Riding without your Hands. How? - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 19 Old 03-13-2011, 07:57 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Kayty View Post
Hmmmmm Endiku...dressage is just that - riding without hands? *raises eyebrow*. Sorry mate, can't agree with you there.
When we talk about our 3 main/basic aids, we are talking the seat (so from your backside to your head, can also include upper leg depending on who's teaching you), the leg (calf, heel if required) and hand (shoulder to hand itself).

Ideally, and not only in dressage but in all english disciplines, we ask the horse to react first to our seat, then our leg, and THEN our hand. Because we always ask with the seat first, out seat becomes our strongest aid - and when you think about it, our seat is the biggest area of our body, so of course its going to have the most influence of the horse. To effectively use our seat, we NEED excellent core strength. Our seat is used to slow the horse, to collect the horse, to steer the horse... for everything.

So say we're asking for a walk to halt transition. The horse is actively walking forward into the bridle, and we want to ask him to halt. We first 'close' the seat. So stop your body moving with the motion of the walk. We then 'close' the leg. Closing the leg lightly onto the horse's sides encourages the hind legs to stay travelling so that when they stop, they come under the horse and 'sit' rather than being left behind and tipping the horse onto the forehand. A DOWNWARD TRANSITION IS STILL A FORWARD MOVEMENT. Hold your core/seat, and only if the horse does not respond by slowing/stopping, do you 'close' your rein. Closing the rein is not a pull back action though, you are simply taking up a little more weight in the rein. Do not allow to close to be a constant, so if the horse does not respond initially, add a little more weight to the rein and continue in this fashion until you get the halt.
If you allow the rein to be a constant through a transition like this, you then teach the horse to lean and become numb to the pressure.

In dressage, we always have a contact with rein. Riding with loops in the reins is in fact, despite popular and 'uneducated' belief, undesirable, as there is no connection to the forehand from the hindquarters. The rein provides the link to the bridle from the hind legs, and 'completes the circuit' of engagement and throughness. Hence, dressage is absolutely NOT 'riding without reins'.

As for turning with no reins. Try this. I want you to put your horse on a 10m circle using ONLY your seat and leg. Throw your reins up his neck for this exercise, no contact - just to prove a point that seat and legs are what influences the turn not rein, we are not asking for a connection in this exercise.
So walking on a straight line, actively forward. Say your want to make your circle at the letter B in the arena on the left rein. Turn to look at your horse's inside (left) hip and put your inside (left) leg on the girth. I'll put money on it that your horse will turn ;)
Now of course this is exaggerating the use of seat to perform a turn, but it shows that your body really does influence the horse significantly. When riding a 10m circle on my own horse, I simply ride my inside hip a little forward, slightly weight my inside stirrup, take my inside knee and thigh off the saddle while closing my outside knee and thigh onto the saddle, and turn my shoulders to match the turn of the circle. The horse follows and performs a dead straight, accurate 10m circle.

Now if I were to ride this 10m circle using my reins, say by pulling on my inside rein. As soon as you touch your inside rein, you immediately lose the inside hind leg. So you have already started your circle unbalanced and crooked. The horse's quarters are to the outside. Now when you lose the inside hind and pull on the inside rein, you're also going to tip the horse's weight onto its inside shoulder, and to compensate, it then has to bulge through the outside shoulder to balance. The neck becomes over bent to the inside... and you have made a real mess of a 10m circle.

