Relax your Hips and Thighs
Tension in the rider prevents the horse from moving freely. Recently I was working with a student and we focused on relaxing the hips and thighs which resulted in the horse relaxing and a tremendous improvement in the gaits. Watching the horses gaits tells everything about tension in the rider. Thus, I always warm a rider up with breathing excercises to open up the back, loosen the neck and relax the hips. Another simple excercise is to look right and left while walking straight ahead, eventually this can be done in trot and canter as the rider progresses. This simple movement demonstrates if the rider is in balance and loosens up the spine for a more elastic connection to the horse. Sometimes the rider is not even aware of how much tension he holds until performing these simple excercises. Remember, the goal of the rider is to allow the horse to move with freedom and rhythm. So go out and practice relaxing in your work and feel how much happier your horse is as a result.