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.
Last edited by thesilverspear; 04-06-2012 at 10:55 AM.