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BoyleHeightsKid
Jul. 21, 2011, 08:03 AM
How do you guys deal with it? I have a very sensitive TB that reacts to the slightest bit of tension in me. Life the last year has made it pretty hard to ride regularly with a move that leaves me farther away from him. As soon as he starts trying to evade me, I start to over think and start running through my mental check list of what I'm doing. I then start to tense up and he locks up in his back and jaw. Most of his tension is mental as is mine. I know I need to start up with lessons again, and I'm having a tough time finding someone I click with since my wonderful trainer moved south :cry: If I could get this thing figured out I know both of us would enjoy our flatwork more. Right now we mostly trail ride because that's where we're both most relaxed. I do work on things like lateral work and bending out on the trail, so it's productive as well as relaxing.

Have any tricks other than something alcoholic to relieve my tension? I would love nothing more than to be able to flat him in the ring a couple of times a week and actually have fun at the same time.

paulaedwina
Jul. 21, 2011, 08:33 AM
I found that I was a lot less tense after quitting caffeine and taking B complex.

Is that too drastic?

Paula

BoyleHeightsKid
Jul. 21, 2011, 09:17 AM
I've really reduced my caffeine to only one cup of coffee a day but not everyday and I do take B complex but not everyday. Maybe B12 everyday would help as well?

eta: maybe I have a magnesium deficiency...LOL!

dwblover
Jul. 21, 2011, 09:30 AM
Here is the good news: tension can be a good thing! Yep, I said it, LOL! The problem is that you are most likely having it in the wrong places. So instead of trying to stop being tense (which only makes you more tense), you need to think of moving the tension to certain parts of your body while relaxing others. Right now I'm gong to bet you get very tense in your hips, legs, shoulders, and lower back. Start at the walk and move that tension into your lowest abdominal muscles while you stretch up tall from the BACK of your neck. You will feel quite a bit of tension down in your abs, but that is GOOD because it will release your lower back muscles. At the same time let your legs and shoulders hang.

Feel how adding muscle tension in one place (your core) can actually ALLOW you to release tension in the arms and legs. RIDE FROM YOUR CORE, keep the tension in there and let everything else relax. You will feel the change in your horse at the walk. Keep a visual of your reins as rubber bands and keep a conversation going with his mouth. Try it at trot but only go for as many steps as you can keep the tension where it belongs!!! And smile, you are riding a horse!!! LOL!

johnnysauntie
Jul. 21, 2011, 09:37 AM
Two things worked for me when I was riding a mare that ultimately proved to be more horse than I wanted to deal with on a regular basis.

First, I developed some tools I could use to break up the tension. My go-to tools are working in shallow serpentines with still hands, using my seat to direct the horse (I can be hands-y) and shoulder in. I also find that getting off their backs (go into a half-seat or two point) can encourage relaxation in the back.

Secondly, my mental checklist became more of an imperative. "Sit up and ride" became my reminder to correct my posture, put my leg on, hold onto the outside rein and *ride* every stride.

I found that putting the mare to work - riding cloverleafs, changes of direction, transitions within the gaits - allowed me to regain her focus, improve the quality of the work .... and then eventually get relaxation.

What didn't work for me (and I'm a meek rider so this is probably a factor) was pleading and begging the tense horse to relax. Mixing it up and getting her attention worked for me. Not sure if this will help in your situation, though! I know you have a better relationship with Boy than I did with the mare.

Velvet
Jul. 21, 2011, 09:41 AM
Secondly, my mental checklist became more of an imperative. " Site up and ride"

So, is this for surfing the internet or riding? ;)

in_the_zone
Jul. 21, 2011, 09:43 AM
Riding a reactive, sensitive TB can be tricky as it is too easy to do too much. TB's can get over stimulated and over-react, so try to do less instead of more. Does he tend to go fast or get into your hands and hop around? With the former, I tend to start with a crude version of a half halt that I call check and release. Each check only lasts a second, but you get them to downshift one gear and repeat it until you get the gear you want. If it's the later and they get dancey, I just sit quietly in the middle of the horse, breath, and basically start meditating in order to influence the horse. Because they tend to be speedy, rider's often ride with too much hand. You do need to use it, but only to remind them to listen to your seat. Once they are back on your seat, follow and allow.

Oops, almost forgot the relaxing part. Wiggle your toes, "fluff" your legs off the saddle gently if it doesn't upset your horse, and my all time favorite, hum or sing a song out loud.

