Friday, March 28, 2014

Loose hands - not good for baby birds and not good for my horse

As dressage riders we frequently are told the visual that we should hold our reins as if we are holding a baby bird.  Tight enough not to drop the bird but not so tight that you will crush the bird.   I thought I understood this and followed it well until today's lesson where I had an "aha" moment.   (Yeah!  I love those!)

I have been working hard on keeping steadier rein contact but I missed something important.   Today my instructor pointed out that my hands were "giving the reins away".  I was keeping steady in my arms and elbows but each time I asked for more from behind (and other times too...really a LOT of the time), I was opening my hand and providing a loose environment... essentially dropping the baby bird.

You would think that a soft forgiving hand grip would be a good thing.  And it is.  But a hand that continually opens and closes is NOT a forgiving hand grip.  Its a taking / giving / taking /giving hand and that can be annoying and even worse cruel.  

Its our job as a rider to provide a stable place for our horses.   They need to know that our hand is going to be stable in every area -- the hand, the elbow, and the arm.  I understand its a fine line between staying stable and being rigid but that is our job as a rider - to find that fine line.

Go back to that baby bird.   If I am only holding the bird with my thumb and pointer finger I am keeping him from falling or flying away but I am not providing a secure environment where he bird feels safe.   Keeping the bottom fingers closed and firm provide a "nest" of security.   I need to do the same for my horse.

Like all bad habits this is going to take a bit to break.  I knew it was working well because Golly responded well to the change.  Despite that I felt as if I was clenching my fist in comparison to the previous amount of pressure.  And I found myself continually having to remind myself to "darn it... shut those fingers".

Time to practice!

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