Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Light Hands

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.



Cheryl said...

How does a conversation between two people become loud? It only takes one to raise his/her voice and the other one gets louder to be heard over the other's voice. It becomes a shouting match! Neither one is listening because they're both shouting!
All our aids are for communicating with our horse and if we're shouting, they're not listening. Most likely they're just shouting back!
Better speak in their language too, the one they understand. If you go to a foreign country and not learn the language first, you're not going to get very far.

Thanks for your blog thoughts and passing on everything you learn. Keep whispering :-)


balloon killer said...

I have a four year old gelding that is easy training a little late because of health problems ( his and mine ). I plan on using no steel in his mouth I will start with a side pull then move on a bosal and finish up with a war bridle none of these disciplines can be used to force your will on the horse therefore you have to finesse the handling i.e. light easy hands