How to control your own level of tension

How to control your own level of tension when your horse spooks

If you have a horse that’s a little bit nervous or that’s prone to spooking, your anticipation to that spook is creating tension in your body. It’s a natural reaction, but it will definitely create tension and anticipation in your horse’s body as well.

So what can you do to prevent that?

You can try to create a simulation of the situation where you think of your horse spooking and then going through the steps of what you would do in that situation.

This is how you can do that. 

The next time you’re riding your horse in the arena, pretend there is a scary corner and ride your horse towards it.

When you arrive there, and even though your horse hasn’t spooked, just think: ‘My horse has spooked’ and start going through the steps of creating a relaxed posture and therefore a relaxed mindset.

Your body will then go into the action phase where you go through the motions of what you might do in that situation. In that way you’re taking positive action in knowing what it is you have to do.

When you’re doing this simulation, you’re preparing yourself and creating in your mind the knowledge of what action you need to take in that moment.

It’s like a fake fire alarm. Everybody does a drill and when they hear the alarm, they know that they have to go outside the building towards the meeting place.

Now you can feel what it’s like to gain control of the situation. So unconsciously you start to feel confident that you know what you have to do the next time your horse spooks.

Secondly, you have to tell yourself that you’re not going into this action plan unless there really is a fire.

I understand you want to be prepared, but don’t enter the building and practice the drill every time. Just wait until there actually is a moment where it requires you to take action.

Therefore you’re not preempting the expectation that the horse is going to spook. You have an action plan and now you’re just going to focus on your riding and what you’re doing.

That’s relieving that tension in you and giving you purpose and knowledge of knowing what you need to do when there actually is an emergency.

It takes away that anticipation of trying to prevent it. Because when you know what to do, you no longer have to prevent it.

Do you have problems with tension during shows and competitions?

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When your horse pushes into you and lacks balance [video]

When your horse pushes into you and lacks balance

The first thing I do when I get a horse in for training is to take notice of the dynamic between the horse and the owner. 

What’s important here is to not just look at the horse alone.

And to not only focus on solving the horse’s insecurities and problems without taking into account the role of the owner. 

It’s what I’ve done in the past and it turns out I was doing horses an injustice.

Because it’s about the combination.

I’ve heard it countless times: one rider has difficulties getting on and the other one doesn’t think about it and has no problem at all.

One has difficulties getting the horse on the trailer and someone else has no difficulties at all.

So it’s interesting to see how the conversation between the horse and the owner goes. Like with this combination at TRT Live.

What do we see?

From the beginning when I look at the combination, I try to feel how this conversation is going and what positions they are both in.

I generally see people having one out of three roles: the mummy, the dictator or the mentor.

What role do you think the girl takes on from the short clip above?

Did you see her response when her horse dragged her out of the arena?

The dictator would have tried to correct the horse, believing the horse was making her look stupid.

The girl, however, was trying to give her horse reassurance by patting her and basically saying: “Don’t worry, it’s okay.”

But sometimes the ‘threat’ outweighs the reassurance. You can try to tell your horse it’s okay, but they might not believe you and become even more insecure.

It’s important to understand what role you typically take on. And also what your thoughts are and how you enter the space of conversation.

Want to know what steps I took with this horse to reduce his insecurities and him pushing into you?

Because we received so many positieve responses to our previous case study we shared (remember the guy with the pony?), we decided to share this one as well.

You can watch it here:

I hope you enjoyed this training session and that it has given you inspiration!

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Goal setting for the new year – what’s really important to you?

Setting Goals for the New Year

What is really important to YOU?

We are often led to believe we should be doing a certain thing with our horses. In a certain way, at a certain level, in a certain amount of time.

These beliefs have been congregated over time from past experiences, memories and knowledge we’ve acquired.

But from all the things you do with your horse and the beliefs you have about yourself and your horse, what has really come from you? In what way has your environment influenced you and is it truly what you believe and what you want?

What really gives you fulfillment when you’re with your horse?

