Dissolving Tension in a rider - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 17 Old 11-23-2009, 03:22 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: In the saddle.
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I have some pretty good tension issues :P I'm used to being flung into walls/rafters/etc.. so when a horse starts acting up I get nervous.
Singing for me is not an option. Neither is dismounting. It would be more than a little rude to start singing, humming, or thinking about something either than what my coach is saying during a $100/hr lesson, let alone dismounting!

What has worked the best for me is kind of like meditating. If you think about it, our position on horse back is much like posturing on a yoga mat. Have a mantra for yourself to help you to relax by moving your body into a correct posture. Not only does focusing on something else help you relax, it really helps your equitation.
For me the biggest thing that helps is opening my chest by bringing my shoulders back and driving them to my hips. Then bringing my legs back from the hips and sitting into the saddle and "plugging in" to the horse. Another thing that is good for lower body tension is to softly bring the whole leg off the horse from the hip and bring it back down to rest again on the horse's side, hopefully in a better position.

Good luck!
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post #12 of 17 Old 11-24-2009, 11:42 AM
Join Date: Jan 2009
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I regularly trail ride a horse that likes to occasionally throw a bunny hop or stop and turn on a dime or jump off to the side when a random butterfly startles him. This resulted in me once being thrown and landing on my tailbone (OWW!)- which was totally my fault, because we were cantering on a trail and all was great and I allowed my self to get too complacent and loose in the saddle. As a result, when something startled him, he spooked by stooping suddenly and whipping around and I went flying over.

The point is that it is a smart idea to ride in a manner that is ready for something to go wrong, especially on a spook prone horse. But the distinction is that it's not a matter of getting loose or "relaxed", it is a matter of learning to ride with attention but not tension. It is a matter of putting yourself in a physical and mental frame of mind that is keyed into the signals your horse is sending you, so you can respond at a moments notice by tightening your legs extra, or sitting more deeply or collecting your reins. By focusing on your horse and not yourself, you should be less likely to tense up because you're not in your head thinking about tensing or not tensing - which as we all know can create a self-fulfilling spiral.

What I've been doing, and it works for me, rather than tightening up in anticiation of something going wrong, is to think of sitting deeply into my saddle, stretching down through my legs and heels into my stirrups (almost like a dressage seat). Even when my reins are slack, I maintain enough contact with the horse so that I can quickly collect my reins. If I feel my arms or shoulders getting tense, I shake them out - just a quick shrug to help reset everything.

Ive found that when I'm in such a position, even when my horse throws something funny at me, I'm prepared to deal with it - even more so than if I'd been riding as a ball of tension - because I am solid in my seat and balanced on the horse and also because I can often feel the action coming a split scond before it happens. Plus, it is an enjoyable way to ride (I think for both you and the horse) because it really helps you tune out of yourself and into the horse.

And the best part is...no warbling is required. :)
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post #13 of 17 Old 12-02-2009, 10:04 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: UK
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As we walk down the slope to the gates of the yard, she will drop a hip.
My brain will react and I shall adjust.

As we turn right along the lane, she'll suddenly reach down to have a little stretch.
My brain says - "it is going to be one of those days"

As we mosey along past the horses in the field along to the right, a bird will suddenly fly up from the hedge. My girl will do a little hop.
My brain says: "What's that?"

A few yards further on, she'll give a slight hesitation
, her head will be turned to the left up towards the cows in the field.
My brain thinks ; "she's going to do it ]again, any minute"
I'll tense. I'll adjust to a slightly firmer seat.
My feel will move just a degree or two higher.
My hands will shorten the reins
And a quiver will come from those muscles in the under thigh.

So My Girl then says : " What's the Old Man nervous about?"

So she'll tense and I, up on top, will feel her tensing up.

So I'll tense a little more

So she'll tense a little more

So I'll watch and wait

So, she'll watch

And then a truck will come round the corner.


And there was me thinking that singing: 'Lloyd George knew my Father' would help.

Finally we meet the tractor, with the dog in the cab, towing a trailer, in which is a stack of rattling metal gates loaded on top of each other; followed by a car filled with barking dogs; just as a helicopter flies over head and a plastic bags flies along in the wind and a chainsaw starts up over in the woods.

And I get off, cos I am old and frail. And she is laughing, cos I am mad.

No I didn't get a glass of red today.


Last edited by xxBarry Godden; 12-02-2009 at 10:07 AM.
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post #14 of 17 Old 12-02-2009, 10:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2009
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Ahh, I see. You are forgetting something very important......relaxing in between the exciting moments. Every time you have a tense moment, you have to remember to dial it back down once the moment is past. If she sees cows, stop and let her look for a moment, breathe deeply and wait until you are both relaxed to move forward. If she hops at a bird, once you have her under control again, stop and wait until you are both re-relaxed for a moment before moving on. If you make a conscious effort to make sure you are both as relaxed as possible, maybe things will smooth out. If you don't allow the tension to build and build and build with every incident and instead make sure you keep resetting back to neutral before you both turn into a tingling ball of nerves, then maybe you can stop the spiral.

If that doesn't work, maybe just finding a buddy to ride with who has a nice quiet horse? Sometimes horses are more relaxed when they have a buddy.
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post #15 of 17 Old 12-03-2009, 04:42 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: UK
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Buddy? - there isn't one horse on the yard that can keep up with her.

I,ve bought her a new $100 Myler bit.
She has had 2 treatments by a pretty young physio thats $175
She's been looked over by a young handsome vet
Her saddle has been restuffed. that was $90 & a 4 hour journey

And I have swopped her stable blanket for a thick quilted one with a waterproof cover that was being kept for the cold weather,

and she's got sugar beet for the first time for months in her tea.

She's got no excuses now.

I am reliably told she has stopped reaching down. That's a start.

We'll see.

I'll try memorising the words of another song other than Lloyd George,

xxBarry Godden is offline  
post #16 of 17 Old 12-03-2009, 06:21 PM
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Alberta, Canada
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My main technique for releasing tension is stretching.

During our warm up, or if I'm having a particularly hard time with Dilly and getting her to relax, I go loose rein and stretch my shoulders, my back. I kick my feet from my stirrup, stretch my feet down, rotate my ankles. I breathe deeply and rhythmically.

It helps so much.
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post #17 of 17 Old 12-04-2009, 03:57 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: UK
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Hali - I'll try that.

When learning to fly I was told to wiggle the toes - it doesn't work on horses but there again all I did was to wiggle the toes - you are suggesting a little more.

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