Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Breaking Up The Tension

Stinker is a tense horse and his go to reaction is to lock up and plow forward.  I don't mind this reaction because it is infinitely easier to ride than a horse that spins or my least favorite starts going backwards, but it is a kiss of death when it comes to dressage.  Slowly I am learning ways to help break up the tension so I can keep him working over his back.

  • I need to raise my expectations.  He needs to start stretching over his top line immediately instead of me letting him dink around for 20 minutes.
  • Don't worry about which gait he is in, but insist he stays over his back.  No more inverted giraffe.  When he does trot, keep it small.
  • Use haunches in and shoulder in on a circle to keep him from locking up.
  • I need to sit to the right going both directions.  He likes to dump me to the left.
  • Keep asking him to flip his crest to the right all the way up to the poll.  Since his right hind is weaker, he carries tension in his poll.
  • Keep feeling in my elbows.  I give too much and lose the contact which causes him to bounce up.  If I can keep my elbows heavy he is much more willing to stay over his back.
  • When traveling to the right swap diagonals every five or six strides.  This helps to lighten the load on his weaker hind and he stays softer.
  • Lateral work is my best friend.
  • My corrections need to be quicker.  Make them more quickly and do not hang in them.
He is chewing on my hat...It basically sums up our relationship

A lot of our problems stem from my lack of timing (story of my life).  As I mentioned on Monday, I tend to settle for "good enough" when the reality is it isn't good enough any more.  I need to make sure I am still stepping up my game to match his progress.  I also tend to hang in the aids too much.  I get stuck in a grey area that doesn't do either of us any good.  I need to make the correction and go back to neutral and then be quicker in making another correction.

I also want to give too much when he does soften.  I am giving three inches instead of half an inch.  When I give this much my elbow comes too far forward and I lose the heaviness in it and my hands no longer feel soft and following to him.  And of course he pops off the contact.

The bottom line is I need to step up my riding game now that I have the tools to break up his tension.


  1. Oh man I'm the same way in settling for good enough when there's more to be had haha. And also the elbow thing.... I'm *terrible* about floating my elbows forward too. One trainer told me to feel as if I was carrying grocery bags on my forearms and elbows and try to recreate the "heavy" feeling that way. Not sure it's worked yet tho lol

    1. If I'm actively thinking about it I do ok but as soon as I shift my focus to something else my elbows start creeping forward.

  2. I think it's a tough balance with the hot/reactive horses here. Yes, a "better" trainer/rider won't settle for good enough and know how to keep making changes, but I know for my particular horse, he needs plenty of "good enough" rides where he can just relax and feel successful without pushing his limits to build his own confidence.

    So don't run yourself down here...

    1. In this case if I ride correctly (elbows hanging at my side instead of creeping out the front) he is much softer and relaxed. That is what I meant when I said that my riding needed to step up.
      I totally get what you are getting at but I am not in any danger of pushing that much. One of the reasons I love this judge so much is a relaxed and happy horse is the main goal.

  3. "I get stuck in a grey area that doesn't do either of us any good. I need to make the correction and go back to neutral and then be quicker in making another correction."
    ^This! Me too!

    I can relate to a lot of this, I think Kachina and Stinker share a lot of similarities. Sounds like you have a good number of things that you are aware of and can work on.

    1. They really are quite similar. It's so funny to me how many blog horses I can relate to because I tend to think of Stinker as a special little snowflake.

  4. A great list of approaches to this problem! I'm sure it's easier said than done, but having many ways to tackle it is a great place to start! Lateral work is soooo useful in situations like this, as you said!

    1. I am feeling much more confident since I have more tools that I know work. I'm pretty sure all riding is easier said than done 😂