Velvet
Jul. 21, 2011, 09:43 AM
Stop caring that it's perfect. Stop over thinking. Just start FEELING. Really, most people who lock up are either fearful, or over thinking things. If you're obsessive, you're probably over thinking and making yourself tense--and nuts. ;) Just relax. It's not an emergency room--no one will die if you make a mistake. Horses are incredibly forgiving and they'd rather have you ride like a loose sack. So try riding like one. Practice just acting like you're on a trail ride and then throw in some kinda-sorta movement rather than obsessing that every piece is absolutely correct and perfect. See how your horse responds. :D

Valentina_32926
Jul. 21, 2011, 09:56 AM
Deep breaths (in/out - think yoga) and lifting thighs off saddle (if it's safe to do so). I found that my sensitive mare can feel tension in the thighs most of all and that's when she had issues (with less experienced riders that I was allowing to use my horse for lessons).

Oberon13
Jul. 21, 2011, 09:59 AM
I've found that I'm much more relaxed in lessons or when I'm riding with other folks around than when I'm riding by myself. There's something about being alone that creates this crazy, laser-focus that takes over my brain. Of course, maresy responds with quite a bit of tension of her own.

So, I've started riding with my iPod (just one ear-bud in so I can still hear what's going on around me) and humming along. I talk out loud sometimes, too, which gets me breathing. And, I have my "go-to" movements, too...the things that will get me moving around in the saddle a bit rather than locking up...shoulder-in on a 20m circle, shallow serpentines at canter, figure 8 with a transition of some sort in the middle.

If all else fails, we have a nice walk school. ;) Nothing wrong with that!

BoyleHeightsKid
Jul. 21, 2011, 10:41 AM
Does he tend to go fast or get into your hands and hop around?


He can do both...he will rush and brace against me and start to jig. I think he also anticipates the "hard" stuff. Like having to actually work :cool:. I catch myself tensing up so, I know when it's happening. I think the "less is more" approach is a good idea.

We don't have this problem so much when we're both fit and neither one of us is right now. He really seems to enjoy long lining because he doesn't have me on his back to mess with him. He works harder and much better this way than in side reins or vienna reins. We both love trail riding and I live on Laurel Mountain so we have miles upon miles of trails and hill's etc.

Thanks for all the tips everyone! Definately all stuff I can use :)

netg
Jul. 21, 2011, 10:45 AM
It may seem counterintuitive, but what works best to relax both my horse and me is forward. Somewhere in the range from forward canter to hand gallop gets him relaxed, having fun, but listening to me. If I hand gallop I do two point the best my dressage stirrup length lets me, and just feel all the joints relaxing and absorbing energy - it's very rough if I don't because he's a pretty big mover, and it forces me to relax or I'd bounce off. His canter's his best gait, and it gets him relaxed through his body. If we're just doing a very forward canter I sit, and again I can only do that well if I'm very relaxed through my lower back and allowing myself to move. I think about "melting" around him, and let his motion move me rather than trying to move with him. I end up getting the moving warmup my body needs to feel limber - and so does he.

Disclaimer: Don't do this if your TB isn't adjustable. My guy is totally adjustable, and it's the best way to get him out of "spook and be a sh-t" mode.

Petstorejunkie
Jul. 21, 2011, 12:32 PM
eta: maybe I have a magnesium deficiency...LOL!
I know it was jokingly but be careful with that. I once gave myself magnesium struvite crystals from thinking I needed magnesium.
Try bach flower remedy. you can get it at GNC for about $12. Great for tense riders, and tense horses. I get the one in a spray so it's easier to administer to the horses from the same container without sharing spit.
The other thing is, are you reading while you are instructor-less? I found keeping a horse book in the bathroom ensures I get at least a few minutes a day of study :winkgrin:

BoyleHeightsKid
Jul. 21, 2011, 12:54 PM
Oh I might try the bach flower remedy, it's cheap enough and can't hurt.

