Teaching a response – Rein Yield

In previous posts, I’ve talked about the rein yield exercise that I’ve been doing with Blue.  The objective of the exercise is for the rider to use one rein to get the horse to move his hind legs laterally. The purpose is to identify and eliminate any areas where the horse is bracing against the cue.  The end result is a horse that understands bending better, and steps under with the inside hind when he feels the inside rein applied.

I’m all for being lazy and getting the horse to do most of the work.  I want the horse to be responsible for himself.  I don’t want to micromanage every part of his body all the time.  

Prior to learning the rein yield, I would use a symphony of aids to get the horse to bend and step under with the inside hind.  I’d probably use my inside rein to flex, an opposing outside rein, and a strong inside leg to get the same result that can be achieved with the rein yield. 

So just like any other training, a proper response can be taught on the ground, then can be converted into an under-saddle cue.

Check out this series of pictures to see the progression of Blue learning the rein yield.

Blue’s first session learning rein yields. He’s bracing against me in many ways.  I’ve taken in the rein and in response he is pulling back on me.  He’s also bracing on his right hind, it is firmly pushing on the ground.

Now he’s got it!  Here you can see that when I picked up the inside rein, he softly turned his head towards me and immediately stepped under with the inside hind.  In the next moment he will step out with the outside hind.  Good boy!

First session doing rein yields under saddle.  He understands the cue already, so he turned his head and stepped over with his hind legs.  However, some of his bracing in his mouth had returned, he’s opening his mouth some to avoid the pressure on the bit instead of yielding to it immediately.  With practice and good timing this bracing will go away.

A horse in any stage of training can learn the rein yield.  When I’m in the saddle, I make sure that I take my rein yielding hand up and away from the horse’s neck.  This helps to differentiate the cue for rein yield and the cue for flexion at the poll.  While the rein yield is easiest to see at the halter, it is helpful in all gaits as soon as the horse understands the cue.

An update on Blue

Olympic Blue is one of the horses I’m taking to next year’s Thoroughbred Makeover Competition in Kentucky.  He’s now been in training with me for 6 weeks, here is an update on his training.

I’m very pleased with the progress that Blue is making.  He’s beginning to see me as a partner and less as his competition.  While he still has many moments of flipping me the middle hoof, they are less sneaky and subside quicker.

Check out this video of our latest round pen session .  While I’m by no means an expert in round penning techniques, I was able to accomplish many goals in this session.  Blue was honest with me about his emotions, and began to turn towards me instead of away from me.  He easily changed directions, and we ended up doing it calmly by the end.  We had been in the round pen for 15 minutes or so prior to this video, and by the end of the video he was with me enough to ride.

Blue’s focus is on me

So I got on, and worked on some of the rein yielding exercises that I did in my groundwork lesson with Ellen Eckstein.  Only now, I was cueing him from the saddle.  After we got a handle on those, I thought it would be good to go for our first trot.  However, someone had turned their fresh horse out in the adjoining round pen, and that was too much distraction for us.

So I headed into the arena, no luck there either.  There were two horses in there, one in the middle of a sprawling ground lesson, and the other galloping on the end of a longe line with her tail over her back.

So I took to plan C for my first trot with Blue… The parking lot.  We’ve had rain recently, and the edges of where I was riding were a bit softer.

My first trot with Blue

Blue was decent about going and stopping, but steering through a turn while trotting was pretty rough.

“ok Blue, time to turn right”
“for real, we don’t want to run into that tie  rail”“ok, so you have to walk in order to turn.  Got it.”

Blue felt pretty solid, but our next training efforts are going to be to put in the power steering.

All in all, I was quite pleased with today’s session.  We had some lovely moments stretching in both trot and walk.

Stretchy walk

Stretchy trot

And moment where Blue forgot how to horse.

I’m not familiar with this gait.

Corny’s bridle set up

Corny had been doing really well with the concepts of relaxation and understanding on the ground. I have been working on his”bridle”set up quite a bit because of his persistent tongue issues. Until he can calmly carry the bit with no tongue acrobatics, he can’t properly receive a cue from the bit.
My first ride on him I used a rope halter with just the rope coming up on one side, I didn’t tie it like reins. He was wearing his bit as well, but there were no reins attached to the bit. I was a little nervous about that set up, so I tried something else the next time.

My second ride used a similar set up to the first, but I added reins on the bit to make me feel better. Corny did not appreciate it when I touched those reins and it freaked him out a little.

