Your left hand is the connection between your bridle reins and your bridle. How we develop the ability to use our left hand as heelers is very important. That’s one of the main tools we have in controlling our horses, positioning them going down the arena and getting them set up to make the entry around the corner. How we develop our ability to communicate with our horses using our left hand makes all the difference when it comes to making consistent, successful runs.
It takes a lot of work and time to really get a horse on the same page with you in his pattern. A horse has to be confident that he’s not in trouble. He needs to respond confidently and quickly when you use your left hand, whether it’s checking him to slow up, widening him or whatever you might need to do in any particular run to be in the right place at the right time.
Having a horse bridled correctly—not too much, but also where there’s enough there for you to control him and for him to respect you—is also important. All horses are different, so you have to experiment with different bridles and adjustments to figure out what works for him.
Your tiedown—whether it’s rope or leather, and how it’s adjusted—is also something that varies from horse to horse. You need to experiment with different tiedowns and the length of the tiedown strap in order to get it just right, because the tiedown affects how a horse handles in the bridle.
I’m still in the process of learning to have a better, softer pair of hands, and learning about getting my horses broke better. I’m always working on being more consistent in my patterns of what I do during the course of a run or even just when I’m dry working them. I do a lot of speeding up and slowing down, stopping, flexing and things like that, because it feels better to me to have my horse ready to respond to my cue
I feel like I can ride a horse a little lighter with my left hand when I work on that control and sensitivity. It takes a lot of work, concentrating and paying attention to get your left hand to do the right thing. If you pull on horses too much, they have the tendency to lean on you and hold back. If you try to hold a horse out too much it can make one tend to drop his shoulder in even more.
When I’m having a problem with a horse, I look at what I’m doing with my left hand. A lot of times I’m concentrating so hard on the steer and my roping that my riding sometimes gets a little out of whack. My left hand is something that I work on and pay attention to constantly, because getting my run set up correctly in the corner and getting my position right is the most critical component of my making a successful run.