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Learn to Ride with Soft Hands

Riding with soft hands is an awesome goal, and your horse will thank you for it.

In this tip, I'm going to give you two physical and also some mental exercises.

Here are the physical exercises.

1. Tie two reins or ropes or even two pieces of baling twine to a sturdy

fence. Hold the ropes as if they are reins. Take up a contact of at least

10 pounds in each hand. Then, adjust the weight of the reins by

softening your arms. Go from 10 pounds to 5 pounds back to 10 pounds and

then to 2 pounds. Once you get this feeling of adjusting the weight of

the reins, you can transfer the same technique to your riding when you

feel yourself getting too strong.

2. The next exercise is a progressive relaxation exercise. Progressive

relaxation means that the more tightly you hold a muscle, the more

deeply it relaxes when you let go.

So let's tire out those strong hands. With your fingers curled around

the reins, clench your hands into fists. Increase the tension until your

hands are shaking. Then relax and, anchor the feeling of deep relaxation

by saying out loud, Let go. Do this several times. Soon, you'll be

able to recreate the relaxed feeling without having to tighten your

hands first. You'll just have to say your trigger words, Let go, and

the feeling of relaxation will wash over your hands.

Now let's focus on some mental training exercises. We'll do this through the use of imagery.

1. Imagine that instead of holding the reins, you're holding a baby bird

in each fist. You don't want to hold the bird too tightly or you'll

crush him. The important thing is to make your mental picture very

vivid. What kind of bird is it? What color? Do its feathers feel like

soft down? Is it chirping a little?

2. Pretend you're holding a raw egg in each hand. If you squeeze too

tightly, you're going to have a real mess!

3. Imagine you're riding without a bridle. There's only a silk thread

from your hands to your horse's mouth? Your horse responds to the

lightest touch.

4. Imagine the bit is a razor blade. You need to have a delicate touch,

or you'll cut your horse's mouth.

These images should get you started. The best mental picture, however,

is a very personal one. So find the "soft hands" image that resonates

with you. Then, visualize the picture both on and off of your horse


For more info on how visualization can help you become a better rider,

check out The Rider's Inside Edge CD's and It's Not Just About the

Ribbons at http://janesavoie.com/shop/index.html


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