• Welcome to the Chronicle Forums.
    Please complete your profile. The forums and the rest of www.chronofhorse.com has single sign-in, so your log in information for one will automatically work for the other. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Chronicle of the Horse.



Forum rules and no-advertising policy

As a participant on this forum, it is your responsibility to know and follow our rules. Please read this message in its entirety.

Board Rules

1. You’re responsible for what you say.
As outlined in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, The Chronicle of the Horse and its affiliates, as well Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd., the developers of vBulletin, are not legally responsible for statements made in the forums.

This is a public forum viewed by a wide spectrum of people, so please be mindful of what you say and who might be reading it—details of personal disputes are likely better handled privately. While posters are legally responsible for their statements, the moderators may in their discretion remove or edit posts that violate these rules. Users have the ability to modify or delete their own messages after posting, but administrators generally will not delete posts, threads or accounts upon request.

Outright inflammatory, vulgar, harassing, malicious or otherwise inappropriate statements and criminal charges unsubstantiated by a reputable news source or legal documentation will not be tolerated and will be dealt with at the discretion of the moderators.

2. Conversations in horse-related forums should be horse-related.
The forums are a wonderful source of information and support for members of the horse community. While it’s understandably tempting to share information or search for input on other topics upon which members might have a similar level of knowledge, members must maintain the focus on horses.

3. Keep conversations productive, on topic and civil.
Discussion and disagreement are inevitable and encouraged; personal insults, diatribes and sniping comments are unproductive and unacceptable. Whether a subject is light-hearted or serious, keep posts focused on the current topic and of general interest to other participants of that thread. Utilize the private message feature or personal email where appropriate to address side topics or personal issues not related to the topic at large.

4. No advertising in the discussion forums.
Posts in the discussion forums directly or indirectly advertising horses, jobs, items or services for sale or wanted will be removed at the discretion of the moderators. Use of the private messaging feature or email addresses obtained through users’ profiles for unsolicited advertising is not permitted.

Company representatives may participate in discussions and answer questions about their products or services, or suggest their products on recent threads if they fulfill the criteria of a query. False "testimonials" provided by company affiliates posing as general consumers are not appropriate, and self-promotion of sales, ad campaigns, etc. through the discussion forums is not allowed.

Paid advertising is available on our classifieds site and through the purchase of banner ads. The tightly monitored Giveaways forum permits free listings of genuinely free horses and items available or wanted (on a limited basis). Items offered for trade are not allowed.

Advertising Policy Specifics
When in doubt of whether something you want to post constitutes advertising, please contact a moderator privately in advance for further clarification. Refer to the following points for general guidelines:

Horses – Only general discussion about the buying, leasing, selling and pricing of horses is permitted. If the post contains, or links to, the type of specific information typically found in a sales or wanted ad, and it’s related to a horse for sale, regardless of who’s selling it, it doesn’t belong in the discussion forums.

Stallions – Board members may ask for suggestions on breeding stallion recommendations. Stallion owners may reply to such queries by suggesting their own stallions, only if their horse fits the specific criteria of the original poster. Excessive promotion of a stallion by its owner or related parties is not permitted and will be addressed at the discretion of the moderators.

Services – Members may use the forums to ask for general recommendations of trainers, barns, shippers, farriers, etc., and other members may answer those requests by suggesting themselves or their company, if their services fulfill the specific criteria of the original post. Members may not solicit other members for business if it is not in response to a direct, genuine query.

Products – While members may ask for general opinions and suggestions on equipment, trailers, trucks, etc., they may not list the specific attributes for which they are in the market, as such posts serve as wanted ads.

Event Announcements – Members may post one notification of an upcoming event that may be of interest to fellow members, if the original poster does not benefit financially from the event. Such threads may not be “bumped” excessively. Premium members may post their own notices in the Event Announcements forum.

Charities/Rescues – Announcements for charitable or fundraising events can only be made for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. Special exceptions may be made, at the moderators’ discretion and direction, for board-related events or fundraising activities in extraordinary circumstances.

Occasional posts regarding horses available for adoption through IRS-registered horse rescue or placement programs are permitted in the appropriate forums, but these threads may be limited at the discretion of the moderators. Individuals may not advertise or make announcements for horses in need of rescue, placement or adoption unless the horse is available through a recognized rescue or placement agency or government-run entity or the thread fits the criteria for and is located in the Giveaways forum.

