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… where do my hands go while my horse decides he’s taking off to escape a commotion (rider fell right behind us)? Right up! Pulling the reins UP! Instinctively, I guess, as I should know better. How do I correct this?! I mean, he did stop, but it wasn’t elegant.
I think you don't always have the presence of mind in that sort of a situation to plan where your hands will go. As long as you don't make a big deal out of it; not a lot of patting and talkiing and stopping to talk about it. Just get on about what you were doing as soon as you can. Your horse will forget and forgive any jerk on his mouth if you release soon and get his feet moving so that any anxiety can be physically dispelled.