This is important to know when you’re setting goals for the new year. So let’s find out by answering the questions below.

Getting Started

Below you’ll find questions around several topics to find out what’s truly fulfilling to you. 

I advice you to take out a piece of paper and write down the answers.

Also, take your time to answer these questions. Sometimes you need to dig a little bit deeper to find the true answer.  

Your dreams when you were young

The older we get, the more we shape our beliefs based on all the influences around us. However, do you remember how care-free you may have been as a child? Very often, going back to that time period can tell us a lot about what gives us joy. 

Dreams when you were young

What were your dreams and ambitions related to horses when you were younger?

Joy and flow

What did you enjoy doing around horses when you were younger? This can be when you were a child or even a few years ago. What activities made you lose track of time and get in a 'flow'? Try to list as many activities as you can possibly remember.

Sure, if you enjoyed playing cowboys and Indians as a child, I wouldn’t be surprised if that isn’t exactly what you aspire doing today. But very often there are certain elements in those activities that can be translated to things you would enjoying doing as an adult.  

Evaluating the activities

When you look at the activities listed, can you find certain similarities? Are there elements or characteristics to those activities that apparantly makes you happy?

Evaluation of the current situation

Let’s take inventory of how you’re doing right now. 

Dreams as an of today

What are your current dreams and ambitions? What are you hoping to achieve? What are your goals?

Daily or weekly activities

What do your daily or weekly activities around your horse look like?

Activities in relation to your goals

What activities are required to achieve your goals? Do they match the activities listed in the previous assignment? If not, what other activities 'should' you be doing?

Evaluating the activities

Of all the activities listed, both the ones you're actually doing and the ones you 'should' be doing to achieve your goals, what are the activities you enjoy doing? What are the activities, or moments in those activities, that give you fulfillment?

It could be the case that you now find out you’re actually pursuing a goal that require activities and actions you don’t necessarily enjoy. 

Of course, sometimes you have to undertake actions that are less enjoyable in order to achieve a certain goal. But when they make up most of your time, you know you’re not on the path that suits you. 

Activities in the past versus activities as of today

If you look back at the characteristics of the activities you enjoyed doing when you were younger, do you see those characteristics in your current activities as well? What could you change to your activities to implement those characteristics?

Looking at all the influences

We’ve looked at your past and the current situation. The next step is to look at all the things that may have had an influence on how you perceive yourself as a rider and what your beliefs are regarding the level you’re at and what you should be striving for.

The influence of the People around you

One of the most important influences on your beliefs come from the people around you. Think of relatives, but also the people at your stable or riding club and your trainer. This can have a positive influence, but it can also influence you in a way that, unconsciously, you’re not being true to yourself. That you’re living someone else’s life and dreams.

Influential relatives

What do your relatives consider to be a good or successful rider? What do they consider you 'should' be doing with your horse and how you should spend your time ideally?

The role of your Trainer

What does your trainer consider to be a good or successful rider? What does your trainer consider you 'should' be doing with your horse and how you should spend your time ideally?

The people at your stable and riding club

What do the people at your stable or riding club consider to be a good or successful rider? What do they consider you 'should' be doing with your horse and how you should spend your time ideally?


When you look at the answers to the previous three questions, do you see similarities? In what way has it influenced your beliefs, goals and activities? And in what way does it influence the thoughts you're having when you're with your horse?

The influence of Social Media

Social media can be a very inspiring place, but it can also, unconsciously, lead to comparisons based on the level you should be at and how you should be working with your horse.

Influential equestrians

List the top five equestrians or equestrian organizations that you follow mostly on social media.

Top 5 influential equestrians and equestrian organizations

1. ...
2. ...
3. ...
4. ...
5. ...

Influential equestrians

Behind each name, write down in what way this person or organization inspires you in a positive ánd negative way and how it has influences your beliefs and actions.

Sometimes you find that you’re following people that might make you feel insecure or dissatisfied about your progress, how you are as a rider and the level you’re at. This can, of course, inspire you to do better. But be careful to check if it’s really what you truly want.

