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!