I think I might read too much (if that's possible), it's all I think about (not just riding, but horses as a whole), so I think I may have some OCD when it comes to that. My last trainer told me to quit reading so much and take a break from it. She felt that maybe I had too much going on in my head. The busier I am with the horses the less I obsess and the more I relax. Geez...now that I read this it makes me feel bad! But it's all true!

carolprudm
Jul. 21, 2011, 01:08 PM
Jane Savoie has given me (and many others) majur help with confidence issues. She has a super website
http://www.janesavoie.com/free/


and
http://theconfidentcompetitor.com/invite


she is also on Facebook

DutchDressageQueen
Jul. 21, 2011, 01:13 PM
First focus on getting a nice forward trot, then try some lateral movements. It does not matter if his head is not in the right position, just put him in the shoulder in and stay relaxed. I have the same problem as you. I am too much of a perfectionist, that I want everything perfect, and then I get tensed up. also what dwblover said, tension in your core is good and move the "bad tension" to the "good tension".

Petstorejunkie
Jul. 21, 2011, 02:11 PM
Oh I might try the bach flower remedy, it's cheap enough and can't hurt.

I think I might read too much (if that's possible), it's all I think about (not just riding, but horses as a whole), so I think I may have some OCD when it comes to that. My last trainer told me to quit reading so much and take a break from it. She felt that maybe I had too much going on in my head. The busier I am with the horses the less I obsess and the more I relax. Geez...now that I read this it makes me feel bad! But it's all true!

the over thinker, over rider. been there done that... sometimes still am that :lol:
I learned some great lessons on how to overcome that in my lessons with Paul Belasik. There are some videos on my website but they aren't high enough quality to hear what's really going on.
hold your position and ride forward.

DutchDressageQueen
Jul. 21, 2011, 02:22 PM
"The only thing that should impact your opinions is if you question yourself, not if someone else questions you."

:yes: good quote

LookmaNohands
Jul. 21, 2011, 02:48 PM
Learn to breathe, center and ground yourself! I learned much of this in martial arts and from spending many, many weeks learning from Linda Tellington-Jones--she is the most grounded person I know!

Your horse will mirror your tension and your breathing.

One thing that is quick and easy is "dolphin breathing." You do this by making an audible "shuuu" sound as you breathe out, every single breath as you are riding. It works really well. I often use it in the warm up at shows or events. It will make you more aware of your breathing so you can relax and then the horse will start to mirror your breathing.

Try a book on meditation or breathing.

paulaedwina
Jul. 21, 2011, 04:34 PM
RE I've really reduced my caffeine to only one cup of coffee a day but not everyday and I do take B complex but not everyday. Maybe B12 everyday would help as well?

Well it works on hot horses so why not! One study a couple of years ago used 1000 mcg B12 daily on people who get cold sores (HSV1) and saw a significant reduction in the number of outbreaks. This is a great surrogate for measuring stress.

Paula

DutchDressageQueen
Jul. 21, 2011, 04:38 PM
One thing that is quick and easy is "dolphin breathing." You do this by making an audible "shuuu" sound as you breathe out, every single breath as you are riding. It works really well. I often use it in the warm up at shows or events. It will make you more aware of your breathing so you can relax and then the horse will start to mirror your breathing.



That also works for me.

katarine
Jul. 21, 2011, 05:14 PM
An image I learned in a clinic is to push the exhale out in a way that I'm trying to expand my lower back and push a rubber band off of my middle- push that breath out- it will help you not tighten that lower back in a way your horse does not appreciate ;)

Melissa.Van Doren
Jul. 21, 2011, 07:16 PM
What velvet said.

Putting too much importance on a simple school creates tension.

Do have a plan, but bite it off in small chunks. Instead of linking several movements together, just do one. Then take a little break. Then do another. Then take a little break. Ride a 20 meter trot circle at A, then walk out of the arena and around the field for a minute or two. Or go out on the trail and find a field to do some basic figures in.

And, remember: Nobody who knows anything is watching. ;)

austin
Jul. 21, 2011, 10:10 PM
2 Rolaids multisymptom talblets about 2 hours before competition

JRG
Jul. 22, 2011, 05:58 AM
For me cutting out the caffeine was huge! You would be amazed at how much is in regular things that you would eat or drink on a regular basis.
Channeling the nerves using psychology methonds has helped.
Being aware of when my nerves are being counter productive and changing the pattern.
Don't get me wrong I still get a little tense, but not as bad. Now if I could remember just to breath.

BoyleHeightsKid
Jul. 22, 2011, 06:45 AM
And, remember: Nobody who knows anything is watching. ;)

Hahahaha! Good one! :cool: (I love you so much, why did you have to move?) Now...if only "they" didn't "think" they knew everything!

