Hand Aid - Variables & Understanding

    Riding in hand differs greatly from the so-called riding on contact, the latter being mere supplementation of the first by inadequate riders who for most part fail to understand various publications on these issues by some rider-writers. This article will serve to clarify and allow better understanding of what it means to ride a horse in hand, on contact and on a loose rein. 
    Please note:
the term "on contact" in this and related articles refers to the general concept and understanding of it by most riders of today.

This horse is fairly collected all on his own while on a loose rein, which he most likely learned by carrying a heavier rider.

There is nothing wrong with either of the pics above. The working horse knows what to do and the rider uses the reins to occasionally guide the horse or ask for a certain response. Working horses usually know their jobs and they hardly need any aids from the rider to get it done. Most will learn to adapt to the rider's weight, some better than others, and get the job done. This is not science! Not interfering with the horse’s mouth during his job is simpler and safer for the horse as well as the rider.

A typical picture of contact- hanging on the horse's mouth, preventing him from doing his job, while burying the spurs deep inside the horse's rib cage. This rider most likely couldn’t do the riding that the riders in the above pictures do, since the reins in this case very obviously serve to keep this man on the horse. Even so, this style is favored by the so-called intellectual people who will undoubtedly provide you with some scientific theory to justify this crap.

     Basically, riding in hand is about directing, regulating and enhancing the output of the horse's energy during movement. On the other hand, riders riding on the so-called contact are in reality influencing the horse's movement by interfering with his motion, thus altering it and in return operating under the delusional perception that they have some control over the horse. This is primarily about controlling the horse, and not about riding it. 
      Riding on contact is very easy to see, often in the tit-milking motion of the rider's hands, which they often ascribe to some taking and giving theory that some fools invented due to their misunderstanding while reading some publication. 
     First of all, the rider does not take or give anything-the horse takes and gives; after all, you are sitting on him, you fool; what do you want to take and what do you have to give? What you are actually doing in this process is taking the horse's freedom of movement by interfering with it and then giving some of it back via less interference; what hogwash!

     First and foremost there is no way to explain or to teach what one does with his hands when he rides a horse in hand. It cannot be described, imagined or taught; it can be only discovered, understood and lived, thus all publications that try to teach the reader how to use his hands while riding are false, and one is better off not reading them, lest he ends up confused and never discovers the true beauty of riding in hand.

    Basically, there are two styles of riding using one's hands. One is riding on a loose rein, otherwise called riding off hand or without a hand. This is actually very practical, especially when the horse is trained in related styles such as neck reining, because this enables the lesser rider to ride horses without being a nuisance, as opposed to most of the riders riding with so-called contact. 
     This type of riding (loose rein) and horse training was primarily used and implemented by the cow farmers (cowboys) and pleasure riders, and is very useful in transportation via horseback for people that are not riders, like trail riding and such. One is better off riding his horse off contact and on a loose rein than hanging in the horse's mouth as most of the "on-contact" riders do.

     Now in the other extreme you get these fools and genuine idiots in the riding world who come up with things like, "I do not need a bit to ride my horse" (this is because his/her horse most likely didn’t accept the bit, which again most likely was caused by the rider's lousy hands. There is always room for acting honorably and nobly when one has a deficiency) or
"Look, I can ride the horse without hands (bit, reins etc)."
    These are the words of a complete idiot who is like a little boy on a bike saying to his momma: "Look mammy, no hands," until he wipes out. He is undoubtedly an idiot who has no idea what riding horses is about, while the amateur is amazed with such an idiotic display of stupidity and such obtuse riding.

    Riding in hand requires excellent hands by the rider, and without an equally excellent seat it is impossible, whether riding in the light or heavy seat. Hence here we are again-that without a solid seat, a person cannot ever learn to genuinely ride a horse, because the concept of riding a horse primarily revolves around the use of hands during motion and all else is secondary. 
   The so called "dancing" with the horse while riding it is not about some dance moves by the horse, as some fools may believe, but rather is primarily about getting inside the horse's heart (the source of his life energy), energy and motion, becoming part of it and in the more advanced stage actually enhancing it by one's own energy, just like in dancing. In this case the rider and the horse are involved in the motion together, making them one as in dancing in an embrace. Unfortunately, you will not see this anymore, for it was rare even during the days when decent riders were more common, while today hardly anyone would recognize it should he ever come across such a rider.

    Riding in hand can be truly experienced to its fullest in the light seat during medium to fast gallops, during which the horse actually gives himself, his well being, into the rider's hands. This has to be lived to be understood, and imagination will only create some foolish illusion.  
    Such a hand was and is rare to see and it does have a drawback, as to some point such riding in hand is impractical, because most horses introduced to such way of going will tend to refuse to go, run or just move when not ridden in such a manner. This kind of riding is just as addicting to the rider as it is to the horse, which makes the horse hard to sell. 
    This type of advanced in-hand riding could be seen at one time and in rare cases in Europe by the race riders, who for most part were riders as well as jockeys, but most importantly, they were employed by the trainer or owner, and such "spoiled" horses didn’t ever have to face a lower grade rider again. 

