Have you ever been tense, such as in your shoulders, and tried to exercise those muscles? Talk about feeling the burn! That is not a good burn for your muscles.
If your horse is tense anywhere, the same thing will happen to his muscles and he will be in pain with the easiest of exercises; just sitting on his back will make him uncomfortable. And the bars of the bay horse’s mouth (pictured to the left) would also hurt until the nerves go numb, adding to the tension.
The horse must be totally relaxed to give you a good ride. Here is why:
When muscles contract, some blood is squeezed out of them. Then muscles relax and blood goes back into that area. When there is tension, not only is the amount of blood that returns to the muscles diminished but the old blood in the muscle does not move out as it should. Toxins, etc. that come from exercise do not get carried out of the muscle. You then end up with stringy, even more tense muscles that need drugs, vet care, etc. to keep the horse going.
Lunging and the other fun gymnastics as described in Forward: Riding with Eloise King will build an athletic horse with strong, healthy muscles. They will also keep the horse in a more relaxed state of mind which is conducive to him being more focused and attentive to what you want.
Give your eye a little training: Just compare the neck muscles of these two horses.