5. Do not post copyrighted photographs unless you have purchased that photo and have permission to do so.

6. Respect other members.
As members are often passionate about their beliefs and intentions can easily be misinterpreted in this type of environment, try to explore or resolve the inevitable disagreements that arise in the course of threads calmly and rationally.

If you see a post that you feel violates the rules of the board, please click the “alert” button (exclamation point inside of a triangle) in the bottom left corner of the post, which will alert ONLY the moderators to the post in question. They will then take whatever action, or no action, as deemed appropriate for the situation at their discretion. Do not air grievances regarding other posters or the moderators in the discussion forums.

Please be advised that adding another user to your “Ignore” list via your User Control Panel can be a useful tactic, which blocks posts and private messages by members whose commentary you’d rather avoid reading.

7. We have the right to reproduce statements made in the forums.
The Chronicle of the Horse may copy, quote, link to or otherwise reproduce posts, or portions of posts, in print or online for advertising or editorial purposes, if attributed to their original authors, and by posting in this forum, you hereby grant to The Chronicle of the Horse a perpetual, non-exclusive license under copyright and other rights, to do so.

8. We reserve the right to enforce and amend the rules.
The moderators may delete, edit, move or close any post or thread at any time, or refrain from doing any of the foregoing, in their discretion, and may suspend or revoke a user’s membership privileges at any time to maintain adherence to the rules and the general spirit of the forum. These rules may be amended at any time to address the current needs of the board.

Please see our full Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Thanks for being a part of the COTH forums!

(Revised 1/26/16)
See more
See less


  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Relaxation

    I'm seeking tips and training advice for improving my horse's ability to relax. He has a tendency to be fairly hot and forward, and also inattentive. He gets tense and looky in new situations. Last weekend we went to our first dressage test and didn't score very well. (61% and 65% at Intro--I know we can do better!) The majority of the judge's comments were along the lines of "Tense," "Hollowing back", and in the collective marks, "Shows some desire to come through back, but tension hinders it." Also she commented on his inconsistency in the bridle, which I think is also a direct result of tension. So we know what we need to work on--now how to get there from here?

  • #2
    So the more consistent you can be in what you ask and your response to his questions will improve things over time. It will take time but consistency is the key.

    Even if he changes his response (one day calm, next day flying sideways, etc) your response has to stay consistent so he trusts in the structure and safety you provide.

    The tenseness will decline but in my experience, the ones that are sensitive can be great performers in the ring once they trust in your response.

    good luck!
    'What's in your trunk?'
    Free tools for Trainers and Riders


    • #3
      Bending, soft, always return to long, low and stretchy. For my horse shoulder in seems to be a big key to softness.

      I'm amazed how much my naturally tense horse's back can MOVE compared to what he was like a year ago. Relaxation will always be the one thing we have to return to again and again. He's just not naturally relaxed through his body, and it's the key to getting everything else right.

      I try to have days I ride almost exclusively on the buckle, asking for lateral movement off my legs, spiraling in and out of circles, etc. It gets him to stretch over the top and keep loose enough to be ready to move sideways at any point. Obviously I don't sit the trot those days. You will have to figure out a routine for your horse to see what works, but that's part of my unconventional (at least according to what you'll see on this board!) way of getting him relaxed. He is naturally high-headed, so the stretch down requires he lift the base of his neck on his own, and having to do it in full self-carriage just works for him, for getting him lifting but soft in his back.

      I don't know from your post if you get the relaxation at home or not, or if you just mean the jumpiness is a trouble at shows. Some thoughts you should feel free to disregard if they don't apply:

      At shows, we have a completely different story and lack of relaxation. He is a wreck, and it's not a fun thing. He definitely needs miles, but we discussed with the vet and are pretty sure he needs ulcerguard when going to shows, too. If your horse is always nervous and jumpy it's possible that's needed. It could also be related to feed or turnout.

      My horse also gets jumpy and nervous when his energy builds up too much. When we were in a boarding situation with no included turnout, he would run and run when I turned him out. We actually ended up building facilities at a new house so he could have a 1 acre run off his stall which is proving to be the best thing which ever happened to his mind. Some horses need that space, so if your horse seems to need it and you can switch to a situation with increased turnout (if you don't already have that, since I have no idea your situation) you may want to try it.
      If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


      • Original Poster

        Thanks for the replies! netg, he is pretty much equally tense at home vs. at the show. It was just that there was more to look at at the show. He's not exactly nervous or spooky--just excited! He loves to work, loves to go--it's just going to be a matter of channeling and focusing that enthusiasm.

