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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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 

50% NEW YEAR discount will end in...


Get access with 50% off!

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

Get a huge discount and Lifetime Access to the entire TRT Method training package.

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.

When your horse is pushy

What do you do when your horse is pushy and doesn’t respond to your cues? I recorded a little video with a young stallion to show you the dos and the donts.

Motivate your horse!

A horse that is very laid-back and maybe extremely lazy, often struggles to get himself motivated. How do you get those horses to be in control of themselves, how do they learn to give themselves a feeling of having energy, of being athletic, of being something that is feeling good? That’s where my Groundwork Wednesday comes in!

To what are you giving your attention when you enter the arena? [video]

Last week I was at the World Cup Qualifier, the Dutch Masters, in the Netherlands to give two clinics.

While I’ve been here, I’ve been really focusing on where the attention of the riders is when they’re bringing their horse to the warmup or when they are entering the main arena to ride their test.

I always ask myself and my students: ‘to what are you giving your attention when you’re entering the arena to ride your test in front of the judge?’

Often the attention is on getting your horse really sharp so you can get the best extended trot or passage. The attention is on making sure your horse responds to your aids in the right way so you can get the highest score.

And I totally understand that, but what is your horse thinking at that moment? What is your horse thinking or what is he feeling when he enters the arena?

The reason I’ve been paying more attention to this, was because of one of the clinics I did with Saphira at the Dutch Masters. Saphira is a really sensitive mare. She came into a really sharp environment with a lot of people, straight from home into a big building, which is of course very unnatural for a horse.

All this time I was thinking about the preparation at home. How is the preparation? Is she prepared? Is she confident to come into this sort of environment? I tried to leave my attention in that space of thinking.

If I focus on that, I know she will stay calm and relaxed. So if she starts to get a little bit uptight, I’m able to make changes in my body and my body language to be able to bring her back into control again. This way of thinking I try to keep all the way into the ring and I tell my riders to do the same.

However, if your attention is 100% on getting the exercises correct and reaching a certain goal, then you’re a long way from where your horse’s attention is on and how they’re feeling about each moment of the process.

The focus is then too much on the performance, showing what the judges want to see and getting the points or the win.

Sometimes it’s worth it to not focus on getting the marks, but to give attention to the mind of your horse and how it’s feeling or thinking at that moment. Maybe it gives you more of the edge by letting go of the technical and thinking more about the emotional state of your horse.

You can watch the clinic with Saphira below:

Do you have problems with tension during shows and competitions? Check out this FREE video series to help you prevent that!

Does your horse really know the trailer?

Does he really know the trailer?

It is a question I often ask myself.

‘He is just missing parts of information that he needs to know how to be relaxed about traveling.’

This is what I think when someone tells me of their trailer loading problem or horse.

Some of you may have seen the Brett Kidding’s trailer loading demonstration from the live TRT event. Where he showed some of the things we can all recognize, ways resorted to without training when we just try to get a horse on.

The simple idea of just thinking you’re going to ‘put’ or ‘make’ your horse go in the trailer is what often leads to failure or problems in loading or traveling later on.

Like everything with horses I like to teach to them before doing to them.

I try to begin with always having the thought of ‘how can I teach my horse everything he needs to know about the trailer?’ And how can I teach him to start to ask if he can please go in the trailer today so I can take him somewhere.

Trailer loading as a training session

Creating the right mindset in myself is easy. I just think that the trailer loading will be today’s lesson and something I will devote time to teach. Just as I would teach an exercise in the riding.

I always leave plenty of time to train so there are no time restraints. It is not necessary to have it perfect in one lesson, for some horses a number of sessions may be necessary to give all the information and to consolidate each stage with the appropriate break down for that horse.

Leaving the lesson until the time you have to really go somewhere with your horse, like a panic situation when he gets a bout of colic and you have to rush to the clinic. Or an already stressful morning before going to a competition, having not trained him before and just hoping he goes in, often sets you up for failure.

And sometimes a long painful loading time to come home, or even maybe a long walk home from the show.

These are all times where you will most often cause issues of anxiety with the trailer for you and your horse and future loading problems.



What does he have to learn?

So when you have planned your trailer loading session and you have enough time, what do you want your horse to know about the trailer?

The learning already begins five to six meters away from the trailer. If you’re approaching the trailer and your horse is already leaning back with his head in the air, looking everywhere except to the trailer, it’s not really a good start.

Your horse needs to know how to take the right confident posture in his body for the right confident approach to the trailer. A confident good approach to the trailer is really important, it creates a positive mindset for being able to think further about the next step.

When your horse has fear or resistance when approaching the trailer, you should solve the approach first before starting to teach your horse to go into the trailer.


Control each step

The next step is to have the horse take the first step on the ramp. It’s important that this step is not a made step, it should not be a step where the horse is pulled on.

The first step should be a step the horse takes for himself and that he takes full responsibility for. It sets the way for the rest of the steps and the lesson that the horse feels from the beginning it’s on his will not on our want.

The next thing I want to teach my horse is to take controlled steps from the beginning of the ramp to the front of the chest bar. I don’t want a horse to jump in or run in, Instead I want to be able to control each step he takes.

So I want to be able to let my horse take as many steps forward as I want to, stop when I want to and  be able to ask for as few or as many steps back as I want. So you have the feeling he waits for what the next step might be. For each step forward and back and the stop I use a voice cue, to again avoid the feeling that the horse is being made to make the movements.

This control gives you the option to change your mind at any time to keep your horse safe and to stop your horse from learning to run or rush off.

Horses also need to learn how to move in the trailer. I like to be able to move left and right with the back open so they have the option to go out and don’t feel trapped. The moving left and right gives the horse the feel of the space in the trailer and creates stability and body awareness to be better balanced in the trailer while traveling. It also avoids ‘frozen feet’ and a fear to move.


Closing of the tail gate

The closing of the tail gate, the ramp, is also something I like to train. I like that I can open and close the back and the horse does not think or want to come out until I ask him to. So that he learns to wait and does not press up against the tail bar.

I also do the same with closing the top, if it is a tarp curtain or flap. I train this with the same process as I do with any of the tools in the ground work. The horse must know the sounds both the ramp and the flap makes when opening and closing and what it means. I don’t ever want the meaning to be that he goes in we close him in so he feels trapped and we drive away.


Meaning of the destination

Finally, I also like to train the meaning of a destination. After the loading training is done and he loves to be in the trailer, I take a small trip of maybe 3 minutes and come back to a different parking place but still at home.

I don’t ever go to a new, strange place that becomes a distraction to the meaning of the training the first time.

I open the trailer with still the feeling that he waits for me to ask him to step back. As I want my horse to step back one step at a time, he gets to realize he’s still at home. It is at that moment the horse sees, feels and knows the meaning of travelling in the trailer.


Happy travels!