Social Media Detox

Consider going through your social feed and unfollow equestrians that don't inspire you in a positive way. Also consider limiting the time you're spending on social media if you feel it's not serving you.

The influence of your Horses

What you want to achieve with your horse and how you feel about working with your horse, is also influenced by previous experiences you’ve had with other horses and through comparisons with past success and failure with your current horse. 

Experiences with previous horses

How do the experiences with previous horses and the achievements have an influence on your expectations towards yourself as a rider and your horse? How does it influence your beliefs?

Comparison to past success and failures

How do past success or failures with your current horse influence you on a daily basis? How does it influence the thoughts you're having while you're with your horse?

Remember that the only things that matters when you’re with your horse is ‘now’. Not what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. The real truth comes from your horse in the present moment.

Final thoughts

When you look back at all the questions you’ve answered, what are your biggest insights and what actions are you going to take to live the life you truly want?


What are your biggest insights from answering all of the questions?


What changes are you going to make in you goals, ambitions and/or activities?

Goals and ambitions

Now you know what truly fulfills you and brings you joy, what are your goals and ambitions for the new year?

We’ve looked at what may influence your thoughts, beliefs and expectations towards yourself as a rider and towards your horse.

But the real truth is that all of these thoughts derived from these places are totally irellevant to the current situation and relationship you have with your horse. 

Because none of those outside influences are You or your Horse!

The only, real truth is in the now…

Deep down, if you’re being truthful, you know what gives you fulfillment and what feels right.

Follow and your own journey and don’t forget to be happy with your progress.

– Tristan 

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Every horse can be confident and relaxed in every situation. It’s all about giving your horse the right tools.

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Participate in your horse’s conversation

Participate in your horse’s conversation

Something important to remember when working with horses that you should give them the chance to participate in the conversation, too.

It shouldn’t be you talking all the time, giving the horse no chance to pitch in.

And it also shouldn’t be you letting the horse talk over you all the time, dictating when you can or can’t speak.

I coached Melissa and Gorelja through their first free conversation together. You can find their session in this blog!

Enter the conversation space

Depending on the type of horse, you start by creating or redirecting energy.

In this session, Melissa really had to motivate Gorelja to match her energy levels.

Through interaction, like looking at each other, turning, and stopping for a scratch, you build the interaction between you and your horse.

You can watch that progress in the video below:

Interact with your horse

When you have your horse focusing on you, you’ll notice they will start to match their energy levels with you.

Through joining in with you, they’ll find that interaction with you is fun, enjoyable, and rewarding.

It gives her the opportunity to also bring something to the conversation.

You can see that interaction in the video below:

Build on the natural dialogue

When conversing with a horse freely, it’s important that you don’t influence the direction of the conversation.

It annuls any kind of expectation from your side, exchanging it for appreciation.

You want to try and follow the natural flow of the horse’s language and dialogue.

Because when it’s naturally there, it can grow by itself.

Want to learn more?

Replay TRT Live – Thursday 18th of March

Watch back the replay of TRT Live!

Dina: The horse that stops and shuts down

Watch back the clinic video of TRT Live Worldwide on Dina, a really tense mare.

Create flexion in your horse’s body from a distance

When your horse pushes on you, it’s best to do the groundwork pattern from a distance. In this blog you’ll learn more about how to flex your horse’s neck from a distance.

Elevate your trot without tension and pressure

Any horse can learn how to trot expressively in a way that’s healthy and empowering to their body. The process in which I teach that is what I call the Moonwalk.

Training Misty: The steps to become a successful riding horse

At one point during TRT Live Worldwide, two horses came into the arena and the audience picked one of the horses for me to train right at that moment. The other horse, Misty, I trained this week at my place.

Adam Winrich whip TRT Live Worldwide

Interview with Adam Winrich – professional whip cracker and 23-time Guinness World Record holder

At TRT Live Worldwide, we had a special appearance of Adam Winrich: professional whip cracker and 23-time Guinness World Record holder. I also did an interview with Adam, which you can watch in the video below.