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xxBarry Godden 11-15-2009 08:25 AM

Dissolving Tension in a rider
Tension the enemy of all horse riders.
Some riders who have experienced a bad fall develop a problem with tension and its consequences. Riding a horse is all about maintaining control of the horse and staying up on the horse’s back. Style is fine but it is the alert, relaxed, confidence of the rider that counts. What permits we humans to ride a horse is that part of the brain which controls the muscles and provokes the instinctive responses that counter the forces of motion and gravity which are constantly trying to unseat us.
However there is one emotion in all of us which can bring us to the ground namely: tension. Unfortunately the horse can readily sense any stiffening up or rigidity in the rider and the result is that the sensitive horse itself may become nervous. A tense rider, whose muscles and ligaments have tightened, cannot so readily absorb and redirect the significant forces of motion and gravity generated by a skittish horse. Indeed such forces will be projected and even magnified by any tension in the rider. A rider who is tense is at risk of falling.

My DiDi is a skittish, fizzy mare who, when out on a hack, is constantly thinking of shying at anything from a plastic bag to a bird flying up from a hedge. Following a serious fall a couple of years ago, the problem for me ever since has been to relax. I know a shy will be coming at some stage on the outing; although I also know that it will not be anything that I can’t handle. Nevertheless I start to stiffen up in anticipation. Instinctively the horse senses the change in my posture. My posture loses flexibility, I tilt just a little forwards as body weight is transferred to the stirrup bars; my hands harden; I begin to grip with my thighs. My voice takes a different tone. I am nowadays well aware that suppressed anger is as much a trigger for tension as anger itself.
As a result of my tension the mare lifts her head and her ears prick up. She too is starting to become tense and fearful of what her master might be fearful of.
The circle has joined - we should think of going home.

So how do I resist getting just a little anxious then jittery, then angry and then tense?
How do I break the circuit?
How do I tell my sub conscious brain not to worry?

When learning to fly I was told to wiggle my toes to avoid gripping the yoke and much to my surprise the suggestion worked.

Are there any such quick solutions for dissolving tension when riding a horse? Any suggestions?

Barry G

XivoShowjumper 11-15-2009 08:35 AM

Singing is good...... or reciting something they know by heart ie. their phone number or address... mentally block out surroundings..... imagine having a massage.

personally i sing, and it relaxes a tense horse too! they fell calm when you talk to them... or you can even try having a conversation (if your all alone it can even be good to release your troubles to someone) take the weight off your shoulders from life and the tension , and the tension you get fro trying not to be tense ;)

Scoutrider 11-15-2009 09:17 AM

Ditto to the singing. I more "imagine" music, and hear it in my head (I have such a pitiful singing voice that it would spook the horse anyway :lol:). Also, if I feel myself tensing, I'll run through my mental "equitation checklist," going through my position, top to bottom, injecting "breathe" between each point, and finish by focusing on feeling the horse, counting the hoofbeats, feeling which foot has just raised, which foot has just landed, and moving with that feeling. I don't like to totally block my surroundings, more stay equally aware of my surroundings, and "amplify" the horse, if that makes sense...

bubblegum 11-15-2009 10:04 AM

i have this as well and have it so bad now that i dont ride anymore, i am intending on learning how to drive. i tried rescue remedy and all other types of things like accupuncture and hypnosis, and it didnt work for me at all. singing ended up with me getting more shakey, and end up crying so i decided it wasnt fair on my horse or on anyone else that might be around me, but try some things that are mentioned in the thread above and see how you get on, i just had three seriuos injuries where i broke both my shoulders and my back and i just lost my nerve

Beling 11-15-2009 02:08 PM

Dismount? If mounting back up isn't a problem, walking in-hand is such a relief when things get scary; and after a longish walk, one is often quite eager to get back into the saddle. I find it helps too to remind my horse she's not alone. I find that having a safe option does wonders to relieve stress.

MyBoyPuck 11-15-2009 08:12 PM

I sing but with a twist. My lyrics are something, "I don't feel like dying today. Don't toss my butt in that bush..." The funnier the better. Usually I crack myself up and you can't be stiff if you're laughing.

Brighteyes 11-15-2009 08:21 PM

Ha ha, I'm a singer too. :D Though my voice is terrible, anything to keep me off the ground.

My favorites are "Wide Open Spaces" by the Dixie Chicks, "Wildfire" by Micheal Murphy, "Some Hearts" by Carrie Underwood, "So Happy Together" by The Turtles, "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw, and "Heads Caroline, Tails California" by Joe Dee Messina.

My song choices are pretty random, but it still works for me. :D

Another thing is to just simply take a huge breath and walk. Just relax before picking up the trot/canter again.

Scoutrider 11-15-2009 08:38 PM


Originally Posted by Brighteyes (Post 462171)
"So Happy Together" by The Turtles

Love this one... it's the perfect tempo for Scout's trot and has a strong beat to help our rhythm!

Anyone know the orchestra tune from the beginning of Mousehunt? That was my tune of choice for my faster gaited gelding. :lol:

xxBarry Godden 11-16-2009 05:09 AM

Now ladies, I very much appreciate the but this singing idea has for me limitations. I can just about manage to remember the words of "Lloyd George knew my father" and "There is an old mill by the stream, Nellie Dean". If I do start singing to DiDi, then she is going to think that I have flipped my lid.
Anyway I am pretty certain that my irritability is going to come through - after all we are talking about voice. I talk to DIDI and I stroke her neck but generally speaking I only talk to her when I sense she is nervous about something. I used to gabble away at Joe but I was told off for doing so - perhaps because I was having lessons from a dressage judge.

The idea of walking in hand does ring a chord though. It is in the human's mind that somehow we come to think that getting off the horse is a sign of weakness. In fact I have dismounted a couple of times in the past but I had waited until I felt it was the final option.
Maybe I should do it more often - after all it gives the horse a break.

DiDi then sees me at head height and if she is nervous then somehow it breaks the spell. It is getting back on without a mounting block which brings the problem. Perhaps I should shrink DiDI down to 14 hands

Come on folks - what works for you?

Barry G

EquestrianHollywood 11-21-2009 06:09 PM

I have a thoroughbred that gets freaked out by the sillyest things. and Ive had a bad fall off of him. When I get tensed up like that, I bring him to a halt and take some deep breaths. Breathing in through my nose and out my mouth. I hope this works for you.

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