        Also, he is turned out 24/7. That has made a huge difference in his attitude and rideability.


        • #5
          yes, turn out or if available a hotwalker is good for the horse.

          Do a lot of low and deep riding, so the horse reaches for the contact, and so he works "over the back". also you could try and put some interesting things in/around the arena like chairs, tents, or other stuff.


          • Original Poster

            Here's a video if anyone wants to watch our test. This is Intro A, which scored 61%. Our second test was better but I don't have video of it.



            • #7
              From watching the video - are you asking him to lower his head via your hands? They seem very spread apart and there were several times where his headset seemed to be determined by your hands.

              If this is the case - STOP!!! The engagement needs to come from behind. The largest thing I felt was that your hands were so wide that (imo) you were not quite as effective as necessary in pushing him inside leg to outside rein, because of this. Due to the tension, he keeps his body quite straight and so his circles almost become square and angular. You want to softly push him into a bend. If he ignores your leg on some circles, that's okay - just keep being persistent in trying to push him inside leg to outside hand, into that bend. In fact, I would ask for a circle until I get that bend and softness from him, then instantly release and reward.

              Notice how he drops his head and he engages a little more going into circles? Circles (and lateral work, for example) naturally require a horse to engage and balance more, so use that. Circular exercises are your friend I always recommend the books: 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse & Rider and Progressive Schooling Exercises for Dressage & Jumping (by Islay Auty) - great books with a ton of exercises that progressively build and start at the bottom of the training scale (when done correctly), with relaxation. I find it takes a little longer to develop that same consistency that you obtain on a circle, on a straight line (particularly a long one). The exercises in the latter book however, for example, contain exercises that start with circles and start introducing straight lines and developing consistency in such.

              Last recommendation: when he does soften and bend, release (ie, drop down to the walk and go on the buckle a minute) - even completely halt and rub him in that moment. Give him a short rest break for his current lesson (ie, the reward of his softening) to allow the lesson to sink in. "Expect much, reward little" - reward small steps and build off that, increasingly expecting and rewarding more. Plenty of halts and rubs will help encourage and induce relaxation throughout the session. So simple, but highly effective!

              Aside from the above (the very first part might not be applicable, that was just my impression based on what I saw), I have to echo what everyone else here has posted thus far. As netg said, you have to find what works for your horse - for my nervous wreck, lateral work such as leg yields are specifically what work best for us to loosen his barrel and get him relaxed. Consistency also is crucial. Just keep plugging away at the right exercises and it will come.
              ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
              ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


              • Original Poster

                YEP, I do have my hands too wide, as well as too low. I know, it's a bad habit. I didn't realize just how low and wide they are until I saw this video. I'm not consciously trying to "set his head" with my hands (although I admit my subconscious brain probably thinks that will work), it's just a poor riding habit that I have. I'm working on fixing it.

                Thanks for the tips on books. I have the 101 Exercises one on my shelf--I'll have to pull it out and start using it.


                • #9
                  While I do not keep my hands low and wide, I have another just-as-bad habit (pertaining to my hands) I just figured out I was doing subconsciously too, lol. I was also doing it for similar reasons - not to consciously set my guy's head, but to keep him bent and thus relaxed. It's easy to fall into and it is not until someone points it out and/or you can see it on video, that you realize and can correct. I had no idea I was doing it until a clinician pointed it out - as soon as I stopped there was a huge change in my horse

                  Anyway, there were some fantastic suggestions above mine so I think if you re-set your hands and then focus on consistency and exercises that encourage relaxation, and be sure to take a lot of rest-and-rub breaks, the relaxation will come
                  ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                  ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


                  • #10
                    Try reading lessons in lightness by Mark Russell, the ground work exercises has really helped my horse. I do them before every single ride.


                    • #11
                      Relieving tension

                      Jane Savoie has a great exercise that she calls the Valium exercise...it really works with my very tense, sensitive young horse...much information is posted on the Internet about the exercise..her dressage mentor program is remarkable in making a huge difference in my riding..I recommend it to everyone..monthly videos, audios etc.


