Tips for Lighter Hands

I just got a new horse and I'm a bit nervous. My coach says I'm gripping the reins and my arms are stiff. How can I relax and have lighter hands? Unsteady hands can be like background noise drowning out signals you’re trying to send to your horse. At best, the horse can ignore the noise, becoming desensitized to it. Equine behaviourists call this habituation. At worst, erratic hands will scare or hurt your horse. He’ll learn to preserve himself by avoiding the bit in some way. Gaping mouths, elevated heads, hollow backs and choppy gaits are common evasions. Before opting to solve those problems with band aid solutions such as nosebands and draw reins, let’s go to the root of the problem – developing elastic, independent hands. Riding effectively can be boiled down to a signal/response or pressure/release system. Your hands telegraph signals such as slow, turn and flex.…

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