I had a note from Anna who is struggling with tension in her horse and all the associated issues and whilst I have regularly written on the subjects of Rhythm and Relaxation it occurred to me that I have not really addressed tension and how to deal with it.
The enemy of harmony is tension; rhythm and relaxation are at the base of the dressage training scale and the biggest challenge to relaxation is tension. It is both mental and physical the tension that causes tightness in a horse’s body which in turn makes the horse uncomfortable and unhappy.
T – Train
E – Extra Work
N – No Doubt
S – Shallow Loops
I – Inhale, exhale
O – On the side
N – Nurture
The little mnemonic above might help you remember some strategies whilst you are riding, that will assist when the dreaded tension creeps into your riding.
T is for TRAIN
As you ride be aware that you are sitting on your horse’s spine and that spine extends from poll to tail without interruption; just as the muscles do. The muscles of the top-line: neck, back and croup merge into one another and besides their individual function, work as a whole. Continue reading Tension Mnemonic
We hear a lot of talk about achieving balance for both horse and rider. Clearly, perception of imbalance really depends on the discipline you choose. We choose dressage, which means that certain behaviours and characteristics of how a horse moves in the field are not required or desired under saddle. That is not to say that there’s something wrong, just that we don’t want any imbalances in the arena.
Take a look at the list below to see if you can identify any issues that may indicate some type of imbalance that needs addressing in your training.
- Ability to do something on one side but not the other
- Turning like a boat instead of a train
- Falling in on the inside shoulder on a circle and corners
- Falling out over the outside shoulder on a circle
- Hard in the mouth and or holding on to the bit on one side
- Heavy in the hand and leaning on the reins
- Unable or unwilling to stretch the neck
- Incorrect strike off in canter or going disunited in canter
- Moving laterally when not asked
- Unable to execute a square halt
- Speeding up, jogging, shortened steps
- Irregular rhythm or bridle lameness
- Head tilting or shaking
- Grinding teeth
- Tongue hangs out of mouth
- Swishing tail
Every horse bends more easily to one side than to the other, this is known as ‘lateral asymmetry’ but if your horse is excessively so you need to address the problem with exercises to help stretch out the contracted side and contract the strung out side.
He may have a ‘horizontal imbalance’ (commonly known as on-the-forehand) or a ‘diagonal imbalance’ when the point of the horses weight is off-centre and he goes ‘out through the shoulder’.
Finally a ‘vertical imbalance’ is when the horse does not give an upright impression but one of leaning (especially in canter) – like a barrel racer.
Sometimes I feel a little ridiculous when I think of some of the things I say “oh, my horse’s tail is swishing, that must be an imbalance”! Really????? Yes, really. In the pursuit of perfection every detail counts and whilst I am happy for my horse to swish her tail, if she does it excessively she’s telling me she has a problem.
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster
Have you experienced any difficulties with your turns and circles? I have because years of bending over a computer has left me with a tendency to round my shoulders and a fractured left clavicle (the horse rider’s injury) which did not heal well, means I am unable to keep a correct alignment of my body without me actually thinking about it!
I was told that now I have decided to do something about it, I am a recovering slumper! which appeals to my sense of drama about the whole thing. I was also told that I need to think about fixing myself off the horse, because that is where the damage has been done.
Continue reading HELLO, MY NAME IS PATRICIA AND I’M A RECOVERING SLUMPER!
My dear Dressage fans, today I have a treat for you!
Trudi Dempsey of Creative Equine Training has created this guest blog specially for The Crystal System. It’s a topic that quite simply I have not considered before …. read on
The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others
When Patricia kindly invited me to guest blog she mentioned that it would be good to pick a subject that engendered lively debate! To be honest I’m not really someone who goes out of their way to stir things. I’ve signed petitions protesting about rollkur, against the appalling conditions that horses endure when travelling to slaughter across Europe, the right to compete in bitless bridles etc and I’ve written of the sadness I feel when seeing lost souls hauling the front end in with draw reins and other dreadful devices but these topics are hardly likely to engender any form of debate at The Crystal System let alone lively debate! They are a done deal, we all agree, yay! So what to spout about, what can I whip up any kind of frenzy about? As always when blogging the subject has been knocking about in the depths of my consciousness for some time but I’ve been pushing it deeper to avoid jumping off my comfy fence!
Continue reading Coveting the Red Rosette by Creative Equine
Getting my body to do what I want it to do was helped by changing focus from my horse to me.
Sometimes, to get the result from the horse we end up contorting ourselves and tensing up because we’re just not getting it!
If you focus only on what you want your body to do, no matter what your horse does underneath you, I promise the result from the horse will come! Sounds mad? Stop caring about how the horse is going, concentrate on your riding and the improvement in the horse’s way of going will follow.
Pretend all your fellow equestrians have their eyes on you. What do you feel your body doing? What would they say? Look inwards and seriously – just do one session without worrying about the horse and see what happens.
Have you ever got angry whilst riding, jabbed your horse in the mouth, shouted at your horse, perhaps booted it in the ribs!
Whatever your horse is doing, it is because he is receiving your signals and responding to them, or because he does not understand yet what you want. It is not wilful defiance on the horse’s part and if you are angry, you clearly don’t understand this. If you don’t yet understand this you have a long way to go.
There is no place for anger in Dressage!
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster
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