Thank you do much,Anebel.
And your post brought to mind a sort of struggle I seem to have. Its regarding arms,etc. I don't know if it is because I have a long torso (when I was in ballet all my leos had to be custom made) or my arms are too short or what but, when I rest my hands on the withers,or near them or use a hand strap my elbows almost completely straighten. Then I have people tell me my elbows are too straight and to bend them more but if I do im told my hands are too high.
I am not meaning this as an excuse, its not....just what I am experiencing. Am I just completely misunderstanding what I should be doing from my shoulders down?? Are my straighter elbows but resting hands on withers okay for my current situation and when we get better,then change? Or is this too bad of a flaw in MY conformation? I think this is one of my biggest problems and I've been told 15 or more different ways to fix it depending on the person advising me.
I used to ride with a German coach about 10 years ago. By German, I mean German, but I also mean freakishly tall. One day in a lesson I was riding around and she was going on about something and then said to stop. So I did and she walked up to me and put my arm where she wanted it and then help up one hand at where my hands were, and the other at where she wanted me hands to be, held up her hands about 6" apart and said to me "Your arms are this much too short". So when I say I understand where you've been, believe me. I've been there.
The secret to getting your hands where you want them to be, with bend in the elbow (which IMO is less important then having the hands positioned correctly) is back strength. Your lats have to get strong enough that they can pull your shoulders so far down your back that your elbows actually touch your hips and you can rest your elbows on your hips. The other bonus with having really strong lats is that usually in the process of getting them, you're going to work out your core a lot too. It's that compression of the core with positive muscle tension that is what keeps the top riders so motionless in the tack when riding a huge extended trot.
Once your elbows are resting on your hips, it is relatively easy to get the hands low enough to rest on the withers. It should be really easy bareback as well. That's also another reason why I like wool flocked saddles, is that they will sit lower on the back and aid the rider's position better than an air saddle which raise the rider so far away from the horse.
Here is a picture of me on a horse and it is his 5th or 6th time being ridden with contact, ever. Not the best moment to illustrate how far, really the hands should be down but unfortunately as a factor of not being ridden outside of a round pen, ever, I was having to use my hands to steer a bit more than I would have liked!
You can see that were I to sit up the whole way, my elbows would be pretty well straight. Which, as long as they are not locked, is fine, IMO. It is more important to learn to have steady hands and a good independent seat than to have bent elbows. I'm all for functional equitation and sometimes to force to body to hold one body part still we have to sacrifice other things which are less important at the time. What is the most important thing to remember about elbows, is that they should be tucked into your side (no chicken wings!) at all time. If you feel the need to flap, then your reins are too long.