“Hold on Loosely” is a song about giving your partner space in a relationship. Horses need space too. Many people hold on to their horse’s reins and lead ropes too tightly.
If you look at the picture to the left you will notice the soft energy present. Maddie is completely relaxed and both horses are respectfully walking at either side of her over grassy ground. She is holding the lead ropes gently and is placing no tension on either horse’s face. Both horses are relaxed and although one is clearly alert there is no sense of speed or raised energy.
This happens when you handle your horse from a place of trust, rather than a place of fear.
If you are holding your horse’s reins or lead rope with a death grip you are sending the message that tension is required. This can give your horse the concept that something dangerous is around and you don’t feel secure.
Respect your horse and treat them with freedom. Your horse will be grateful and behave better over time because he is comfortable and feels recognized as the intelligent and sensitive being he is.
If your horse really would run off with a little breathing room, you need to question how secure your friendship is. When you go to the park with your friends do you need to hold their hand so they don’t take off? Your friends naturally walk at a comfortable distance. They stay because they want to. When a horse is bonding with you, he will voluntarily do the same.
A horse’s face is a sensitive part of her body. To hold tightly to the rope is putting an unnecessary and uncomfortable restriction on a delicate part of her. It’s not respectful or kind.
There are times when your horse may be behaving rudely, or simply not understanding the importance of a situation, for example a car oncoming on a road ride. In those times you may need to quickly apply tension to make a statement. That tension will be all the more effective because you haven’t desensitized your horse by hanging on the rope.
If you normally ride on a light contact and your horse starts moving quickly, you can give a half halt to check in if your horse is responsive and then go back to giving them a loose contact. That loose contact says, “I trust that you will travel at the pace that I asked. I will not hold you back incessantly.”
A relaxed contact will lead to a relaxed horse. Note the relaxed energy in the riding picture. Maddie is smiling softly in her facial expression and this is also reflected in her energy. Whimsy is walking calmly downhill over grass on a loose rein. She is alert, but she is level headed and staying under Maddie.
Observe a horse on a tight line during riding, mounting or on a lead. Their head usually raises and their eye will have a fearful or resistant expression. Tension is met with tension. You get what you give.
It’s time to hold on loosely and give your horse the gift of a little bit of freedom.