Steering by the halter, reins on the bit just as a security blanket for me

The third ride I used a rope halter, with a thin rope tied for reins on the bottom of his halter. He was still wearing his bit, but again no reins were attached. I rode him in the round pen instead of the indoor arena, and we were both pretty happy there. We even started some trotting, which you can See here

I was pretty pleased with this set up, except that I got a bit nervous about having the rope halter and the rope reins with no hardware to break if he stepped on it or I got hung up. So I decided to put leather reins on the halter, but as I was doing so, I remembered that I have a jumping cavesson that I could use. I had been having some trouble with the rope halter twisting into his eye during ground work, so I thought I’d give this a shot since the browband will help with that.

We are going to go without the bit for now, and will re-introduce it later.

Corny in the jumping cavesson.  I couldn’t get him to stand father from me than this for the photo.  He just wanted to snuggle.

Corny in his full kit.

Mounting Expectations

Blue and Corny are ex racehorses that I’m retraining to be sport and pleasure horses.  One big difference between racing and recreational riding is the method of mounting.

It takes two extra people to get a jockey  on a racehorse.  One to hold the horse’s  head, the other to give the jockey a leg up.  This always happens from the horses left side.  Oh, and that racehorse is probably moving when he’s getting mounted.

Mounting a racehorse 

I don’t want to be so dependant on other people just to get on the horse.  I want to be able to mount from a mounting block onto a horse that remains stationary until cued to move. 

I read a study once that of the equestrian head injuries seen in emergency rooms, the greatest percentage came from mounting/dismounting.  I’m not going to cite a source here, and I can’t find proof of this on the internet.  Actually I might have heard this from eventing trainer Matt Brown at a dinner table once.  His wife was doing a study on equestrian head  injuries and those were some of her results.  That was over ten years ago though, so who knows, I’m not a credible source.

Anyway, the horses I train are expected to stand well for mounting by an amateur,a professional, or a spastic professional.  I sometimes fall into the latter category.

Thanks to proper mounting training, and the good nature of horses, I didn’t die in the following scenarios

  1. Mounting 5 year old while wearing new breaches, crotch of my pants dropped while swinging a leg over and I didn’t clear the cantle of the saddle.  My pants twanged me off the cantle and I landed on my horses butt behind the saddle.  This was at a horse show.  Held at the stable that had recently hired me.  
  2. First ride after knee surgery, 4 year old horse swishes his tail while I am swinging my leg over, and a long strand of tail hair gets stuck on my spur.  His tail was now being pulled left, over his back and onto his right side.  I untangled it and made some kind of vow about fly spray and tail detangler.
  3. Thought it would be a good idea to use a stack of pallets as a mounting block.  When I pushed off of them, they started to fall into the horse’s legs, which spooked her a little, and I landed behind the saddle.  Luckily when she was moving, she was pivoting around her hind legs, which made it fairly easy to stay on until I had a good place to hop off.
  4. Got an exuberant leg up that tossed me all the way over the horse and left me doing my itsy bitsy spider impression up the off side of the horse to get back in the saddle.  Come to think of it, this one has happened twice.

How am I still alive?!?!  Mostly of the food nature of horses, I won’t lie.  But I do what I can to help out the spaz down the road that might have a mounting fail.   I like to accustom my horses to getting poked in their croup with a toe while being mounted.  Or having a leg dragged over their haunches.  Or excessively weighting their withers or neck.  I like to do this from the left and right sides.  I also put pressure on their barrel where my leg will end up.  I rode an ottb once who had never been ridden by a tall person.  Even though he was already trained to third level dressage, he freaked out a little bit when he felt my leg down low on his barrel for the first time.

Corny getting used to legs dragging over him

Blue learning to sidle up to the rail

So here I am, sitting, standing, stretching, flopping, and generally spazzing as I accustom the brothers to standing relaxed and immobile during mounting.  I also want them to be leaning  a little towards me as I mount, instead of leaning  away and ready to step off.

Corny took to it all quite easily.  I ended up getting on him a week before his brother.  Blue objected more to my spazziness.  He’s got a bossy personality and he’s convinced that I’m doing it wrong and that he shouldn’t have to tolerate that.  He’s coming around though.  He’s very good from the left now, and while I can dismount from the right, he won’t line up for mounting on the right yet.  

A day at the races: part 3

Olympic Blue and Olympic Maize are the full brothers I hope to take to the Thoroughbred  Makeover.  Their owners took me to Golden Gate Fields to watch their half brother, Nighttime Olympics, race.

