As humans we are biologically wired to use our hands constantly. Yet we aren’t always aware of how much tension and strain we subject our hands to while participating in activities. Noticing how we use our hands is especially important when riding on contact because horse’s mouths are so sensitive and because when we touch the horse’s mouth we touch the horse’s brain (the limbic system) and body (any tension will prevent the horse from coming through).
Using your bridle with a snaffle bit pick up the right rein and notice how you do this. Pick up the left rein and notice how you do this.
Then lay on your back, feel which is your dominate hand, bend that elbow pointing your fingers to the ceiling:
Tip 1: Visiting the following movement sequence allows you to find and reduce tension so you can hold the reins not grip the reins.
Keeping the elbow bent, think of lowering the hand as if into a pot of honey then bring the fingers back to point to the ceiling. Take the hand into and out of the pot of honey several times and notice if the wrist is soft or held tightly. Resting between each movement so you can sense how to reduce any tension anywhere in the arm, wrist, fingers. Rest.
Tip 2: Visiting this movement sequence will clarify which fingers are in your awareness and which can be discovered more so that all of your fingers can fold gently around the reins.
Return the fingers to point to the ceiling, and dip your hand into and out of the pot of honey a few times, then leave your hand in the pot of honey. Then move just the thumb, then just the index finger, then just the middle finger, then the ring finger then the pinky finger, then take your hand out of the hand and back in a few times. Is it easier, is there less tension? Rest.
Tip 3: Visiting this movement sequence will clarify if you pull the hand closed from the palm or if you soften the palm and allow the whole hand can fold.
Return the fingers to point to the ceiling and bring your thumb toward the pinky finger, do you tense the palm or do you allow it to fold? Then bring the pinky toward the thumb allowing the palm of the hand to be supple. Then bring the thumb and pinky as close together as is easy and raise and lower the three middle fingers doing only what is easy. Return the fingers to neutral (where you started) then dip your hand in and out of the pot of honey a few times to see if there is a difference in quality and smoothness.
Now, return to your bridle pick up the right rein – is there a difference in the quality of how you reach for and hold the rein? Do this with the left rein and notice differences from before.
Paying attention to these differences will allow you to find and maintain a steady contact that your horse will love.