Here is one of my favorite teaching tools off the horse. Your ability to follow the motion of your horse’s head and neck and to separate your arms from whatever your body is doing is extremely important. You can do this with a bridle as I did here or just with lead ropes or even twine. The “horse” (me in the photo) holds the reins on one end and the rider hold the reins in the normal fashion – as if she were riding with elbows bent and very slightly in front of her waist. The “horse” moves the reins forward and back both together and then each independently. If the rider has that teeny, tiny pull that enables her to keep the rein from ever becoming loose, but never tight, just taut, she can keep the same feel throughout. Then the rider walks in place, trots, and canters while the “horse” keeps moving the reins back and forth a bit. We do this on the trampoline for even more difficulty, but it can certainly be done on solid ground. Keep a soft fist. You will find it nearly impossible to do with a tight, hard fist.
A quick thought for those riding
Those of you lucky enough to be riding – first try the exercise above on the ground. Now get on your horse and just walk with long, not loose reins – can you stay with the horse’s mouth with exactly the same pressure throughout the stride? Does your rein get looser and tighter? Can you maintain exactly the same amount of pressure on both reins, so the bit is exactly centered in the horse’s mouth? It doesn’t matter at this moment where your horse’s head is. Just see if you can become part of him without ANY communication with him. Your arm and hand are an extension of his mouth and neck (and back). Some of you may find it very difficult to “do nothing” not fussing with the bit in some way.