Battling the Hard-handed Rider - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 65 Old 10-29-2013, 07:51 PM Thread Starter
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Battling the Hard-handed Rider

Today is the day that I have to find an answer to my problem. I am extremely hard-handed at times, and it completely ruins me. I take out my anger on my hands, and it's always been that way.

Just tonight, I wanted 1 good day of jumping before snow came. I expected my horse to be as good as he was a month ago at our last show of the year. He was calm and quiet then, but today he was rushing and not listening. I got made and smacked on his mouth. Multiple times. I went for the jump again, he rushed worse, and I cranked his head around, smacking on his mouth. Afterwards I got off, tears running down my face, mad at myself. I know what I'm doing is wrong, but it's became a habit and I just do it, without really thinking. And it's only on my personal horse. I've had him for 7 years and now I have a weird expectation of him being perfect all of the time, which completely ruins the fun of riding.

Please, be cruel, be rude, be anything to make me stop this terrible habit. I feel so terrible afterwards, at the point that I just want to quit riding. Everything between me and him is so much better when I have soft and quiet hands. Just last night at 11:00 pm I rode him bareback and in a very soft bit, and he was rounding his back and stretching his neck down for me. Today, his head was up and he was tense. I am ruining my horse.

Help. Any advice appreciated.
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post #2 of 65 Old 10-29-2013, 09:23 PM
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First, don't be so hard on yourself. You are human (I assume) and you are not perfect. I think that the first problem is that you set this perfect expectation and set heavy expectations for your ride. I do this too, I get all caught up in doing one thing and usually the rides I expect to be the best are the worst. You become tense because when one thing does not fall into your mental plan you get upset. The rides where I don't have expectations I just go with the flow often go better because I am more relaxed. It sounds like things are better between you and your horse when you don't go in with big expectations.

Now, life is imperfect and you will probably be frustrated again. I would try to find something that you can do when frustrated. Ie. you circle, you count to ten or you sing happy birthday when you feel yourself getting frustrated. That has been my big challenge to realize when I am getting frustrated and stop myself or divert that emotion before it turns into action.

If you were heavy handed all the time I would say go back to a mild bit/halter and/or a neck strap to work on using your body over your hands. The problem sounds like its less a riding skill and more a temper issue. You know how to ride correctly you just have to control your temper/emotions. Thats a part of riding and life, leaning when and how to express yourself in a non-damaging way. Don't worry we are all learning that and will be for a very long time.
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post #3 of 65 Old 10-29-2013, 09:44 PM
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I wonder if we don't all wish we were more soft handed than we are. I don't yank on my horse's mouth out of anger, but it doesnt' take long for me to realize that I am getting less and less out of the horse, and it has everything to do with doing too much with my hands. Times like these is where having another pair of eyes on the ground to tell me what I am REALLY doing, and remind me that I want my horse to do what I "ask" him, not what I pull him into.

So, for me, what has helped me a LOT is to remember that the reins are "aids", and they should be there to "help" your horse do what he needs to do to be balanced and correct. Always keep in your mind that you should be "helping" your horse. That thought will encourage a supportive attitude, rather than a combative one. same horse, same problems, different perception .
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post #4 of 65 Old 10-29-2013, 09:46 PM
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You need to seriously get control of your anger. Hard handed riding is not only ugly, and unfair, but it can be seriously damaging.

Try holding mane when you start to get frustrated. Lock your upper arms to your torso so you can only use your elbows.

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"
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post #5 of 65 Old 10-29-2013, 09:57 PM
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Be more Zen about it.

When you're on your horse, you're on your horse. That is ALL you are doing. You aren't frustrated from earlier (making any horsie frustration worse). Put it all out of your mind.

Animals are like people...they have bad days too. When you noticed he was going to have an off day...maybe try something else instead of getting frustrated? Try looking at the big picture, ya know? I used to get so mad when I'd have a bad day trying to tame down the feral pony, but hubby would remind me....look how far you've come. Maybe that would help you as well. If you're upset or taking your anger out on the horse, he FEELS that, whether you are hurting him or not. Making the horse anxious or nervous isn't going to help you to have those "perfect" days.

I hate to suggest it because I truly suck at it...but have you tried meditation? Or any other relaxation exercise?
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post #6 of 65 Old 10-29-2013, 10:01 PM
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I tend to tense up when I'm scared and my hands get heavy. One things that helps me is taking several deep yoga breaths until I start to relax.

So in lies the madness, the pursuit of the impossible in the face of the complete assurance that you will fail, and yet still you chase.
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post #7 of 65 Old 10-29-2013, 10:02 PM
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Why don't you just take a break from all the "work" riding for a while?

It's coming into winter, why don't you just do some trails and not worry about your horse being perfect? Work on loose rein stuff without a contact, practice seat and leg responses so you stop thinking of your hands the way you are.

I do get in a way where that is coming from. Learning to ride I want to a riding school that, well it wasn't the greatest I guess. It was very much "pull to stop, pull to turn" - which I think is rather common. It was very much "the hands control the horse". Even after years of better lessons when something isn't working I feel like grabbing the mouth for control, or doing something with my hands. I think it's pretty human though - well feel that if we grasp something, we can control it. Its taken a while for me to really, back off the mouth only using what I need and then releasing.