    In today's world it is very impractical to introduce the horse to such a level, because in the long run it will become detrimental to him. Thus the horse should be educated and trained according to the environment that it has to live in, which is unfortunately hard to bear or to do for any rider of that level. Most riders that reach this level will simply disappear somewhere because for them it is as difficult to give up the better thing for the lesser (trading the dance for labor) as it is for the horse. Some horses will do it, but almost none will ever perform their best again. 
    The riding in hand has certain levels before one finally reaches the "dancing" concept, if ever. In short, it is awesome for the horse as well as for the rider. 

This little kid is doing better than both of the riders below-that is, if you could ask the horses. Unfortunately someone already strapped the poor pony's mouth shut, hence this child, like so many others, is drawn into the matrix of our fictional concept of realities and most likely will never learn. This pony is actually more collected than both of the horses below.

What is the difference between this picture and the one below? The one on top is unpolished crap and the one below is polished crap. They start like that (above)  and end up like this below.

Look at this nightmare! Look at the legs! This horse is not galloping but trotting! With three legs off the ground!? Looking for the reasons why dressage horses go lame? Well, here it is, the primary cause of lameness in dressage horses. Just imagine the stress on that one foreleg of this heavy warmblood, in which case the navicular region is "crunching, girding and squeaking." The warmbloods will tolerate this mentally more than the finer breeds, hence they are more popular. The head is fixed (drawn down) and the rider has no idea what is going on, while the judge scores on the popularity of the rider rather then on what is presented before his/her eyes.

This will get you the "desired head set" and it will also disable you to feel in your hand the horse, his energy and motion, and strapping his jaw like in the pic below will just add the final finishing touch of a dead jaw properly blending with the rider's dead hands. When fixed like this (like a dog from biting), the horse can no longer express himself and you will never know what is happening under you. However, horses like this are valuable commodity since any fool with money can buy one and win on it despite his inadequate riding and hard hands.

    The principles of riding in hand are pointed out separately, for I can describe the functions of it, but I cannot tell you how one will accomplish it. The only rider that could reach this level is the one who is constantly improving his relationships with horses by learning from them, is always aware of his own faults, and lets the horses improve him. 
    The rider that believes that he is good at what he is doing will never find it, and the rider that wants to find it will miss it due to his blinding desire for it. This "dancing" is very much misunderstood by most of those who speak or write about it, which is demonstrated by their descriptions of it. 
     As you can see in the article on riding in hand, and articles on riding aids it will all fall in place, for one thing genuine riding has is harmony (the music is in the motion of life and not in sound), but many think that they are in harmony with the horse because they see nothing and feel nothing, let alone understand what is happening between them and the horse. 
    Since horses are mute, one can interpret their actions any way he likes, and only an unselfish, humble person who has the ability to see who and what he is can begin to grow, not only as a rider, but also as a human being, by letting the horse show him how. In time, unselfish men will see the reflection of their heart in the horse, for all animals are pure in life without "intellect" and hence without corruption. Human intellect actually gets in the way of relating to and understanding horses (article on the training page coming soon).

     Riding on contact is fairly common and very much in fashion in the so-called (incorrect term) “English” riding. The green rider has a problem with it until he learns to steady his hands by leaning into the reins, while the horse learns to lean back into the rider's hands. It is easy to recognize in the horse's movement and here are some things to be noted as typical, with one or more usually present.
     The horse's head does not move within his own body movement but outside of it, frequently throwing his head in any direction, to the side, up or down, depending on the horse and given situation. 
     By the advanced-screwed-up riders, the head becomes so-called fixed in some goofy head set position, so again the horse's head doesn’t move with the rest of his motion. This usually gets accomplished through the use of various gadgets like draw reins. The old saying of a rider is, "The rider cannot lose the contact, but the horse can." In other words, the horse will test the rider’s hands, or rather, tests if its movement is restrained by the rider's hands, by dropping the so-called contact. This is very quick, less than one second, hence the rider cannot respond, and if the hand is hard the horse then responds by some action of his head. 
      The goofy mediocre riders found a solution, or rather a substitute for their poor hands, by inventing various restraining equipment (draw reins, tie-downs, martingales, etc.) that prevent the horse from doing this, thus it appears peaceful, and to the greenhorn as if it’s in harmony, especially in that " head-set" fixed position. 
     In reality it is restrained riding and horses, for the most part, having no choice, adjust and live, while some refuse (may God bless those brave ones). These restraints include all types of cavessons, nosebands, dropped nosebands, draw reins, martingales, tie downs and so on. Basically anything that keeps the horse's jaw (mouth) shut, pulls the horse's head down and/or restrains its movement will completely eliminate the riding in hand, and the so-called riding on contact replaces it, since we are dealing with a set head and dead jaw.
    The worst part of this whole thing is that the horse can no longer express himself; thus, he can no longer teach us anything - or, better said, we can no longer learn anything from the animal.
    Therefore such riders that use these gadgets and ride in such a style will never improve. They will hit the so-called bottom, live there and die there.

