One of the highlights of my year is emceeing the Light Hands Horsemanship Clinic each May in Santa Ynez, California. It’s always a learning experience for me and it renews my dedication to being light with my horse. Now, I’ll admit right up front that I’m just a pup in all this compared to the great horsemen who teach at Light Hands. But I’m learning, and I can tell my horse is grateful for the effort.
What is so good about being light in how you cue your horse? Well, it’s more humane, for one thing and that means it’s more worthy of a human being. It’s also more just in the sense of being fairer to the horse, allowing him to respond to the smallest amount of pressure possible. But here’s the real kicker: it works better! I’ve been experimenting with this, being as light as I can with the reins and legs. It means being really tuned in to the horse because the response may be just as light as the cue. But when you feel that and reward it and are able to build on it, well that’s one of life’s really special moments.
The other thing about getting light in the hands is that it requires you to be light throughout your whole body, even your mind. For us humans, the hands are so special. I mean, think of what is done with the hands. Everything from a piano concerto to brain surgery. The eyes may be windows to the soul but the hands are hardwired to the heart. You can’t be impatient or angry or aggressive and still have light hands. Conversely, when you consciously and deliberately lighten your hands, your heart, your entire being must follow. It has no choice. Exquisite prey animals that they are, horses respond to that.
So here’s my parting suggestion, which can be applied with horses and with people: the next time you are inclined to turn up the pressure, first try turning it down. You just might be surprised at the result.