I think Rookie is right though about this being a temper issue, or a frustration one. You have an ideal in your mind and when it doesn't work that way you get upset, then you are hard on the mouth and then you probably get more upset because you know it's not right but then you do it again.

I used to have a temper, be impatient and frustrated and it's only in the last couple of years I've kind of "conquered" it. I'm still sensitive and touchy at times but I have my way of dealing with things. I'll share how I did it.

The first thing for me was really knowing that there was always a way out. In an argument I can just turn and walk away, with a horse you can always just get off, or just go back to a walk, give them a loose rein and walk out. Sometimes in our lives we're told that if we walk away from an argument we're weak, or the "loser" or you always have to win, or you always have to stand up for yourself. It's not true. As soon as you're in a situation where your emotions are influencing you more than your mind you've lost control. You've lost. You might win the argument, you might fight the horse and win but you've lost control of yourself. To me that's far worse than losing to anyone else.

So to start with whenever I felt myself getting really angry or frustrated or my emotion was taking over I'd leave. I'd go out for a walk, sometimes in the middle of the night or whenever and just chill out. Lock myself in my room, have a shower, whatever. The more I did that the easier it was. I had a choice still - either give control to my emotions or choose not to and walk away. I guess I learned that I was letting whatever was happening around me influence me inside, it was my choice, I could always choose something different.

Once I'd established that in my mind I didn't have to leave, if I was in an argument I'd let my emotions grow to a certain point, then I'd either choose to leave or stay, and if I chose to stay I just shut it all down as if I'd walked away. Or on a horse and I was getting frustrated I'd just "let it all go".

Now if I'm in an argument and they're getting angry, I'll get angry to a point and then shut it down, and the other person will make a complete fool of themselves. If I'm impatient waiting in line for hours I'll get to a point then I'll just accept it and shut it all down.

The other day trying to load a horse someone remarked on how patient I was, where as other people were getting frustrated. I was really happy with that because it's taken me so long to get to a stage where I never get really angry or anything. I'm no zen person, most of the time I am a touchy, over sensitive person but while I might get annoyed or whatever it never overwhelms me to the point I say or do things I'll regret.

So I guess my advice to you is to think about your reactions to things, like being disappointed, or whatever, and work out if you feel out of control with it. If so, find something that works for you. Stick at it and stick at it all the time until you've worked it out. Human's are a like horses, you can't just change something sometimes and expect it to stick Change takes time and work, there are quick fixes.

Just my long winded opinion, take from it what you will. Don't beat yourself up, you can't change the past only the future.
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post #8 of 65 Old 10-29-2013, 11:45 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone for your responses--I would respond to each individually, but it is 11:30 here.

I will openly admit that I am very angry person. Angry at teachers, school, parents, friends, grades.. Just angry at everything. My horses are the one thing that I'm not usually mad at, and they are my escape. But after I treat them like absolute crap, I'm back at being angry again. It's a vicious cycle for me. Today as soon as I got home, I finished chores right away just so I would have time to ride. I love being around my horses and spending time with them. I really want to get away from this.

I'll continue on with this tomorrow--currently my head is pounding and all I want to do is sleep.
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post #9 of 65 Old 10-30-2013, 12:11 AM
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Originally Posted by KylieHuitema View Post

I will openly admit that I am very angry person. Angry at teachers, school, parents, friends, grades.. Just angry at everything.
This tells me that you need help with something other than your riding skills. You need to seek professional help for your anger issues, it is not normal to be angry all of the time and at everybody. I hope you get the help that you need, and it is totally possible that you will find someone, maybe not even a professional, to talk to about your anger. If I may be so bold as to ask, why are you so angry? If you do not want to respond to this on this thread, you can PM me or totally ignore the question. Whether you answer me, or simply answer the question to yourself, it needs to be brought to light so you can learn to manage/control it. When you lose your temper, you lose everything; not just your temper, especially where horses are concerned.

As for your question as to how to stop your hard hands, quit doing it. I know that sounds simple, but the right answer usually is. As for expecting a perfect ride, show season is over, don't plan your rides just enjoy them. As far as I plan a ride is planning on going to the barn and riding. There is no forethought to it. I just plan to ride. If I work on barrels great, if I just plod down a trail great. And just so you know perfection is an illusion, there is no such thing, accept it. Enjoy your horses, especially since they seem to be your one thing that you aren't angry at, all of the time.

Good luck, I hope you find some peace. God bless you.
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post #10 of 65 Old 10-30-2013, 12:18 AM
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I've made heavy-handed riders ride with fishing line for reins. A friend attached wire to short pieces of leather for reins for a couple kids he let come stay on the ranch who would jerk on a horse.

The theory, of course, is if it's uncomfortable for the rider they'll stop. It's worked for some.

The other option is to address the underlying issue. That would be the best thing for your whole life.

I used to be an angry person. I can hardly believe it now.
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