Many riders have difficulty achieving a following hand.
The Rein Game is an off horse exercise that you and a partner can perform to practice following the movement of the horse’s neck. You will take turns being the horse and the rider, respectively. The horse is the person who will lead the movement and the rider is the person who will follow the movement. Try to keep the movements as close to a horse-like oscillation as possible, think of the up and down of a horse’s neck during walk or canter and use that as your reference. The goal of the following hand, or the rider, is to match the movements without varying the weight in the rein at any point. For example, if you have the weight of an orange in your hand, does it suddenly become a grapefruit? Or a cherry? Keep the contact consistent.
You to not want to see the reins looping and snapping back into place. You and your partner are working toward a consistent unchanging connection.
Common issues include resistance to the movement of the horse and evasion of following the movement by dropping contact altogether.
Many riders have issues with following the contact of the rein because of upper body posture. Avoid rounded, clenching shoulders and a sucked back stomach. These traits physically make it very difficult to follow freely.
There is also the tendency to straighten the elbow, which forms a stiff connection all the way up the arm and into the upper body. Your partner, or horse, will feel the difference when you let go and allow your shoulder and elbow to swing independently.
Another tactic is to let your arms flair out like wings. Then the shoulder joint can never give freely and you are balancing the connection off of incorrect points in your body. This impedes an independent seat and a following contact.
Avoid looking down at the reins themselves. If you try to process the movement with your brain you will always be slightly behind what is happening. Look out at middle distance and soften your gaze so you can feel what is happening in your hands.