If you have problems with your horse getting tensed when you are hacking out, it is important to have control over yourself. Trying to control your horse will typically produce more tension. The worse thing to do is pulling the reins this will put more fuel on the fire. Depending on the situation there are lots of things you can do.
Tip 1: Your own breathing is the first thing you must check. If you breath in you have to inhale all the way down to your horses ribcage. This has a relaxing purpose for you and your horse and makes you feel more stable In the saddle as it takes your center down. I scan my breathing often while I ride and it really helps me stay relaxed because I am overcoming an old trauma from a riding accident. It works, I guarantee.
Tip 2: What helps me is to visualize that I grow roots from under my feet all the way down in the earth. This makes you more grounded. You can also visualize that your feet are not in the stirrups but on the ground. Like you would feel every step as if your feet were your horses hooves. This also helps to get a safe feeling, and when you feel safer. You will feel more relaxed and that is exactly what your horse will pick up energetically.
Tip 3: Keep riding, often when a horse speeds up or gets tensed, the rider just hangs on because they are hoping the horse will calm down if they take off their legs and sit still. If horses are worried, good chance, that you can have their mind back to you if you can influence their body. So they switch from reacting to thinking again. Give clear directions, like a captain on a ship in a storm he won’t stay passive. This also helps your own brain to not get into the horse his tension. You can use leg yielding or shoulder in, and ask for a bend with one rein. Use half halts, and always think of giving the reins never hold. Horses calm down by bending their body, how it works I do not know but it works.
Tip 4: If you feel better if you hold something grab the mane with one hand. (I like horses with thick long mane, if they jump or make an unexpected turn that is my safety not my reins) The main goal is to stay calm ourselves so our horses will pick up, on energy. If you feel better having something to hold use it. And it keeps you from tightening the reins.
Tip 5: Use your seat to slow down by staying a little behind the movements of your horse, but: keep your seat soft! If you sit on a horse with a tight back, he can only soften if your seat stays soft enough for him to bring his back up again. I used this a lot with an arab who was always in a hurry. Remember to praise and talk to your horse when he listens.
Tip 6: It helps me to give myself instructions on what to do. Like I kind of coach myself true the situation. The first time when I successfully coached myself was when Csík bolted again (after my accident) and instead of thinking I am gonna fall, I am gonna fall… . I almost shouted to myself, sit back! sit back! This was a huge difference, I stayed in the saddle. If you give yourself instructions what to do, it gives negative thoughts on what can go wrong no room to pop up in your mind.
Tip 7: Know your limitations, it is not a shame to dismount and walk your horse in a difficult situation. If you feel safer on the ground help your horse leading him. If you are suffering from fear make that a big priority on your agenda to work on. Maybe stay home and solve things before you hack out again. I have a lot of experience on the subject and I will blog about riders fear in a different blog.
What is so fascinating to me about interacting with horses. They show me real-time how thoughts become action, the connection from body and mind. Horses can help me staying mindful, and practising body awareness. The best thing for a good connection with your horse is to work on yourself. Horses magnify emotions. fearful riders create fearful reactions in their horses.
I love using visualizations, they helped me already with several riding challenges. Especially because my horse Csík can read my mind word by word (it is almost scary.) I will write a blog about that as well, I really wish that more people can benefit from this knowledge.
Let the horse be with you!
If you have some other tips on this subject, comments or questions I love to hear about it, feel free to leave a reply I would apreciate to learn more.