ways.

▪ Psychologically your knees are connecting with their shoulder (“buddy up button”) and, when you mirror your knees with their shoulders, your connecting buddy to buddy.

• When your knees are relaxed, your seat does the right thing and your ankles tend to do the right thing.

• Exploration of horses’ shoulders by releasing the rider’s knees

• Enjoy what you’re doing. Enjoy riding. Have fun feeling good together. Instead of making something happen or having an agenda.

o Explore the feeling that you’re receiving from the horse and the feeling you are giving back to them and doing a body scan starting with hands.

▪ When we are babies, we put our hands down first.

▪ Tummy time requires hands to stabilize; the legs don’t do anything.

▪ Human hands have more stabilizing features than our feet.

▪ Palms down create deep stability.

▪ Closed fists create deep instability…or the ability to bob and weave when boxing (defensiveness).

• Yoga reins will release any defensiveness in our body. It helps connect us to feeling centered and feeling relaxed on the inside. It connects your inside with your outside. It brings “zero” into action and helps the horse release any tension they are feeling.

• By starting with relaxed armpits – not clamping or making yourself small.

The Result:

The horse was able to find an organic way to self-carriage and pride.

Things to look for:

• More engagement, tail lifts a little, reaching for the bit.

• Exploration may result in:

o Horse lifting rider with back. Rider relaxes into to ride. Horse lifts to rider because they are feeling safe with each other. It’s not about getting the collected posture that we want. Because what does that posture mean? Horses can get collected out of fear. Horses can get collected out of aggression or out of pride.

• Lift from back

Hello rein.

• Slide down the rein and give a greeting.

• And then ask for “turn the key come to me” from the check without the turn so it’s a lift and open and allow them to turn your cheek that way.


Horse feels seen and valued. The biofeedback is then delicious.


When you have open reins, and drop the rein down low and across your thigh, you are driving the horse onto their inside shoulder and it’s counterbalancing them heavy and forward. So, by lifting the reins to the height of your belly button for balanced motion because it is the epicenter of the rider’s motion.

Ride through armpits (subscapularis) and keep hands steady (bellybutton height). Rather than thinking shoulder or scapula, it’s actually the armpit which connects to latissimus, obliques and the transverse, thereby engaging the deepest part of your pelvic floor. To open your armpit, your upper trapezius has to drop.

If you lift your armpits, you are actually engaging your upper lats and your shoulder hike. So, you are lifting your armpits, but relaxing your shoulders (and upper lats).

As you pick up your reins, think about picking them up as if they are floating in water.

To learn more about Horse Speak®, Equine Pilates and/or Pilates for Humans here in Aiken, head to Pilates Mastery. If you’re looking for Pilates near me, Pilates Mastery also offers virtual Pilates sessions. You may book an Equine Pilates or a Horse Speak®session at:

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