Mark looks on as Nighttime Olympics finishes his race.  That’s him on the left, closest to Mark’s chin.

Nighttime Olympics didn’t finish in the money.  He drew the 10th position and never got closer than six horse widths to the rail.  Given that a huge chunk of the race was around a curve, he ended up traveling a farther distance than the other horses.

A few hours after the race we went back to Nighttime’s stall to check on him before we left.  I was surprised to see how agitated he was after seeing how friendly and playful he was before the race.

​​Nighttime Olympics in his stall a few hours after the race

I don’t know if Nighttime was agitated from the race, bummed about losing, or stressed about his upcoming trailer ride.  In any case, he got to go home to the breeding farm after the race, as is that stable’s practice.  Seems like some rest at home will do him some good.

The other thing that surprised me about my experience at the races was the prevalence of tongue ties.  I’ve really only heard about them before when reading dressage rule books in sections about forbidden equipment.  In Nighttime’s race 9 of the 10 horses had their tongues tied down with a piece of cloth.  Happilly, Nighttime was the one that didn’t have a tongue tie.

This was the horse that won this race.  I watched his tongue turn from pink to purple with each consecutive lap around the Paddock.

My new trainer friend, Matthew, said that while he personally doesn’t like to use a tongue tie, the purpose is to prevent the horse from getting his tongue over the bit.  He might have said something about it helping them breathe, though I’m not sure I heard that right since horses can’t breathe out of their mouths. Matthew said he preferred to use a figure eight noseband for a horse having trouble with his tongue.

Regarding the rest of the equipment on the horse above, most of what he’s got on is to encourage him to steer well and run in a straight line.  There are no arenas or round pens at the track.  Just the racetrack, where you have to go the same direction all the time.  It’s very different from what we see in other disciplines, but I’ve certainly seem the same sort of purple  tongue business and general discomfort at all different types of horse shows.

All in all, the folks at the track were all very nice.  There was a strong sense of community there.  Ann made a point of telling everyone we met about the Thoroughbred Makeover we are hoping to do, and everyone was excited about that.  There was a palpable love for the horses, but it had a different flavor than the type of love you see at horse shows.  It was less cuddly due to a prevalence of men working with the horses instead of women and girls.  Instead of being a partner or pet like their show horse counterparts, these racehorses seemed to be the way for a lot of people to earn a living doing something they have a passion about.  You can’t fault that, everyone should be so lucky as to work in their passion.

A day at the races: part two

Olympic Blue and Olympic Maize are the full brothers I’m hoping to take to the 2017 Thoroughbred  makeovere in Kentucky.  Their owners took me to see their half brother, Nighttime Olympics, race at Golden Gate Fields.  Yesterday’s post talked about visiting the backside stables and Turf Club.  Today, I’m going to talk about Nighttime’s race!

After our lunch in the Turf  Club , we hurried down to the track to watch the horses in Nighttime’s race get ready.

Nighttime Olympics walks to the paddock 

One thing I learned from my new trainer friend, Matthew, was that race trainers are not big into changing things.  If there horse hasn’t shown a reason to need extra tendon support, he won’t wear wraps to race.  Trainers are concerned that unfamiliar wraps will throw the horse of his game.  Oh, and the wraps are not polo wraps, but vetrap.

Nighttime Olympics in the Paddock

 Since I was with the owners, I got to stand IN the paddock!  There was a slab of brick pavers in the center of the paddock for us to stand on.  The horses moved in a circle around us.  They were all keyed up, and some even looked legit stressed out.  One horse was sucked up and kicking at the owners as he walked by.  Others were jigging, and some were sweating and lathering up.

Trainers talking outside the stalls in the paddock  

Some of the horses went into one of the stalls to get saddled, others never stopped walking and got saddled on the fly.

The jockeys appeared, and greeted the owners and their hangers on (me).

Ann and Nighttime’s jockey, Cristobal, talking before he mounted

I got a good look at Mark and Ann’s racing silks.  I think it will be fun to incorporate their colors into Blue and Corny’s show turnout.  I’m not afraid of orange.

Cristobal checks out Nighttime before he mounts

Cristobal mounts up

So all the horses continued walking while they were mounted.  Going forward I’m going to have to explain to Blue and Corny that it is never acceptable to walk while being mounted. 

After the jockeys mounted, everyone left the paddock. The horses headed off to warm up and make their way to the starting gate.  Everybody else headed to the rail to watch.

Tomorrow I will talk about Nighttime running his race, and the conclusion of my day at the races.

