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Where your hands should be riding English

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  • Horseriding tips locked elbow and hands
  • Person with hand behind their back and elbow flexed at 90 degrees

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    04-06-2012, 06:02 AM
Someone was talking about having ha 90 degree angle in your elbow - that only works if the horse is collected enough.

If the horse is not collected enough, or behind the bit. A 90 degree angle in your elbow will cause a broken line between the bit and the elbow.

Like this.

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    04-06-2012, 06:18 AM
Im always confused about this too. I ride HUS and I see people straight arming it all the time and elbows flying. I was always told to keep them tight and bent (as others have said) I've been through alot of 'trainers' and theyve all said the same but yet at shows the people I watch have straighter angles. :/
    04-06-2012, 09:48 AM
Riding with elbows straight and hands pointing down is one of my biggest pet peeves. It seems that loads of folk are doing it, essentially pulling the horse's head into a frame of sorts. The problem is that it kind of works at a superficial level; a reasonably well trained horse will follow the pressure down and drop his nose. But then what? No release, no softening = bracy, unhappy horse who has his head down but no impulsion or relaxation through his back. Not only is there a broken line from you to the horse's mouth, as people in this thread have been saying, which disconnects the hind quarters, but it's impossible to have soft, following contact, or a "soft feel," as Mark Rashid would say. Try softly following the movement of the horse's head with your elbows at an obtuse angle and your hands below the pommel of the saddle. You can't.

The people you're watching at shows aren't doing it right. A horse can put his head down and arch his neck in response to pressure from the bit and his hind end can remain in the next county.

When I was teaching, I'd have my student hold the reins at one end and move them gently back and forth, pretending to be the horse. I'd first brace against them, not giving at all, and ask how it felt, and they'd say it didn't feel very good. "Great," I'd say. "Then don't ride like that and do that to your horse." Then I'd be a soft rider with a following contact and they'd say that felt much better.
crimsonsky and Back2Horseback like this.
    04-06-2012, 12:58 PM
Green Broke
Okay this all makes sense. Thanks a lot guys :)
    04-06-2012, 01:13 PM
I was a working student for an upper level eventer for a while, & in order to "teach" my green horse collection, she had me hold my hands straight down at his shoulders to kind of force his head into a frame. As a result, my horse developed a horrible habit of digging his head into his chest (especially at the canter) while not actually engaging his hind-quarters at all, and my trainer and I had to work hard to un-teach him this behaviour after I returned to her barn. If people are holding their hands this way at shows, then they've been taking shortcuts in their training. This is the "easy way" to make your horse put his head down, but it is not the correct way.
    04-06-2012, 01:44 PM
Super Moderator
Not only is it bad for the horse and teaches it a false way of going, but it will make the rider more likely to tip forward becuase her energy is going downward into that "wheelbarrow" she is pushing in front of her, and will keep the horse on the forehand.

There are times when asking the hrose to stretch down long and low when the ride might widen her hands and lower them quite a lot, but this is to follow the horse down, as it reaches down and forward, not trying to hold the horse down, and the hands should then follow the horse back up and return to a bent elbow position in the second part of the stretch.
    04-06-2012, 02:04 PM
Also remember that your elbows should feel loose and elastic, not locked and stiff. In rising trot your elbow should open and close as you rise up and down. If your elbows are locked your hands will go up and down as you rise and sit. Your hands should stay in place and your elbows should open and close like a hinge.
    04-06-2012, 02:27 PM
Super Moderator
Originally Posted by HorsesAreMyPassion    
Also remember that your elbows should feel loose and elastic, not locked and stiff. In rising trot your elbow should open and close as you rise up and down. If your elbows are locked your hands will go up and down as you rise and sit. Your hands should stay in place and your elbows should open and close like a hinge.

This! This! This!

I SO struggle with this. My instructor pointed out with me that I do not have a soft enough elbow and when I put some focus on it, the horse felt different and moved better. How little it takes to come off as "locked" in the elbow. In fact, the elbow is where a lot of the give and take happens. A rider might kind of "freesze" her elbow for a sec in a half halt or other transition. It really helps to think of your elbow as being connected to your physical core and that through the elbow to hand to bit, you recycle the horse's energy back through your core to it's hind end.
Charles Dekunfy talks a lot about the elbow defining the seat to the horse. Not something I fully understand , though.
    04-06-2012, 02:40 PM
I find it very difficult to explain, Tinyliny, you did a good job of explaining it better than I could have, once you get the hang of the feeling for it it gets easier.
    04-06-2012, 03:47 PM
Ime, if I bring my shoulder blades back/together I am unable to lock my elbows, thereby allowing a much softer following contact with the horse's mouth. ;)

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