Am I using my hands properly, or is this the see-saw of doom?

I’m new to dressage and just learning how to get connection and suppleness through the reins.

My instructor keeps impressing on me that I always have to work for connection and bend/straightness, you can’t just ask for it and then move on because the horse won’t stay there. Whenever a horse feels tight, I’m supposed to move my wrists “like I’m stirring a pot of soup”, and my instructor often complains that I’m not doing that enough. As a result, whenever I have contact, I’m constantly moving this hand and then that hand, always careful never to stay still long enough to give the horse something to brace against, which sort of makes sense… but here’s where I’m getting tripped up: Isn’t that just see-sawing the bit? I know if I was in the horse’s position, that technique would get very annoying. It certainly doesn’t seem like it would encourage the horse to reach into the contact.

Am I doing this correctly? Is this just the awkward learning stage before refining? Or am I missing something?

Thank you for your input!

Maybe this will help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMLUWeJZwwo

If you continue to ride with this “instructor” you are doomed indeed. Find someone who has a clue.

My instructor has been telling me to do the same thing, and I was wondering the same thing! Only with the inside rein though (unless he leans on the outside in which case give and retake). He really feels good in my lessons with her… No idea if it’s correct though. It’s very gentle, but like you said, stirring soup!!

I’m careful not to just do it automatically, only when I can feel him needing suppling or starting to loose attention, but it is pretty much every stride, and I’m trying to keep it moveable inbetween. I wonder if it gets less/more subtle as horse starts to learn this is how he should go? Because obviously as you go up the levels, the riders have very still hands.

That was my thought as well! That once you fine-tine and practice, maybe the horse would need correction less frequently and less visibly - like the horse would become more comfortable staying in frame and you’d develop a feel for when they were starting to move out of form and learn to fix or avoid it before it becomes a real correction? But spending so much time working on the reins without talking about what the rest of the body is supposed to do certainly doesn’t sound like it’s going to encourage self-carriage of any kind. Of course, I personally have a very developed seat/legs and and very sloppy hands, so it makes some sense that that’s where the focus is. But still…

This video might be more informative about contact.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-MEsdOTisc

If you want the horse to take contact and stay there; you shouldn’t be doing constant give/take/stirring pot-moving your wrist.

Is your horse really bracing agains’t your hand? Maybe the horse is only looking for a contact (it can be stronger at the beginning) Each time you ‘‘bump’’ your horse with the rein, you ‘‘remove’’ it from the contact. If it is truly leaning on your rein, Yes, you can do that, but you should use your legs first.

Are your hands stable and are you using your hands more than your legs? If not, then work on that. That’s probably what your trainer is focusing on. Ask questions.

The more I ride, the less I use ‘‘sponging’’ ‘‘stirring’’ or whatever ‘‘wrist’’ action because I find it disruptive for the contact. I find using my legs more works better. The type of correction I do with my hands feel more like a ‘‘Take n’ wait for the release n’ give’’ smoothly with the horse’s mouth for my half halt or flexion; never bumping/shaking the reins.

If my horse is leaning on the reins, I use my legs to put him forward and my reins to flex it.
If my horse is bracing, I do a longer half halt (until the horse brings its back up) using a lots of legs and a bit of inside or outside flexion.

ETA : I wouldn’t call what you are doing see-sawing; pulling quickly the reins from each side alternatively in the horse’s mouth in order to put it in a frame. If the bit is moving from side to side in your horse’s mouth, you’d be see-sawing.

[QUOTE=soloudinhere;7649092]This video might be more informative about contact.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-MEsdOTisc[/QUOTE]

That is a great video and one I’ve watched several times! Thanks! :slight_smile: Sadly it doesn’t address the complicating factors of bend, flexion, roundness, suppling, etc.

Do you have a video?

I was so puzzled by the “stirring a pot of soup” analogy that I filled a pot with water, held a spoon like a rein, and stirred. I can’t imagine what benefits such a motion would have for soup stirring or riding a horse.

