When she said it, my first thought was well yeah ... he's tense! Even as that thought crossed my mind though, I had this vague feeling that she was telling me something I needed to reconsider. Have I let Izzy convince me that he is a tense, anxious horse? Am I seeing something that really isn't a "thing"? Because the reality is, he's not an anxious horse. He's a friendly dork that loves to play and goof off.
He loves his barrel. He drags it around, stands it up, knocks it down, and gives it a kick now and then. IL, who was filling in for my vacationing barn owner, told me that he rolled the barrel over to her and then gave a look of pure joy when she rolled it back to him. That still doesn't seem like something an anxious horse would do.
For those two rides, I changed my thinking from I have a tense horse to I have an easily distracted horse. So instead of letting him gawk and look around, I shortened my reins and put him straight to work. I imagined that I was putting him into a small box as I compressed his frame and packed him up. He responded immediately, and his relief was almost palpable. He was more than happy to let me take over and make the decisions for him.
We enjoyed two very successful rides in situations that I normally would have considered "ride ruiners." By changing the way I looked at him, I realized that Izzy doesn't have a problem; I just need to ride him differently. And I did.
I don't have a tense horse. I have a horse who needs more frequent input and redirection. As I get more competent at keeping his mind engaged, we'll have better rides. Just this week he has already shown me that's how he needs to be ridden, and boy was it fun!