A day at the races: part one

Blue and Corny are the brothers I’m hoping to take to the Thoroughbred  Makeover in Kentucky. Their owners, Mark and Ann, invited me to go to the races with them!

I was excited to go!  I haven’t been a big fan of racing in the past, but I’m always very curious to see how other horsemen do things.  Over the summer I took a saddle seat lesson out of curiosity too.  I felt like an anthropologist, studying a different culture.  I figured learning about Blue and Corny’s former culture as racehorses would help me to transition them to their new culture as sport/pleasure horses.

The first thing I had to do was dress myself.  We were having lunch in the Turf  Club and there is a dress code there.  Since I had my kid, I haven’t had many occasions to go out and had very limited selections.  I ended up looking like a horse show judge… Equestrian fashion that is a bit dated, and a scarf.

Mark and Ann picked me up and off to the races we went!  We went to Golden Gate Fields.  The first place we went was to the backside stables.  We visited the Victory Rose barn where Mark and Ann’s horses live while at the track.

The backside stables

The box stalls were pretty big, and some of them had cut outs between them so the horses could touch each other.  They were all deeply bedded in straw.  Every horse had a stall guard and his door open.  Just outside the stall was a endless supply of Timothy hay hanging in a net. Many of the horses were also feed alfalfa or oat hay inside their stalls, as well as a grain formulated for racehorses.

Each stable had their own hot walker, and there were an abundance of leg wraps hung up to dry.  Many of the horses had poltice on their legs, without wraps over the top. I think the wraps were probably there before, but removed several hours before the poltice was washed off.

We visited the horse that Mark and Ann had running that day.  His name is Nighttime Olympics and he is a half brother to Corny and Blue.

Nighttime Olympics in his stall before the race

Nighttime looks very different than his brothers.  Not only is he a different color, but he is built more like a quarter horse.  Shorter neck and legs, larger hind quarters.  He did seem to have a similar personality to his brothers, friendly and playful.
After we meet with Nighttime’s assistant trainer, we headed off to the racing office.  Mark and Ann seemed to know everybody who works at GGF!  It sure was fun getting introduced to all the trainers, owners, race secretaries, and the folks who worked upstairs in the Turf Club.

After the racing office, we made our way to the track and up to the turf club.  We passed through the rougher crowd at the bottom and went up a level to where the serious betters hung out.  They have a room with a sign over it that said “Horse Wizard.” Awesome!  I know what I want to put on my next round of business cards!

We went up still another level towards the turf club.  The cement floors and escalators gave way to carpeted staircases with brass railings.  We sat down at our table overlooking the finish line.  Joining us was Kathy and Setti, they took care of Blue and Corny at the breeding  farm during and after their racing careers.  There were a couple other owner friends of Mark and Ann in the group, as well as a trainer friend named Matthew.

Matthew was a really nice guy.  We showed each other pictures of our kids, and he was happy to answer all my questions.  And oh boy, I had lots of questions!

Some of the questions I asked him were:

  • What’s that bit called?
  • What’s that bit called?
  • What do you feed your horses?
  • Do they get to do anything while they are here other than hot walk, hand walk, and work on the track?
  • Why would you enter your horse in a claiming race if you wanted to keep him?
  • Do you got to talk to the previous owners or trainers of horses you claimed?
  • Are all your bits single jointed snaffles?
  • Why are some of the horses tongues tied  down?
  • What are they tied down with? 
  • Why don’t all the horses have their legs wrapped when they race?
  • What are their legs wrapped with?
  • Is it fun to holler for your horse when he’s competing?
  • What’s the footing like?
  • Why did that winning horse get vanned off the track?

Matthew and I had a nice conversation and I learned a lot from him.  There were many more questions than the ones I had listed.  Tomorrow’s post will answer many of these questions, and talk about Nighttime’s race.

How to Hang a Bridle On a Rail

This is a small skill that makes me feel clever whenever I do it.  When working a horse in his halter, I often bring the bridle to the round pen or arena to put on later in the session.  What do I do with the bridle until I’m ready for it?  If there are no hooks handy, there are 4 options:

  1. Lay the the bridle on the ground.  It’s going to get dirty, maybe trodden on, maybe even peed on by a naughty dog.  Not a favorable option.
  2. Drape the bridle over the rail.  Inevitably the weight of the bit will slowly pull the bridle onto the ground.  
  3. Try to find a post that you can hang the bridle on.  Maybe the bridle will stay up.
  4. Use this cool method of hanging the bridle on a horizontal rail:

Hold the bridle on one side of the rail, and bring the reins onto the other side of the rail.  At the very top of the rail, thread the reins under the crown piece of the bridle, then flip them back over the top of the bridle so they are once again hanging on the opposite side of the fence than the bridle. If you want, you can pull the excess reins to the bridle side of the fence under the pole that the bridle is hung on.