Hahaha it’s just one of many images I’ve heard used to describe using the indirect rein… The image of “turning a key in a lock” actually makes more sense to me. Even so, I have yet to really understand what effect this has on the bit/ how it influences the horse.

Does your instructor also tell you to constantly poke with your legs?

Sounds like an ‘instructor’ that I know. Sheesh

Ahhh, that’s different. “Turning a key in a lock” affects how the horse bends at the poll. Back to Jane Savoi again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-MEsdOTisc

This sounds like pretty bad teaching.

If you are using your hand IN ANY WAY (not yelling there, just emphasizing) without being given specific context for how it fits into the big picture where seat and legs are the main players, you are recieving poor instruction.

It sounds like the instructor is trying to get you to “wiggle” the horse off a heavy rein to achieve a lighter contact, and to get the horse “round”. That’s not how it’s do e, you are making a headset, or “false frame”. Find some one who teaches riding from back to front, instead of front to back.

This sounds like pretty bad teaching.

If you are using your hand IN ANY WAY (not yelling there, just emphasizing) without being given specific context for how it fits into the big picture where seat and legs are the main players, you are recieving poor instruction.

It sounds like the instructor is trying to get you to “wiggle” the horse off a heavy rein to achieve a lighter contact, and to get the horse “round”. That’s not how it’s do e, you are making a headset, or “false frame”. Find some one who teaches riding from back to front, instead of front to back.

You don’t get connection and suppleness with the reins. You get it by the horse reaching up through its back, out its neck, into your hands. You receive it in your hands, not create it with them :slight_smile:

Really, go watch some lessons and clinics with other trainers.

Are you sure you are in love with this trainer?
I don’t think any text book would ever tell you that the key to success ever has anything to do with movement of your reins. I can also tell you from my many hours with my butt planted in a dressage saddle that good, steady, soft contact is important and the horses hind legs are the key to most of it.

You can avoid the seesawing habit by only manipulating one rein at a time. As long as one rein has a steady contact while you work the other, the bit will be stabilized enough to not just wag the horse’s head.

As others have said, the hind legs need to be engaged. But anyone not using their reins isn’t getting anywhere either. That doesn’t mean that you should be busy, but the horse should be into the contact and also light (I know, seems like a contradiction, but it’s not).

Hope this helps! :slight_smile:

I can’t imagine ever being able to do a line of tempi changes if you have to keep up a steady chatter of hand aids just to keep the horse round.

He’ll never be able to hear you over the din.

[QUOTE=zaparaquah;7648957]I’m new to dressage and just learning how to get connection and suppleness through the reins.

My instructor keeps impressing on me that I always have to work for connection and bend/straightness, you can’t just ask for it and then move on because the horse won’t stay there. Whenever a horse feels tight, I’m supposed to move my wrists “like I’m stirring a pot of soup”, and my instructor often complains that I’m not doing that enough. As a result, whenever I have contact, I’m constantly moving this hand and then that hand, always careful never to stay still long enough to give the horse something to brace against, which sort of makes sense… but here’s where I’m getting tripped up: Isn’t that just see-sawing the bit? I know if I was in the horse’s position, that technique would get very annoying. It certainly doesn’t seem like it would encourage the horse to reach into the contact.

Am I doing this correctly? Is this just the awkward learning stage before refining? Or am I missing something?
[/QUOTE]

Legs and seat? Connection and suppleness isn’t just about the reins. :wink:

To those of you who are questioning the instruction I’ve been getting: I’m totally with you, but I’m afraid this is pretty much the only dressage instructor with lesson horses anywhere near me. So for the time being, I’m just going to learn what I can from her and supplement it with other resources as much as I can. And anyway, i may be exaggerating her emphasis on reins a bit since that’s the part I am struggling with…
I never seem to have good luck with instructors, sadly. Haha