The physical aspect of tension
May 8, 2012 1 Comment
I had an ah-ha moment this morning reading the first post on a new blog, authored by a good Collecting TBs friend, Annette. She’s a frequent commenter and is a more advanced and experienced rider. She and her OTTB Tuscon are working at levels that Derby and I only dream of. However, Tuscon, a former eventer, is a real go-pony, and Annette is quickly amassing quite a bit of experience in dealing with equine tension. After some hounding from me (admittedly selfish) she has unveiled a blog and her first post is about tension. Her approach is actually very similar to what Christy advocates – be sure that you’re biomechanically correct, and not impeding the horse with your seat, and then (in a nutshell) sit up and ride. I know for a fact that I’m still struggling with the position, as I still tend to list forward a bit in the saddle, closing my hips, which Derby interprets as a foot on the brake. And I know that I need to be more assertive as a rider, asking nicely for something and then correcting when I don’t get a “yes ma’am” response. That would be the sit up and ride piece.
But what I hadn’t considered at all, whatsoever, is the role physical muscle tension plays in building overall tension in the horse. Instead, I’ve been thinking (from an admittedly very human standpoint) that the problem was mental (oh, he’s not paying attention; oh, he’s distracted etc.), when in reality it seems that physical muscle tension is a contributor to mental tension and that you need to really think about muscle relaxation as a goal, rather than just “getting the horse’s attention” which is how I had been thinking about this. Because I have definitely stopped riding after getting the horse relaxed, only to have the tension return – that’s exactly, precisely what happened to me at the schooling show two days ago.
So I am memorizing this line from Annette’s post:
“…For a horse with innate, uncomfortable muscle tension, walking and standing around makes things worse rather than better. The tension is still there, and the muscles keep getting tighter. Working the horse to the point the muscles relax for lack of ability to really hold tension is a good starting point to getting the horse feeling mentally more relaxed.”
Here’s Annette’s full post: On Innate Muscle Tension and Horses. It’s well worth the read.
Thank you, Annette!