A friend told me a new analogy the other day, which I thought was really useful as it ties in nicely with a couple of clients I’m working with at the moment.
When you’re working on picking up a contact and creating that elastic, consistent feel down the reins, people often find that they end up with excess rein or their hands in their lap.
Now just have a think about this analogy.
“If you have a lead rope lying in a squiggle on the floor the easiest way to straighten it is to pull one end”.Logically then, if we want to pick up the rein contact we should think about adjusting it from one end or the other. Now as we have no control over the end by the horse, nor do we want them to start stretching their noses to the floor, the obvious end to focus on is our elbow.
Next time you pick up your reins to pick up the contact by closing the leg to push your horse into the contact, think of shortening the reins so the hands feel a bit too far forward and the elbow more open than usual. Then, as the horse softens to the contact and the neck shortens simply closing the elbow joint will keep the rein contact consistent.
Have a go, you don’t want to have locked arms initially, but feel like you’re adjusting the elbows to keep the elastic and consistent feel down the reins. Then, the next time you half halt, or ride a turn, or transition, instead of thinking about any rein aid coming from the wrist (a squeeze or tweak) think about the elbow instigating any rein aid. You should notice a difference.
However you should be careful that your elbows don’t become too locked now you are focusing more on them. To release the elbows imagine you are pushing your fists down as you rise to the trot, so opening the elbow joint, and lifting the fists as you sit – closing the joint. If it’s canter that you’re elbow gets locked in, just imagine you are moving your hands forwards and backwards. Not enough that you look like you are rowing a boat, but enough to release the joint. Then when you’re thinking about another aspect of your riding the elbows stay effective yet relaxed.