In hand work has a long tradition in the history of training horses. It is becoming increasingly popular again today as people look for ways to improve their horses way of going, help horses come back into work after time off, recover from an injury or simply as a way of adding some variety into their training.
One of the advantages of in hand work is that it gives the horse the chance to learn a new movement while only thinking about its own body without the added weight of a rider. This is particularly useful for horses that have weak backs or who are recovering from injury as any disturbance from the rider can make it much harder for the horse to achieve what you are asking him to do.
In hand work can be a great way to supple and strengthen your horse. It can help when you are teaching the horse to stretch over their backs and reach for the contact.
I use both the cavesson and the bridle for in hand work depending on what it is I am trying to achieve and what is most suitable for the horse I am working with. When I lunge I always prefer to use a cavesson as I don't want to lunge a horse using a bridle as I want to keep the horses mouth as sensitive and soft as possible. Using a cavesson for lunge work also has the advantage of being able to guide the horse forward with the connection being with the front of their nose. When I am lunging I am asking the horse to stretch forward and out into the cavesson, and stretch over their backs.
I use in hand work with the bridle to teach a lot of the lateral work such as the shoulder in. I find this can be very helpful to both horse and rider. For the rider it gives them a chance to see what the horse is doing with his legs and how he is using himself. This can help riders to understand better what they are looking for when they start the lateral work ridden. For the horse, when introducing the lateral work, it gives them the chance to figure out what you are asking of them without a riders weight on their back. The shoulder-in and overstepping on a circle are usually the first things I teach when I begin the in-hand work with a horse. But there is so much you can do with the in-hand work once you and your horse have mastered the basics!
If you would be interested in learning more about working your horse in-hand please get in touch to enquire about lessons or attending one of my in-hand clinics. Keep an eye out on here or on my Facebook page for dates and locations of clinics!
The photos above show a half-pass in trot, cantering on a small circle, the beginnings of Spanish walk and one of my students Carolyn Pascoe beginning the shoulder-in with her horse Josh.