A couple of days ago, I had a lesson with my trainer and let me tell you it was hard! I mean, it was definitely a rewarding lesson, but it was hard! Thanks Gary:-) I felt like putting my lesson into a blog post, because I learned something VERY important. I believe that once every horse rider accomplishes this, they will become an even better rider! So this is what I learned the night of my lesson…
When my trainer walked into the arena, he told myself and the friends I was riding with, that he was going to be “experimenting” that night. Oh brother! What is he going to do tonight? I thought. He told us that he was going to put rope halters on all of our horses which was essentially teaching us to ride using our legs, instead of depending on our hands. I was riding Sky at the time, so he put the halter on her and sent us onto the rail at a walk. He had set up a stop sign with cones and had instructed us to walk around the cones forming a straight line at each length of the stop sign. We had to be able to use our legs to steer around the corners and weave through the cones as well. After we had weaved through the cones at a walk and trot, we moved onto the canter. The concept was that we had to start inside the stop sign and transition into the trot. We had to slowly make our circle smaller and then slowly make it bigger while still keeping bend. Then, we had to transition into the canter and move towards the outside of the circle on the rail. It was definitely a learning experience!
I was riding Sky and we hadn’t done hard work for a while. What I learned the most while I was riding was from what Sky was teaching me. You may not realize it, but horses teach us a LOT! When I was riding Sky in the canter, whenever I would pull or direct my reins in the direction I wanted to go or to keep bend, Sky would instantly lose her balance and transition back into the trot. Multiple times she would do this and I started to get frustrated that she wasn’t consistently staying in the canter. My trainer explained to me that Sky was doing this because she doesn’t respond to pulling or steering in the direction I want to go. She responds when I ask her properly. My trainer told me that next time I transitioned into the canter to immediately give Sky her head. Once I sat up tall, strengthened my core, and gave Sky her head, she transitioned smoothly into the canter. She responded much quicker than me using my hands. Sky definitely has made so much progress while I have been riding her and I am so proud of how far she has come. Honestly, out of all the lessons and riding moments I have had with her, this past lesson was probably the BEST yet! Once I was able to get my act together, she was perfect and stayed in the canter consistently.
So, what I want you to take from this is that using your legs while riding is a much more effective than using your hands. If you have a horse that has been acting up or is constantly angry while you are riding, you might need to look if it is your hands.
Do your hands bounce in the saddle while you are riding? Are they constantly pulling the reins in one direction? Maybe that is a sign you should keep them in one position. Yes, I know it will be hard at first, but you can do it! It is so worth it in the end. Whenever I went to pull the reins, Sky instantly put her ears against her head and started to get frustrated and annoyed. But when I left my hands in the same place and developed a soft touch, she was happy with her ears forward. Horses are fast learners! Once we get our act together, they understand and obey what we are asking. This past lesson really helped me to realize that often our horses are NOT the problem… we are! When Sky was pinning her ears back, I kept wondering why she was so angry. Finally the dots connected and I realized I was contributing to her anger. Next time your horse is angry, ask yourself: are my hands affecting how my horse is acting right now? Basically, we don’t even need our reins, they are just for extra support. Once I used my legs instead of my hands, Sky was calm and she lowered her head immediately. She listened so well! Even though my legs felt like noodles after, this past lesson was definitely a great one and I learned a lot.
I hope that you enjoyed this post! Most of all, I hope that you also realized how much our bodies and the way we sit in the saddle affects how our horses react to different situations. The littlest movements can affect our horses in big ways. Just like my hands. All I did, was lift and pull my inside rein, but Sky reacted by pinning her ears and losing her balance. Talk about a HUGE change from happy and relaxed Sky! Just remember, horses are super sensitive and the way we act or move can change their day and our ride in a big way. I have created a small ebook to developing soft hands while riding. This ebook will be sent to all subscribers, so make sure you are subscribed to receive these tips. Until next time… don’t forget to hug your horse!