Training Tip with Clinton Anderson: Light Hands = Light Mouth

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Light hands, light mouth.” I disagree with that. I say, “Light hands that pick up softly and= hands that release quickly make a horse’s mouth light.”

For example, you could pick up gently on the reins and be very light, but if your horse roots against that pressure and flips his nose out or pulls on the reins, if you don’t make him feel uncomfortable by increasing the pressure on the reins (or in some way make him feel uncomfortable for the behavior) you’re going to be teaching him that pulling against the bit is acceptable because there’s no consequence for it. If you let the horse lean on the bit, he will remain heavy and stiff, and it will be difficult to progress his training.

On the other hand, if you pick up on the reins and make contact and don’t release back to the horse when he softens and gives, your horse won’t get soft, either. Releasing pressure is the horse’s reward for doing the right thing. Knowing when to release pressure is when feel and timing come into play. Remember this: The quicker you release, the quicker the horse understands. Horses just want us to stop pulling on them. They dream about it out in the pasture and in their stalls. You can make it a reality for your horse by teaching him that as soon as he softens, he’ll get an instant release of pressure.

About Clinton Anderson

Born and raised in Australia, Clinton grew up with a love of horses. Although he lived in the city with his father, Rob, mother, Cheryl, and sister, Andrea, he looked forward to the weekends he got to spend on his grandparent’s farm where his grandmother would give him rides on her old Thoroughbred mare. By the age of 12, he began playing polocrosse and was eventually chosen= for a national team representing his state. In 2001, he became the first clinician to create a made-for-TV horse training program that aired on RFD-TV. The use of untrained horses and a variety of topics covering common problems faced by horse owners quickly made Downunder Horsemanship the network’s number one equine program. 

Nearly 15 years after establishing Downunder Horsemanship, Clinton continues to instruct horsemanship clinics, presents Walkabout Tours across the country, produces two television shows, hosts an internet TV website and is constantly creating comprehensive study kits and training tools to make learning horsemanship as accessible and easy as possible. Clinton and Downunder Horsemanship are recognized as world leaders in the equestrian industry and continue to offer the very best in innovation, inspiration and instruction.