The thoroughbreds are doing great, by the way.  I’ve been using this bridle hanging trick a lot lately in my sessions with them.  I thought it would be nice to share this clever trick with you.

Getting Your Horse’s Groove Back

Yesterday’s entry was about my riding confidence and the tools I use to improve it.  As I was writing it, it occured to me that I use many of the same tools to help a horse get their confidence back too.

To refresh your memory of yesterday’s post, my section headers were:

  1. Just Say No
  2. Ride someone else
  3. Mitigate your pain
  4. Warm up, literally
  5. Have a ground support person
  6. Fake it ’till you make it
  7. Be your own cheerleader
  8. Be honest with yourself

Here’s how they relate to the horse’s confidence

Just say no

The advice for the rider is to not ride a horse that makes them anxious.  The same is true for the horse. If the horse is in a place where a rider will make them anxious, they should spend some time doing groundwork to prepare to carry a rider again.  The type of ground work that can be done is a whole other topic for another day.

Ride Someone Else

The advice for the rider was to switch to a confidence building horse for awhile.  The above for the horse is to switch to a rider that gives them confidence for awhile.  There principle is the same.  Develop a habit of confidence that can carry over to a different partnership.

Mitigate Your Pain 

Advice for the rider was to get pain killers on board so as not to ride in a way that protects your body and induces discord due to rigidity.  Not only will the horse have a similar response to pain, they also bear the burden of being a prey animal.

If a prey animal, like a horse, is in pain, they know they will be the first ones to be picked off by a predator.  So buy your horse the joint injections, get him dental and chiropractic treatment.  Make sure that your saddle fits and his feet don’t hurt.  Heck, throw some NSAIDs his way.  Make him comfortable in his own body so he isn’t left feeling vulnerable.

Warm up, literally

Advice for the rider was to ensure  muscles are warm and loose before mounting so it’s easier to follow with the horse.  The horse should also be warm and loose before being asked to carry a rider.  Keeping his large muscles warm with a cooler, quarter sheet, or heat lamp while getting ready may help.  Being turned out and getting a good roll is a great way to stretch.  If that’s not possible, do a longe before saddling.

Corny and Blue warm up togetber

Have a ground support person 

Just like riders, an anxious horse may find comfort in having a back-up leader near by.  That could be his trainer on the ground, or another confident horsey buddy standing close.

Fake it’till you make it

Riders clench their butts, snatch the bit, take their leg of, tense their face, and stop breathing.  Horses tighten their backs, lift their neck, tense their face, and stop breathing.

Just like riders faking  a posture  of confidence and relaxation, we can train our horse to do the same.  When his body is put in a posture of relaxation, his brain will begin to think that he is relaxed!

So teach your horse to lower his neck when you ask.  This may be through flexion, or giving to poll pressure.  Either way, a subject for another day.  Watch his eyes, ears, mouth, and nose for signs of relaxation.  Encourage a steady and forward tempo.  Teach him to look like a confident horse.

Blue was a bit worried about my flag, so I asked him to lower his head

Be your own cheerleader

While this is harder for your horse to do for himself, you can certainly do it for him.  Find something he is doing well, even if it’s simple, or just a little try.  Then make much of him, “you’re so good, all the mares like you, what a clever boy!” Praise a lot.  Like enough that people walking by think that you are a head case.  

Be honest with yourself 

If you’re horse is faking confidence and relaxation, try to spot it. If he shuts down and goes to his happy place he may not be scary at that moment in time, but when he snaps out of it, watch out!  Those are the horses that seemingly blow up out of nowhere.  Try to snap him out of his comatose impression of calm, and address his low level anxiety before it escalates into something harder to manage.

Often horses and riders lose confidence at the same time.  To address all these steps to regain confidence, it may be best to part company for a little while and come back together when you each have more confidence.  

Losing My Groove, and Getting It Back Again

Like many riders, I have more skill than confidence.  I wish it were the other way around.  I’ve seen lots of riders with more confidence than skill, and most of the time they are having way more fun than their worried counterparts. 

 In my observations, the more confident riders don’t get hurt as much as the more skilled riders.  I chalk this up to the horse feeding off the confidence of their rider and being happy with having a strong leader.

