In hand work (also known as ‘hand work’) is a fantastically useful technique to allow you to work your horse without being on his back.
Reasons to use hand work might be:
- you are unable to ride, for whatever reason (physical issues – you or your horse, saddle issues, or Covid 19 restrictions!)
- you have a young horse, and his fitness limits the amount of time you ride him each week.
- you want to increase your horse’s strength, especially his hind quarters
- you want to improve your horse’s understanding of reactions to your aids
- you want to develop a closer, trusting relationship with your horse
- you want to do something different some days, rather than drill the same ridden work
The end result of this work is to teach your horse to piaffe in hand, but as in riding, where not every combination will make it to Grand Prix, it is the journey – education and relationship benefits – that should be your goal.
The starting point sounds – and is – very simple: teach your horse to start and stop.
Doing this correctly, however, takes far more understanding than you might at first appreciate.
- A bridle – do not attempt this in a headcollar or cavesson (unless your horse is very respectful of half halts on the cavesson – this will be covered in later posts)
- Sturdy footwear – not trainers. You may get trodden on.
- A long whip – a hand work whip should be around 5′ / 155cm long, and with a small tassel on the end. If you do not have access to one, an old lunge whip, preferably without the lash, can be used. Only use a schooling whip if it is VERY long – you don’t want to be in reach of the hind legs, and remember, your horse can kick forward and sideways, as well as backward. We don’t plan on irritating him into kicking, but some sensitive horses will do so anyway.
Understand body language
A large part of successful in hand training depends on your body language. Continue reading “7 Easy steps to starting in hand work – Part 1, start and stop”