In Hand Work

A fairly new friend, who has had a lot of dressage training both in the UK and Germany,  does a lot of in hand work with her horses.

One day I watched, couldn’t make head or tail of it, but realised it would be useful to learn and to try to do it with mine. So I asked for some lessons on in hand work with Otis.

Otis is amenable, but when I tried after a lunge one day he just looked at me as though I was mad. We needed someone who knew what they were doing to teach him and then teach me.

My friend started by lunging Otis in walk and trot to warm him up and so that she could assess him. She used side reins, which I haven’t used much with him. When I tried them when he was younger I found he did a giraffe impression to avoid them so I turned to the Pessoa. Now, I can see that lunging in side reins will be really useful for encouraging him to take the contact consistently, which is a big problem for us.

After the warm up my friend stood Otis in the centre of the school and asked him for turn on the forehand. She used the handle end to push where the inside leg would go and the lunge line through the bit prevented any forwards movement. Otis obliged happily, after all it’s familiar from when we shut the field gates when bringing him in.

After turn on the forehand in both directions, he was led up the long side of the school and leg yielded towards the fence. Tapping the lunge line against his inside hind cannon bone caused him to kick out at it initially, but he soon leg yielded.

He was given lots of short breaks and pats, and soon walked shoulder in and leg yield easily on both reins.

The next day I had a play! I began with Llani, which probably wasn’t my best idea as I was still fumbling around and he was clueless. Anyway, we’ve done it a few times now and Llani prefers the schooling whip instead of the lunge whip – when I used the lunge whip he did beautiful turn on the forehand instead of leg yield as he tried to run away from the red snake! Llani finds shoulder in quite easy, but the leg yield is taking its time coming.

However, after doing turn on the forehand in hand he has now mastered it under saddle.

A couple of days ago I came across the following article – Here it is!

Which mentioned rein back and square halts. So guess what Llani learnt after being lunged this week?

He reined back beautifully in hand, but struggled when I tried when I rode the next day, so I hopped off and did it from the floor before getting on and doing it instantly. I could have done with having someone on the ground to help link rein back in hand to rein back under saddle. 

What I’ve learnt, doing all these ground work exercises with both horses is that Otis is far more sensitive and responsive -a mere touch of the whip will send him over or back. Llani meanwhile, can be over dramatic in his response, but it takes four or five hard taps with the stick to get that response. When I asked him to stand square I was tapping the resting hind leg for about three minutes before he lifted it up angrily and stamped it back down in a square halt. He’s almost like a stroppy teenager, who ignores his parents before huffing and puffing at them as he does as he’s told! 

It’s quite fun doing a bit of ground work, so I might look at getting a book to give me more hints and tips, but it adds variety to their work as well as allowing you to see any lateral movement from the ground. So next time you lunge, have a go at getting a square halt and turn on the forehand!

4 thoughts on “In Hand Work

  1. firnhyde Aug 29, 2015 / 12:49 pm

    We do lots of these sort of exercises with youngsters just before backing. Certainly helps with pressure and release! Although I still haven’t figured out how to do a shoulder in properly from the ground…

  2. Three Nags and A Baby Aug 29, 2015 / 2:55 pm

    I did a fair bit of in-hand work with Jay while I was pregnant – it’s a wonderful way to work horses. Very similar to the stuff you have written about, though I just use a bridle (my hands on the reins provide the contact, as per riding) this makes it mush easier to allow stretches as rewards as well as pats and praise. Jay loves any possibility to show off her lateral moves – the hardest with her is actually working a true straight line lol!

    Like you found, it is interesting to see how responsive (or otherwise!) different horses are. And I find it translates very well to ridden work, improving the lateral work under saddle.

    • therubbercurrycomb Aug 31, 2015 / 8:48 am

      I’m borrowing a book from a friend about in hand work so I’m hoping that will have more exercises for me to try 🙂

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