For my confidence, some days are better than others.  After a couple decades of anxiety in the saddle, I’ve learned some ways to recapture that golden snitch of confidence.

Yep, that’s the face I make when trying to get my confidence back

Just Say No

As a professional, my job is to ride horses that require a professional ride.  Since I began working for myself ten years ago, I’ve said no to several requests to ride horses I didn’t feel confident about riding.  Saying no is unfortunately a career limiting move when working for someone else, but it has far less repercussions when self employed. For most riders, fun is the primary objective.  Getting in the saddle should be something to look forward to, not dread.

Ride someone else

If you feel anxious riding Dobbin, perhaps you should ride Cupcake for a little while.  Even if you own Dobbin, riding a horse that is steadier will help steady your nerves.  This is especially true after taking a break from riding. I inexplicably lost some confidence last week, so now that Corny is ready to be ridden, I owed it to him to be a confident leader.  I was able to get a good ride on River in to boost my confidence.  

River has been in training with me for about a year.  He’s never done anything I couldn’t easily handle when riding him.  That makes him a great choice for my confidence boosting horse.

My confidence building ride on River.  

Mitigate your pain

It is tough to be brave when you feel pain.  Typically, we tend to guard ourselves and protect our injured parts.  This makes harmony with the horse challenging, and without harmony there is discord.  So get those pain killers on board before you get in the saddle.

Warm up, literally

I have a hard time with my back (and most other parts of my body).  When my back is cold, it gets stiff.  That makes my hip rigid, and then I can’t flow easily with my horse.  If I don’t let my back get cold (I wear 3 coats) and stretch it out before I get on, my confidence improves.

Have a ground support person

This might be your trainer.  It might be your friend.  I use my groom.  My horses all love her, so I can have confidence that if I start to lose my confidence as a leader, I can point them towards her and they will easily transition to looking to her for leadership instead of useless me.  This being said, her presence alone usually does the trick and I’ve never actually pointed a horse at her.

Fake it ’til you make it

If you aren’t confident, try to pretend you are.  Instructors can easily spot a rider with anxiety because humans all do the same thing when we get tense on the horse.  First we clench our butts, then we take our leg off, grab hold of the reins, clench our jaws, and hold our breath. To the horse we’ve suddenly changed the three points we communicate with them in an unfamiliar way, effectively abandoning them in a time they most need our confident leadership.  Our seat becomes hardened on their back, the hug of our draped leg disappears, we snatch at their delicate mouths, our faces show our discomfort, and our center has shifted upwards with our shallow/non existent breathing.  

My second ride on Corny.  I didn’t have my groove going this day. I’m trying to fake relaxation via a cheesy smile, but my leg is sticking way out and my clenched butt is pushing my body forward.  Corny isn’t buying my attempts at faking confidence.

So when you are anxious, fake confidence with your body language.  

  1. Imagine your butt had become large and jelly like.  Picture it oozing of the sides of your saddle.
  2. Consciously leave the reins alone.  It’s handy to have something else to hold on to that the horse can’t feel.  Monkey straps (or bucking straps, or oh shit straps, whatever you call them) are great for this.  That way you can satisfy your urge to grasp something without your horse being the victim of your scared hand.
  3. Make sure you’re leg is touching your horse.  Don’t grip, but let your leg confirm to your horses sides.  Think of how a blanket drapes on a couch, it takes the shape of the couch, but doesn’t squeeze the couch.
  4. Relax your face.  I’ve got one bearded student whose lips disappear when he gets anxious.  Move your jaw, make horse lips, look around.
  5. Breathe deeply. Feel you’re abdomen below your belly button go in and out with each breath.  Make your exhale last more steps than your inhale.

Be your own cheerleader

I may not be Charlotte Dujardin, but I’m Ali Kermeen, damn it. Chances are you’re  pretty special too.  Remind yourself of previous riding situations where you impressed yourself, or someone else.  Think about this before you get on the horse so you have some ready to go.

Be honest with yourself

I’m not afraid to tell a client that I’m nervous riding their horse.  Having something to hide is a whole other anxiety trigger.  If I do share my anxiety with a client, they usually don’t look pleased.  But that is me, it’s who I am.  Again, career limiting when working for someone else, but less so when you are working for yourself. I like to think that anxiety makes me relatable to clients, and working through anxiety helps me to help others work through theirs.

That’s a lot of things!  Tomorrow’s post will be about these same principles used to help a horse regain confidence.