How to Hold Sand

Christina was riding Dallas in her lesson today. It was time to begin jumping. I told Christina to canter Dallas over the blue cross pole jump and then continue down the line, and jump over the red and white vertical fence. She picked up a nice canter but as soon as she approached the first fence, she started to pull back on the reins. When Dallas got to the jump, he “chipped in” meaning that he put in a short and unbalanced stride right before the jump. That put Christina out of balance and after the jump, she landed on his neck instead of in the middle of the saddle. Dallas broke into a trot and headed for the next jump. Christina recovered, got back in the saddle but by the time the next jump came, she did the same thing. A few strides before the jump, she started pulling back on the reins. Again Dallas chipped in, jumped awkwardly, and Christina landed up on his neck instead of in balance in the saddle.

I could feel her frustration and I said “OK Christina, good try. Come on in the middle of the arena and let’s discuss what happened.”

Christina is a very talented woman in her twenties who I have been working with for a couple of years. She is a law student who is very intelligent and tries very hard in whatever she does. She’s been riding Dallas consistently and she really likes him. Dallas is a large golden dun with big chocolate eyes that would melt your heart. He can be very sweet, but he likes to put everything in his mouth that is within reach.

“You are doing great with Dallas” I told her, “But when you get to the jump, you’re interfering with him by pulling back on the reins.” “I am?” Christina relied. “I didn’t realize it!” I continued, “In order to be an effective rider you have to allow the horse to express himself. You’re getting in his way by doing too much. By trying to exert so much control, you are unbalancing your horse before the jump. So instead of allowing Dallas to jump in the best way that Dallas can jump, you are trying too hard! Relax, and let him stretch out his neck and take a beautiful jump. Give him the freedom to jump in his own way. Let’s try again.”

So once again Christina went out to the track and picked up the canter on Dallas. This time as she approached the fence I reminded her to “give” with her reins, don’t pull back, trust your horse to jump. I could tell that some part of her really wanted to take over and pull back but she didn’t. When she got to the jump she gave Dallas the freedom he needed to be Dallas. And guess what? Dallas soared. He looked brilliant. Christina was glowing.

Sometimes it’s hard to let go and trust. We get in our own way and in the way of the people we love. We want to hang on and hold tight. We want to control everything including our kids, our husbands, our wives, our finances, our friends, our health, and list continues.

Like sand, the harder we hold, the less we can hold on. Here is the oxymoron - the only way to hold sand in the palm of your hand is to loosen your grip.

Because what can we really control?

It’s time to trust, and let it go. If you’re holding on to something or someone so tightly that you’re basically suffocating them and yourself by trying to take over, open up your hand. It may seem scary at first, but the death grip your maintaining is zapping your energy and it isn’t working anyway. I promise, everything is going to be alright. Look around, we live in a beautiful world. Hashem wants to bless you with abundance. You can rest in the fact that Hashem has you covered. All your needs have already been provided. 

by Dana Mase


Dana Mase is the founder and executive director of Ride Kind Therapeutic Riding, and equestrian director for The Ranch at Bethel, a therapeutic boarding school for girls. Dana’s column, called “Horse Time,” teaches inspirational life lessons learned from working with horses and people.“ Horse Time” is featured in numerous worldwide publications. Dana can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or at 845-356-1464.