Seat into Legs into Hands to Soften.
My TB was a very strong boy when I first bought him. I remember going over a small CC fence when I tried him out, and before I knew it - we were at the other end of the field before I was able to bring him down.
At that time, Dorothy Crowell was coming to town to give a clinic, which I signed us up for. She is a Rolex Eventer and competes regularily at the 4 star level, both CIC and CCI. She also represented the U.S.A in the Olympics.
So I was excited to ride under her.
After we spent some time doing Dressage, we were on our way to doing a 3 jump combo. 4 stride to a 5 stride. Something like that - anyways....I remember we came into the combo nice, rhythmic and under control - then BAM completly different horse.
We took the 4 in 2 and the 5 in 3. It was rediculous. I remember standing up in my irons using my hands to attempt to slow him down.
So Dorothy stopped us and gave the others exercises while working with me 1 on 1. She had me work on Seat into Legs into Hands to Soften. She taught me to use my seat - our horses always come down into our seats. If you slow your seat down, your horse will follow. If you soften your seat, your horse will follow. If you speed up your seat, so will your horse, if your seat is tense, so will your horse be.
It is all about your seat. Your seat comes first.
Then your legs. Your legs must be there to not only aid your seat in continueing the motion you've created, but to also lift your horses back and ribs up into you. Then your hands - always come last.
Riders always want to use their hands. YOUR HANDS DO NOT CONTROL THE FACE, THEY CONTROL THE SHOULDERS. Your hands are there to allow the energy you created through your seat and your legs - to recycle so that it stays within your horse. So that the energy does not gush out your horses front end - you do this through your outside rein, being in contact, but soft and supple.
You never slow your horse with your hands. You slow your horse with your seat.
Your horse always comes down to your seat and what you are doing with it.
Lots of circles. Lots of serpentines.
I highly recommend you find a good instructor who can show this to you 1 on 1.
I was shown this through patience and guidance - and now have an amazingly controllable mount. A completely different horse, and I am thankful for the gift I was given.