One of the frustrations that we, and many other students of the art, have experienced is riding lessons where we are trying to learn new things while, um, riding...
As Marijke de Jong (straightnesstraining.com) points out: when you ride you're in a blind spot - you can’t see the horse and the horse can’t see you. But when you work in hand and lunge you and the horse can see each other. You can tell when lunging if his bulging his under-neck or working nicely by flexing his topline and when you work in-hand you can show him exactly where you want each part of his body to be and then help him find the steps that way, while then understanding more deeply what the movements are and why they matter yourself. Then when you and the horse do them together with you mounted, you both know what to do and there isn’t confusion. And when there’s no confusion there’s no explosion.'
Felipa Valenca elaborates (valencaequestriantours.com) elaborates: riders best learn contact by working in hand as it really isolated the inside and outside reins and show the rider how the outside rein controls and balances and directs and the inside rein simply softens. This is a hard concept to get while riding but when learning in hand it makes perfect sense as you do it much slower and really get time to see the exact effects of your inside and outside reins. Then when you ride, you become way more accurate and educated with your hands, not to mention soft.'
Filipa's father, mestre Luis Valenca, enjoins us to always start with a period of what he calls 'anarchy' on the lunge where the horse can express himself any way he wants, simply respecting the circle but that’s it, before putting the side reins on to work the horse's back and neck and then working the in hand patterns of shoulder-in and travers (quarters-in) combos to flex, supple and strengthen before getting on board.
'Muscle him and give him rhythm on the lunge, teach him what he needs to know in hand and the rest will follow'
Thank you mentors. We are forever students.