As the group of young riders strove to maintain perfectly balanced positions over a gymnastic exercise, show-jumping Olympian Anne Kursinski increased the difficulty by having them use an automatic release--dropping their hands on either side of their horses' necks and keeping straight lines from their elbows to the bits.
"This is a real pet peeve of mine," Anne told them. "Others like using a crest release, and you need to be able to do both, but you need to have the balance to do an automatic release." The automatic release also helps "you engage your core" because you don't use your horse's neck for support.
Before practicing the automatic release, she had the riders turn their hands over on the reins (see photo), so the reins went from the horse's mouth to between the rider's thumb and index finger before running through the closed palm. "With your hands turned over, you can't be so stiff," she said.
"The point is that you're following your horse's mouth, not his ears," Anne said to Jacqueline Lubrano when she leaned up her horse's neck. "Soften a little in the [final] two strides, but don't collapse. Then you let the horse do the jumping."
Watch as Anne works with the riders in the 2009 George Morris Horsemastership Training Session on this skill.
To read more about Anne's portion of the training session, see the May 2009 issue of Practical Horseman. A video of highlights from the clinic will be available later this year at HorseBooksEtc.com.