    More obvious things to observe are riders that tend to lean back because the horse is on the forehand, since he is leaning in the rider's hands. Horses that give in to the pull (yielding to the bit, not accepting it) will flex not at the poll but at the neck, and the bit will drop below the "positive energy line" of motion (below impulsion line) thus the head won’t be moving harmoniously with the horse's body, appearing stationary in a so-called fixed position that the greenhorns call the "set head." 
    The setting of the horse's head was invented by these dead-handed riders, so that when the horse is finally forced to learn to go in such a fixed (stiff) position, one can put just about any idiot on the horse and make him look good to today's judges and equestrian world. After all, the word ‘show’ is all about looks, and looks are all about deception, so of course who would reward the real thing? One needs to be experienced enough just to be able to see the real things, let alone do them. 
    Henceforth, the genuine horsemen and riders are dying out, since in reality there is no use for them whatsoever. So, now we have these horses with so-called set heads who carry around incompetent riders and make them look good in their own eyes, and since the nature of the horse is to adapt to the environment, some horses will even appear to enjoy it, since they've learned to live, not just survive, in the state they’re in, which is very admirable, and all these horses have my respect. These foolish riders, on the other hand, cannot see this, and never will be able to see it because of their want, pride, passion and ignorance. 
     Meanwhile, the horse will endure for a while until his leg or back gives out, which these idiots usually attribute to some concept of the horse being an athlete and that all athletes get injured in time. All in all, idiots have one thing in common: they all have plenty of brain power for excuses and justifications, like a liar that is never short on lies.

    As the multitude of these poor riders has risen in the last few decades, the judges adjusted their judging to the riders’ incompetence in order to ensure large turnouts at shows and competitions in order to enlarge the profits of the governing bodies of the particular associations. 
     The so-called successful riders of today are judged by their twisted concept of accomplishment: the amounts and levels of wins, rather than their quality of riding, because the latter is very impractical from the business perspective of the various equestrian associations. 
     The so-called successful riders of today are in reality the victims of today's delusional, commercialism-fed equine world of lies and deceptions. If you've seen the movie The Matrix, well, they are the people running around in the suits thinking they’re doing real things, while the genuine horsemen are far too few and for the most part disgusted with the silly and ever-growing horse-loving and horse-obsessed masses, which they simply avoid.

    A riding horse needs freedom of motion to be safe and to feel safe and secure, and it is the rider's responsibility to learn how to get inside the motion (within the motion) and not just go with it (being on top of it), as most mediocre riders eventually achieve, believing it be the concept of "being one with the horse." Well, when compared to dancing, these riders are like little girls standing on daddy's toes believing they can dance, and never even knowing what real dancing is about when one combines his energy with another into one motion.

   Simple points for understanding:
    Riding without reins = Idiot or Exhibitionist
    Riding without a bit = Exhibitionist or Badly ridden/trained horse, a poor rider, or both.
    Riding on loose rein = Leaving the horse alone to deal with the situation in carrying the rider-a wise thing to do for the lesser rider e.g. cowboy, trail rider etc.
    Riding on rein contact = Influencing, and to some point controlling, the horse's movement by interfering with his motion and balance via the animal's head.
    Riding in hand = Directing, regulating and enhancing the output of the horse's energy in movement that comes from the rear end through the back onto the horse's poll. This is done in addition to other riding aids with the rider's hands via the supple jaw of the horse that rests in the rider's hand.

     Conclusion: 
    There is no such term as “light contact” in genuine hand riding, because it is not about the weight in the hands but rather the given situation that presents itself in which the hand riding aid is implemented in an appropriate fashion and weight/strength, which is determined by the horse and not by the rider. In other words, if someone instructs you to take a light contact, he has no idea what he is talking about. In short, if you do not know how to ride in hand, you are better off leaving the horse alone and keeping your hands out of the horse's mouth as much as possible. 
   
In hand riding is exclusively for the finer and more advanced rider, and most riders should stay away from it, since the implementation of an incorrect hand riding aid can cause more sorrow and nuisance to the horse than when left alone. Dressage was a discipline that needed to be ridden in hand; hence, dressage was at one time the college of riding exclusively and only for the very advanced and refined riders. 

    The term "riding on contact" in correct publications doesn’t refer to some contact with the horse's mouth via the reins; it is about the contact with the horse's energy and motion via the rider's hands, which cannot be accomplished if and when the horse's jaw is not supple and the poll is not the high point of the positive energy.

    Summation: 
    Riding in hand = Directing, regulating/managing and enhancing the output of the horse's energy in movement, which is determined by the horse.
    Riding on contact = Influencing the horse's movement by interfering with his motion, energy and balance, which is determined by the rider.
    Riding on a loose rein (off contact) = Minimal interference with the horse's energy, motion and balance, leaving him on his own to deal with, and adjust to, the situation while carrying the rider. Usually the rider adjusts to the horse and vice versa. 

    Edited by J. G. May 21st, 2006
    Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek