Classical In Hand Training

The Missing Link

We call our work “Integrated Equitation” because we have long considered riding and groundwork to be part of a continuum, with lessons and skills learned in the saddle being transferable to work on the ground, and vice versa. However, particularly when it came to issues with bit acceptance and finesse in the lateral work, it felt as if we were missing a step or two. When we learned about Classical In Hand training, it felt like another major piece of the jigsaw had fallen into place.

In hand work is part of a classical approach that includes longeing (allonger means in French “to lengthen”, which is a surprise when one sees horses continually longed with tight side reins and other gadgets restraining the horse from positioning it’s head the way it would like to) and long reining. If long-lining is riding from the ground, In Hand work is even more so, albeit mostly in walk as one is alongside the head as one works. This is the classical approach, done usually with a bit and a schooling whip. Like long-lining, it has the advantage of being non-weight bearing for the horse, but it has many additional benefits too.

It’s a great way of helping a young horse accept the bit and understand how to respond to it, and also very useful to re-educate an older horse who perhaps didn’t receive that education, or who needs re-sensitising after being accustomed to riding with a continual pressure on the rein. As such, it’s a very effective way of making sure a horse has “brakes” and “steering” and can help re-educate horses who run through the bit without the need for more severe bits or nosebands. If the rider has decided to go bitless, it is an excellent way of making sure the horse is responsive to whatever bitless arrangement has been chosen. It’s very helpful for developing the sensitivity of the rider’s hands, and for promoting timing, co-ordination and “feel”. Again, most of the movements that can be done under saddle can be done In Hand, with the exception of jumping, and it’s a great way to introduce and improve the lateral work, and by doing so improve the horse’s musculature, suppleness and posture.

A horse who is trained in-hand, as our schoolmasters at Moor Wood Stables are, can also give the rider the experience of movements that the rider might not be able to initiate themselves – such as shoulder-in or half pass – which can help enormously in developing the feel and timing necessary to be able to ride these movements themselves.

We teach In Hand as an option on our Integrated Equitation Clinics, via a Callout at your yard, or through Tailored Tuition. We have also run specialised In Hand Clinics, but found it hard to accumulate sufficient numbers who wish to study this important skill- if you can provide more than two students this can be arranged. We feel all horse trainers, particularly those who develop youngsters or give riding lessons, should be adept at this work.