Over coffee recently, with a long-time friend who's also a professional horseman, we got to discussing why some people seem to always be having trouble with their horses being resistant or "heavy". It was an interesting conversation that could have gone on all day but I want to relate one small but useful gem from what we talked about, or - truth be told - what I was thinking while we talked.
I think most people understand the concept that you can't make a heavy mouthed horse (or heavy sided horse for that matter) soft by just being soft. The opposite is quite true. If you meet resistance in the mouth, you must create what I call a soft wall with your hands, then bump your horse forward into that wall until the horse softens and gives to the bit. (For more tips on how to create that soft wall, see my January 27, 2014 blog.)
So far so good - right? But here's where the problems start...... You must release (or "soften") just as soon as the horse gives and yields to your hands. If you do not soften your aids - in this case, your hands - then the resistance comes. If the rider fails repeatedly to soften or "give back" when the horse gives, you often see horses just "give up" and then they can get really heavy, really quickly.
My good friend agreed with me that there is so much more to this subject and we could have talked all day. Instead, we mutually agreed to leave some of the topic for a later conversation but I hope this thought helps during your next ride! Talk to you next week, JD.