Well, I let it happen again. The last couple of weeks have been nothing short of trying, and to top it all off, we lost our internet access! SO this blog has been put off again and again, and in that time I have thought of hundreds of topics to talk about, but one has been recurring over and over in my head, so here is the topic of the day: the calm after the storm! Also known as releasing tension!
But before I discuss this topic, a few updates! First off, Jen has made it through her first combined test! While we were tense through the dressage, she was phenomenal in jumping; jumping around her very first course of jumps like it was nothing! Next up for us is Plantation Field Horse Trials June 11th where we will take on our very first full horse trial, so stay tuned! And if you haven’t noticed, the website has changed! Thanks to The Horse Agency, we have taken this website to the next level! With a few extra features, please peruse the site after reading this post!
On to the meat of the piece! In the last couple of weeks I have found myself yelling the same thing to my students over and over “RELEASE! YOU HAVE TO RELEASE!” And it has made me realize, that there is one thing that lacks in a lot of peoples training is to just relax! Especially when asking your horse to slow down.
Many of my students are people who started riding later in life, and so they have the fear of falling or getting hurt. This fear translates into a death grip in their hands and with their knees. The problem lies in animal instincts; as humans, we tend to tense up into a ball when we get scared, to be as small as possible. Horses on the other hand tend to run away when they are scared and nervous. When we put those two things together, you have a human tensely clamping onto a horses back and a horse that feels like a mountain lion has latched onto him and wants to run away. You will find that as you relax on the horses back, the horse will start to feed off of that energy and will also start to relax. In everything you do with horses, just take a deep breath, try to identify which parts of your body are tense, and release that tension!
Now there are moments where tension is required. A big example is in the half halt. The half halt is an invaluable tool in riding horses. Half halts help us slow the horse down, alert the horse that something new is about to happen, and helps to direct the horses movement. The half halt is a squeeze of the rein AND A RELEASE afterwards. The second half is constantly forgotten. When asking a horse to slow down, please hold just until the horse takes the tiniest slower step and then RELEASE. When you forget to release your half halts, the horse never gets rewarded for doing what you ask, and slowly becomes dead to the bit.
I compare it to your parents yelling at you to clean up your room. Usually you get yelled at until the room is clean, and then the yelling stops. You learn that when you clean your room, you avoid being yelled at. However, if your parents continue to yell and yell “clean your room!” even after you have cleaned, you start to think, if I am constantly getting yelled at why should I even bother cleaning? The same is true with training horses. Release your tension as soon as the horse takes the smallest step toward doing what you want. That way slowly, piece by piece the horse learns what to do properly the first time you ask. In fact, you will usually find that IN the release, the horse moves even further into what you are asking.
Now I am not above these comments. I too need to learn to let go and trust my horse a little bit also! I learned that this week with the very special, Jennifer Q. Jennifer and I had plateaued a bit. She has come a long way from when I first got her, but in the last few weeks we haven’t continued to improve. Sometimes when that happens you just need a new perspective, so I had Kelsey Parisi, my business partner take her for a little spin.
Watching Kelsey ride her, I realized the problem was I was holding Jen back and micromanaging too much! I myself had to RELAX and LET GO! I needed to stop trying to fix every misstep she has and just ride the horse. The next time I rode Jennifer, I pretended like she was a broke horse, and you would not believe the difference it made! Suddenly Jen was consistent, suddenly she was free, suddenly she was acting like a broke horse just because I relaxed!
SO as you guys go out there and train or ride your own horses, take a deep breath, relax and remember that the other half of the puzzle is RELEASE!