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Wrangling on the Range #113

Giving not "greedy" Hands



Unfeeling hands can create a negative cycle of tension.


IF YOU'RE LIKE MANY RIDERS, a nervous, high-headed horse makes
you nervous. Often the problem is a dull, unfeeling contact on
the reins. When the horse tries to relax and drop his head, he
hits the bit and his head pops up. He feels tense and irritated;
his high head and hollowed back cause you to feel insecure, which
prompts you to hang on the reins even more.

To break (or prevent) this cycle of tension, always think more in
terms of "giving" than "taking back." Keep your reins as soft as
you can without overly draping them (too-loose reins can
compromise control in the event of an emergency). Always feed the
reins out as need be to give your horse room when he lowers his
head and relaxes.

This is key because a horse's head is like a needle on a gauge -
it goes up when he tenses and down when he relaxes. Encourage
that relaxation by keeping your contact "feeling" so you can
instantly reward any effort to relax.

Riding is a constant process of shortening and lengthening reins
to maintain soft, consistent communication. Practice changing
your rein length until you can do it fluidly, without jerking or
pulling on your horse's mouth.

Good hands also require relaxed shoulders; softly bent elbows;
and hands that are well in front of the pommel, reaching for your
horse's mouth. Keep your fingers softly closed, not gripping.

All this makes for giving - as opposed to "greedy" - hands. 

Julie hosts "Horse Master With Julie Goodnight" on RFD TV and
presents clinics nationwide from her home base near Salida;
Colorado (


To be continued from time to time

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