Thank you all for the great suggestions! I am going to put them to use!

eta: I was thinking last night (because I don't think enough right?) that the more I ride, groom, pick stalls, feed, etc., the more relaxed I am. It's definately not a physical tension with me. It's all in my head.

paulaedwina
Jul. 22, 2011, 07:02 AM
JRG,

I'm pretty much convinced from my study (sample size of 1:D) that caffeine is a neurotoxin and that if you're predisposed to anxiety it's the last thing that should be going into your body.

JMO
Paula

BoyleHeightsKid
Jul. 22, 2011, 08:10 AM
I will try totally cutting out caffeine... Yeah...and breathing helps too :D

BoyleHeightsKid
Aug. 17, 2011, 11:33 AM
So a little update :D We had a pretty good 30 minute school in the ring last night. Not perfect, but I was actually able pick him up after letting him stretch and he only jigged once! We were also able to do some leg yield nose to wall without him getting upset. The one trick I have found that seems to help the most is pushing my belly out, so it seems I'm holding most of my tension in my lower back (oh and hanging on the inside rein, which he HATES). Letting him canter over a couple of bounce polls helped too. I'm going to take the one pair of jump standards I have to the barn and set up a crossrail and a couple of bounces for him. Mixing it up like that I think will help both of us.

I had to keep telling myself we had a lot of nice walking! That's huge for us!

I ordered some bach flower remedy. From reading the site, I think it will help me in other areas, not just in my riding :) Thanks again everyone!

mbm
Aug. 17, 2011, 12:09 PM
maybe trust you gut and find a more suitable riding partner? sometimes our spidey sense is right on!

BoyleHeightsKid
Aug. 17, 2011, 12:50 PM
2 summers ago we could ride a pretty decent training level test. Now after the break it's like we're back to square one. I just need to realize this and RIDE.

mbm
Aug. 18, 2011, 01:58 PM
it sounds like you had a nice successful ride :) yay! since you used to be able to ride this horse successfully, then perhaps you are attempting too much too soon after getting back on?

i dont know your routine, but maybe bring him and you back into fitness in a progressive manner? ie lunge w/o side reins, letting him stretch etc, then attach *long* side reins so he has something to stretch into, always starting on the more stiff side, switch to easy side then back to stiff side so he works 2x stiff side 1x easy side.

once he can hold all paces in balance on the lunge both directions without pulling and falling in (you can add all sorts of free jumping, cavelletis (altho no sidereins!) etc)..... then get on and do a lot of loosening work without trying to put him in a frame of any kind. just concentrate on relaxation and forward energy - not rushing but just nice active energy. ride with a soft contact and dont try to put him in any kind of "frame"

in the beginning you will spend most of your time loosening. then when he is loose and forward you can start adding more energy and ask for him to work more into the contact. use bended lines, circles (use cones to make sure they are round as the roundness is what is the crucial factor) serpentines etc as those bended lines are what will get him to connect himself.

basically you will ride him as if he were 3 giving him time to get back in the game and this will give YOU time to settle and gain confidence too as your body remembers and you are able to achieve more and more.

fwiw, when a horse jigs in the walk it is generally becuase they feel trapped. let go of the contact and ride in a 10 or 15 meter circle.... (whatever size circle that will allow him to remain in balance but will force him to slow down and relax - not too small as that will make him tense) let the horse brethe and relax and they will stop jigging. pick up the contact slowly remaining on teh cirlce to help you with the connection, and if he jigs again, again let the reins out and work on relaxation.

i suggest getting the following books if you dont have them already :)

Basic Training of the Young Horse (http://books.google.com/books/about/Basic_Training_of_the_Young_Horse.html?id=5yLP1z5k gcEC) by Klimke
Training the Young Horse (http://books.google.com/books/about/Basic_Training_of_the_Young_Horse.html?id=5yLP1z5k gcEC) by Crossley.

and one of my fave new books are:
Practical Dressage (http://www.amazon.com/Practical-Dressage-Jane-Kidd/dp/0876059752)by Jane Kidd
Riding with Feeling & Understanding - (http://www.fnverlag.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p541_Riding-with-Understandig-and-Feeling.html) Michael Putz - this might be the BEST new dressage book and will hopefully become a classic. it is a VERY VERY good book and is clear and concise and lays out the german system is detail and in a manner that it is easy to understnad. loads of pics - expense by i HIGHLY recommend it !


have fun!