Originally Posted by Rule of Reason View Post
Following hands are important, but as anabel was explaining, the hands must also restrict. Maybe you've heard the analogy of the tube of toothpaste for the horse's energy. The tube has to be squeezed from the bottom (energy coming from the hindquarters), but if there's no cap on the other end, the toothpaste just squeezes out all over the places and is gone (the horse falls on its forehand). Side reins act as the cap on the tube. So do your restricting hands, but that's where the "perfect" part comes in. In the saddle, unless you're the perfect rider, you're off balance sometimes, just a little or maybe a lot, especially if the horse is dragging your following hands down to the ground with him. Side reins won't go there. They give, but only so much. And the amount of resistance they have is exactly as much as the horse puts into them with his improper carriage. That's why they're perfect when you can't be.
I have heard the toothpaste analogy before, and what you say makes a lot of sense. To clarify, when I follow, I do have some slight movement from my shoulder joint, but my elbow only shifts a tiny bit; maybe a couple of inches from my hip-bone at a very "stretchy" walk. I'm not pumping my hands forward and back jockey-style. I'm sort of acknowledging that I'm riding a moving animal with a nearly matching motion of my hands, not a sawhorse on a red wagon.
As far as when I am in the saddle, would I be advised to think of my hands the same as I do my seat, following and
restricting according to need? Following and allowing good longitudinal stretching, but restricting that stretch before I lose hind-end power and have a front-wheel-drive horse?
I am reassessing what I first learned when starting riding, and have decided for myself not to use anything mechanically fixed, which I think is "forced", not even a flash noseband. Well, I need the saddle and bridle... but not sidereins.
I have no desire to force my horse into a frame either, hence my ongoing research into whatever I strap to him before I actually strap it on. I'm really coming at this from a classical dressage perspective, emphasizing what the rider can do to better guide the horse to a better posture rather than gadgets. One of the few things that I see on a classically trained horse aside from a saddle, bridle, and rider are side reins on the lunge. If they are kept in the arsenal by such rider communication-focused trainers, I ought to pay attention. From what I have seen and read, side reins may be an effective guide for Scout to discover how to seek contact on the lunge, something that the NH lunging he is familiar with does not introduce. I do commend you for sticking to your guns; it can certainly be done without side reins, I've seen it many times.
While side reins probably move less than many people's hands, they are anything but "perfect". When a horse moves, their head moves more than you think. Even though most side reins have some sort of elastic/donut "give", they don't give enough, or at the right time. There are subtle taps on the bit with every stride.
Instead of side reins, I use long reins. That way MY hands are on the reins and I am able to really follow the horse's mouth.
You have hit my concern right on the head! I actually thought of trying long-reining as well as an alternative to the side reins (plus buying another lunge line is cheaper than side reins
). Over spring break I think I'm dusting off my copy of 101 Lunging and Long Lining exercises!
Thanks so much, all, for your wonderful responses! You're really clarifying this for me!