It is the rider's responsibility to keep the horse upright and straight in every exercise that it performs. Whether a 20m circle in trot or a canter pirouette, the horse MUST be upright and straight in consideration of the exercises demands.
And keeping a horse upright and straight physically CANNOT come from the rider's hands, it MUST come from the riders seat and a little of the leg.
The rein just cannot, on its own, prevent the quarters from swinging, the shoulders from dropping or bulging, and maintain the bend. Physics, the rein just can't do that! It is merely a supporting aid, one which completes the circuit of connection.
Thank you for the advice! looking back, a lot of my horses movements and reactions make sense after reading your post! I'm really excited to try all these new techniques tomorrow when I ride!
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post #12 of 19 Old 03-13-2011, 08:52 PM
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try steering with your belly button hehe may help :)

Our Hoofbeats were many, but are Hearts beat as One.
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post #13 of 19 Old 03-13-2011, 09:51 PM
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*giggle* just re-read my whole post, and its so jumbled up that you cant understand it XD so sorry. Guess thats what happens when you try to write too fast while doing something else. no escuses for me o.o

dressage is more of a...way to open and strengthen all of your communication lines with your horse. It's really like learning a new language, atleast to me =]. Before dressage, you learn to talk to your horse, but in it, you learn to listen for response, and go upon that. As for 'dressage is riding without reins' I am going to back myself up just a teeny bit by saying that I THINK I was attempting to say (in a very short sentance) that it is riding to your fullest, to where really- you hardly need the reins. It is the ability to ride with as little unnoticed communication possible.

Everyone in your life is meant to
be in your journey, but not all of
them are meant to stay till the end.
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post #14 of 19 Old 03-13-2011, 10:08 PM
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I have done a lesson without reins. Very very interesting and very very good for getting a truely independant seat. I spent nearly the entire lesson walking into walls and squashing my leg against the boards but by the end of the lesson I managed a 20m circle and weaving in and out of poles (spaced quite far apart) at the walk without any reins.

This was done on a dressage schoolmaster who did EXACTLY what you asked him to do and not what you thought you asked him to do. Very very good horse for learning to be correct on. If you didnt ask correctly you didnt get, end of! not a fogiving horse and made even the instructors look like fools on occassion, but ask correctly and he would do anything for you.
i had anouther lesson where he kept bucking, That was because my heel was creeping up!

RIDE your horse FORWARDS and keep him STRAIGHT

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post #15 of 19 Old 03-13-2011, 10:27 PM
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Faye, riding without reins is certainly a beneficial exercise for the rider. However dressage itself, is not 'riding without reins' ;) But yes, to help with developing the seat it is a very good thing to do!!
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post #16 of 19 Old 03-13-2011, 10:41 PM
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I agree with you, It isnt dressage to ride completley without hands, however steering shouldnt come from your hands.

Riding without reins is a very very useful exercise for any rider.

RIDE your horse FORWARDS and keep him STRAIGHT

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post #17 of 19 Old 03-14-2011, 07:30 PM
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If you want to practice relying less on your hands you could always just ride "without" your reins. What I mean by that is just set the reins on the horses neck. If you need them, then pick them up. But the more you can rely on your legs the better, because after all, that's what is keeping you on. If hands are truly the only thing between you and utter disaster then expect to spend a bit of time in the dirt if your horse ever spooks. I've heard that ways to have a better feel of your seat would be riding bareback, then you can really feel the horse. Or just taking your feet out of your stirrups for a while when warming up.

I'm not all that educated on English riding aside from my terrible experiences as a very young child. But I do know quite a bit about general balance and ways to get better. (Although I am not saying that I have balance, because I've fallen off a good share of times.) But I've learned how I should balance. Just fear takes over sense, so I can only practice balance when I'm riding the horses that I haven't been tossed off of like a chubby ragdoll. xD

Although I did sit in an English saddle once last year. I speak with such experience. xD
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post #18 of 19 Old 03-16-2011, 05:55 PM
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this thread has helped alot, i dont do dressage but i just started riding an appaloosa mare, who does not and will not listen to the reins & will only respond to seat and voice aids. Thanks! :)
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post #19 of 19 Old 03-16-2011, 07:54 PM
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Everyone pretty much covered it, but I just have one thing to add. Think of steering the horse's shoulders, not the head. If you can make that association, it will change your steering focus to your seat and legs instead of your hands.

You just have to see your distance...you don't have to like it.
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dressage , hands , leg aids

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