Tag Archives: controlling tension

Warm up idea before jumping lessons. Stress control, balance control & muscle workout in one

By Wiola Grabowska

Mairi and Gilly. Photo copyright: Christine Dunnington Photography

Everything happens fast between the jumps. Small losses of balance on route from one jump to another can become big issues when getting closer to the fence. Here’s just one scenario: breathing becomes shallow (some riders seemingly stop breathing altogether!) and/or fast, muscles brace, tension creeps up the shoulders and inhibits soft hands. Nerves can be overwhelming but so can the speed with which decisions need to be made: a little more impulsion, a little less, wide turn, sharper turn, shorter stride, longer stride, light seat, full seat…then there are things around the arena the horse can spook at. Jumping filers that can cause run outs and stops.

Caitlin and Mollie. Photo copyright: Christine Dunnington Photography

It is difficult for a one horse rider to create enough training challenges to work on various training behaviours with sufficient repetitions so if you are a learner rider learning to jump or you find some of the above issues apply to you, have a play with the below exercise as your warm up.

You will need:

  • a gym ball
  • something to hold on to
  • distractions for further challenge 😉


  1. Stand on the gym ball. This in itself will give you a raised heart rate and muscle workout similar to being taken off with on a long one and landed with the reins flapping 😉 Don’t give up if you can’t do it at the first go. Keep climbing on that ball, hang on to something near you and don’t let go!
  2. Once you can remain with both feet firmly on the ball for several seconds, assume a light seat/two point seat position and try to become aware of the tension through your upper body so you can release it by breathing and consciously relaxing your shoulders/neck/arms.


You want to remain in this position coordinating tiny shifts of weight that need to happen in your body in order to stay put. The feeling of the world slipping from underneath you is going to be there with you but don’t give up, breathe, consciously look around, smile, check if you can move your arms as if releasing the reins.


Calmer, more aware state of mind when in the saddle. Heightened awareness of where the tension is in the body and how to release it. Stronger core. Stronger mind.

If all goes well, you can introduce variety of distractions 😉

Have fun 🙂 



All photos in this post are copyright Christine Dunnington Photography