“Soften your hands. No pulling.” Manolo Mendez UK report

By , July 29, 2015 3:43 pm

These are my quick notes from watching Manolo Mendez share his knowledge over 2 days in the UK. Manolo was the head rider at the Spanish Riding School in Jerez. He is known for his legendary ability to teach the 3 Ps – Piaffe, Passage & Pirouette. If anything doesn’t make sense its 100% my fault 🙂 Manolo, all the riders & all of the horses were inspiring to watch.

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On the ground, get a relaxed walk, a relaxed trot and a relaxed canter.

Look for hard muscles or a lack of muscles along the vertebrae in the neck.

“When you want to trot, say ‘whoa’ and give the reins’. So your horse can do the transition to trot and he is responsible”.

RIDING: Allow your hands to follow your horses neck movement

Manolo says it could be because something’s blocked. ‘Something’ would be on the horses near side under the saddle. He walks the horse in hand on the left rein. He encourages the horse to lower his head while he massages the near side of the horses neck. He thinks we need to release the back at the left side. He did some groundwork which involved asking the horse to lower his head and then lifting up the horses back by touching under its belly. He reckoned it could have been caused by an ill fitting saddle pressing or pinching on the near side.

Manolo likes the riders body to be relaxed, with their hands moving gently as the horses heads moves backwards and forwards.

Don’t be too stiff with your body. Don’t be too relaxed and lazy with your body. Be in the middle and move with your horse.

Don’t use a D ring with sharp corners as it can pinch into your horse’s mouth, Make sure you get a D ring with rounded corners.

The main things I understood that Manolo got each rider to work towards was:

1) Soften / lengthen tight reins. This allows the horse’s body to move better and also results in more relaxation from the horse. In trot and canter Manolo asked a few riders with straight reins to lengthen their reins a little. As a result the horse’s bodies relaxed and the hindquarters started to come under more. Also there was less pulling now.
2) Relaxation in each gait. So if you’re horse is rushing in walk, Manolo would like to see a comfortable relaxed walk instead.
3) Relaxation in trot – again, Manolo wanted to see a relaxed trot, not a very fast trot. Once you get this then you can go onto other things.
4) Same for canter. Relaxed.


“Training is not easy. Not all horses are the same. We have to ride them for the moment and for what the horse is giving to you.” MANOLO MENDEZ

“Listen to your horse breathing. Because he is not breathing properly” MANOLO MENDEZ

“We need to make your horse feel good” MANOLO MENDEZ

“Soften your hand. No pulling. You need to get the bit in the centre of your horse’s mouth” MANOLO MENDEZ

“Standard working trot, piaffe, passage…. it is all just trot. All are the same diagonal pair” MANOLO MENDEZ

“We need to learn from the horse because they are very clever” MANOLO MENDEZ

“I will never train a horse the same, 365 days a year” MANOLO MENDEZ

“The first thing you have to teach is to travel nice and comfy” MANOLO MENDEZ

“We have to figure out how to make it as easy as possible for the horse” MANOLO MENDEZ

It’s like teaching someone to swim under water. You do not force their head under the water. Instead you ask them for 1 second under water, and then to come back up. And slowly you build it up, until they can swim under water for the whole length of the arena. (paraphrase)

Remember in just 1 second a horse can panic. (paraphrase)

“Is you horse holding his breath?” MANOLO MENDEZ

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