I am starting this subject with the rider’s hands, as it comes up in lessons quite a lot.
It is so important to understand the feel of a good contact with the horse’s mouth, as it is through the mouth we communicate so many things in a very sensitive way. Maintaining a smooth and consistent connection to the mouth allows us to keep our impulsion and have some steerage, combined with our weight (sitting) and our legs, it tells our horse which movement we would like next.
To have good hands we need to have very good balance and feel. It is not always easy to keep our balance if the horse is unable to maintain a forward, regular steady rhythm, and it is difficult for the horse to this if our hands are not quiet and steady.
To help keep the hands from moving too much, we can try bridging the reins, as racing jockeys do. This helps keep the hands near the wither, which in itself stabilises the rider’s weight and the hands are not so tempted to jump up.
Another exercise to try is, to carry a whip across the fists, under the thumbs. I teach that the handle side of the whip goes under the left thumb, and the whippy end, under the right and it must feel evenly balanced on both side. In this way the rider can see the right hand side move to far forward if the hands are not steady.
A balance strap across the front D rings is a good way to allow you to hold on for steadiness without fixing the hand too tightly.
If the horse continually tries to lean onto the left hand making that side strong or heavy, then have an old spur strap on the right D ring and hold on to this with your rein. Then ride normally forward and make your transitions and exercises without letting go of the strap. It is a great way to straighten your horse and help our balance as well.