                      • #12
                        Transitions, transitions, transitions. Between gaits, within the gaits, and especially bends. Keep them coming so quickly that he does not have time to concentrate on anything but you. Focus on his rhythm while you are doing the transitions, especially the changes in bend from right to left.

                        You will notice that when he gets looky, the first thing to change will be the rhythm, even before his head goes up to focus on whatever he would rather pay attention to. The millisecond when the rhythm changes is your moment to remind him to pay attention to you. That is the moment to shake things up a bit with a change in the bend. Be quick. Be careful that when he looks at whatever, that you do not follow him, and look for whatever is getting his attention. Make him pay attention to you with transitions coming so quickly, that everything else is background.

                        Good luck!


                        • #13
                          I like your horse... probably because I used to have one just like him. I think once you can get him to relax and engage you two will do very nicely together.

                          For what it's worth, showing never became "easy" for my previous horse, but with LOTS of miles she did improve.

                          This is what I did:

                          A lot of lunging over the course of about three months. I lunged my horse about three days per week in Vienna reins (make sure they are set so the horse can poke its nose a little in front of vertical) and this truly helped her. Not only did this help her to develop her muscles properly, but she learned to become balanced as well. Often times horses like yours are simply out of balance when asked to come onto the bit, and the Viennas really help with this.

                          This may sound counter-intuitive, but sitting the trot on horses like yours can be a Godsend. It took a LONG time before I could post on my horse without her running around with her nose out. Develop a good seat by riding without stirrups for about a month, and then continue riding without them once a week or so. The more you ride horses like this with your seat and legs the happier and calmer they tend to be. Keep your hands as quiet and together as possible. Never move your hands to take up contact with the horse... your horse needs to seek contact with the reins.

                          Do as many transitions and half-halts as you can. My horse was calmer doing walk/canter and canter/walk transitions at first, but start with whatever is best for your horse. Demand that they are crisp and timely. Use your corners and begin to ride inside leg to outside rein in them. Also, start riding shoulder-fore down the long side of your arena... again riding inside leg to outside rein and use half-halts or transitions to rebalance your horse as needed. Eventually this will develop into shoulder-in.

                          In nice weather cut your training short once or twice per week and go on a trail ride, a gallop, or do a little jumping. You may find that inclusion of these kinds of activities improve your horse's attitude even more.


                          • #14
                            as you knoiw your horse is very tense and inverted and because of this he cant relax, bend etc.

                            so, what is the bottom of the training scale? relaxation and rhythm and altho not stated lateral bend/suppleness.

                            if this were my horse i would spend a good bit of time on bended lines working on rhythm, relaxation and roundness of the circles. paying strict attention to how correct teh circle is, how even your tempo is, etc. the work will help him relax and come down into the contact.

                            you can also do leg yields head to wall asking him to cross over (at walk!) if he is doing teh LY correctly he will do a "yes" response with his neck and come down into the contact.

                            i would also bring my hands together and make sure you have even feel on both reins... in general this means you will have to give on his heavier rein. and be sure you can see his eyelashes of his inside eye.

                            the goal, in the beginning is only even tempo and bend. these will help the horse relax and come onto the bit.

                            also be sure you dont have hands of ice (ie frozen) hands should be alive (but no sea sawing!) ....

                            i think if you found a good trainer they would have you going correctly in a short amount if time.

                            good luck.


                            • #15
                              Jane's "Valium" exercise...

                              Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
                              Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
                              "Once you go off track, you never go back!"


                              • Original Poster

                                Thanks for all the feedback! I will definitely check out the Valium link. The good news is that I'm working on a lot of the suggestions already. We do the majority of our riding outside the ring--on trails, fields, and dirt roads--due to lack of access to a ring, so he has really come a LONG way in relaxing under those conditions. He started out being virtually unrideable when alone on the trail/road, and now we can hack out on the buckle, so that's progress.

                                I am working with a trainer, but I've only had two lessons on my own horse. I took weekly lessons on her third level pony over the winter, and I feel like I made a lot of improvement. Now I need to translate that to my own horse. I'm also having her school him once a week in addition to my lessons. Here they are:



                                • #17
                                  Are you an eventer? If so, lessons with a dressage instructor would be really helpful.
                                  "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.