Elbow bend and the darn stomach that makes it harder!!
Do you have my problem??
I don't want to make it seem like I'm generalising this, but I'm not the only plus sized rider I've seen/heard of this being a problem with, and thought why not open a thread to discuss it!
I've noticed over my years of riding, especially when I've gotten into learning how to school a horse in the basic working frame (I'm an amateur dressage rider) that I *feel* like I have elbow bend, and then look at photos and my arms are straight
After talking to my instructor as to why I suffer this problem, she said it was because of my stomach size. That it's harder to keep the line from bit to elbow when you have a belly in the way. It makes sense, because this year after starting riding again, I've noticed the more I tone up in my stomach (I attend the gym 3-4 times a week to lose weight & strengthen my partially damaged right leg) the easier elbow bend has been to be able to achieve.
But now it feels so foreign! I can have a good bend on a loose rein no probs and with schooling in the walk, but when I take my reins up in the trot and try to remember to lift my hands higher (instructor said plus size riders *in her experience* tend to drop their hands because its easier if they've got a belly, they're simply compensating for their body) I feel like I get in the way of what belly I have left when posting!! So I subconsciously shorten my reins a little more and then viola! NO ELBOW BEND!
What do you do to try and remind yourself to get them arms up, and how do you keep out of the way of your belly? Surely I'm not the only one on HF who has this issue/had it in the past!!
To share what I mean here is some photos, constructive criticism is welcome, and any advice on how to fix this issue would be grand... or is there a way that I can ride without being a nuisance to my horse?! BTW, my mare is also plus sized, and is a "great doer" sigh. Coupled with her mutton wither, her saddle has the issue of coming forward with her size, so I'm aware of it and don't need reminding, please. She is currently lighter than the photos shared, and is slowly getting the weight worked off her!
Prime example of me keeping my hands low and "out" of the belly's way.
More recent but still occuring...
Attempting to lift my hands and improve the line...
A picture I like the height of my hands in, and attempts to bend the elbow, but with the shorter reins, ugh!
What I would like my hands to be like in the trot, and maintaining a relaxed contact with the bit/with my horse.
I know this could couple as a dressage question, but I'm sure whatever the sport we do, this has happened to other riders!
I ride western, and am completely and totally foreign to anything english )other than I can not imagine having the balance for it(. However, I see elbows bent in every one of those pictures. So maybe I just don't get it?
I am in no way an plus sized ruder but hope to help you feel better cause I do the same thing! I tend to brace my arms or not have enough bend. I keep trying to tell myself, relax breath with the reins, horses movement...but for years I keep coming back to this issue! Even today while riding I was frustrated with how braced they where!
Hope this helps!
Idle, sorry I meant the correct line from bit to elbow... The elbow should be elastic and able to travel with the contact (us confusing English goers haha!) and the way it can do this is have a correct 90 degree angle so it can absorb movement etc. I have a really bad habit of feeling my hands and elbow are higher/bent but they're not correct.
Idle, I hear ya! I've never tried western before... love my dressage a bit too much... though can't school my horse correctly (not that I'd want to at her current weight/fitness level) if I can't create the right line from bit to elbow cos I'm bracing!
Klassic, what do you mean breathe with the reins? I know I'm hand orientated, I'm trying to lighten my hands - you can see the muscles when trotting in my lower arm tense up, really trying to eradicate that issue, but I do get tense when Honey tries to take off into a faster trot/wobble canter whenever I do completely soften - need to borrow Aire's big girl knickers you can find on the forum lately and grow some brass parts to wear down there hahahah!
I've tried a fair bit...
- riding Honey on a loose rein at the trot: ends up with her shooting off, I send a half halt and try to slow my posting to bring her back, she takes next corner of our "arena" as a "canter preparation" (this mare is yet to learn cantering correctly again since our accident in 09 so I don't know why she's being evasive and zoom zoomy)... and I cave and take the reins back to where I feel comfortable, trot rebalances and Honey relaxes.
- riding Honey on a shorter rein that enables belly out of the way/hands higher: horse now is angry, get off face haha. (she's a sweetheart really, but she had a rough past with her mouth)
- riding Honey on rein that is comfortable for both of us: problem in first post, inconsistency in keeping hands higher, to create elbow bend, allows inconsistencies to form in tempo of trot as I'm trying to sort the **** hands the speed goes up and down!
Seriously Idle, after writing all that up, I'm starting to think switching to western might not be such a bad idea
Well, the pictures get better as they go along. There's a bunch of things you might try to help build this into your muscle memory. Because you "have" it at the walk but loose it when trotting or more, right? So you just need to work on building that muscle memory. And really, all of riding is doing just that. If you learned how to post, how to keep your foot in the stirrup , how to keep you chin up, how to hold the rein, etc, you can build this , too.
One thing I see is that when you are in the upmost part of your post, your leg is nearly straight. I would consider shorteingin your stirrup just one notch. Your shape and your horse's shape make for a tought one for you to get your legs "around" the horse, but having post straight legs at the trot means you no longer have as good a base of support as would be helpful.
You see, you have to be secure and stable in the body in order for you to be independent in your hands and able to put them where they should be and let them stay there, while the rest of you moves around. I think the one reason that you feel more capable of doing the bent elbow after gym exerxising (which leads to help keeping the thumbs on top and a "quieter, more following hand overall") is not that your belly is smaller but rather that your core is stronger.
Having a good strong core is just absolutely fundamental to good riding. Not just strong abs, but strong back muscles and the ability to keep them engaged. If you ride really thinking about moving your core "toward" your hands as you post up and down, you will be better able to keep them quiet. Almost think of moveing toward and "through" the space between your steady hands.
Keeping a bend in the elbows is also very much assited by keeping your chest open and thinking of having your elbows stretch down toward your pelvis. Try to bring your elbow closer to the top of your pelvis, and keep those elbows "riding " your own pelvis. When you do this, you will feel a "tug" at the collarbone area, as you open chest.
So, open chest, engaged core and back muscles, post TO and THRU your hands.
One more thing;
When you keep your thunbs on top, think of the tip of your thumb as laser sighting toward the bit rings. IF your horse raises her head, you must also raise your hands NOT drop them. But that's a whole 'nother post . . .
Tiny; you always post the most wonderful comments and food for thought for me, much appreciated again!! Yes, I have to agree my core has definitely strengthened. Not only with exercise, but my entire riding has changed with my Wintec Isabel. I actually can FEEL my core. I never realised how incorrect I had become until I got my saddle in March. So yes, the breakthrough has come with that saddle also.
Will take the stirrups up. I have felt like I'm stretching into them, especially now that I have the flexi irons and the saddle has been slipping on occassion due to my bad leg and not being able to put enough weight through it at points - another story entirely!
I will definitely try the core trick when we start trotting again - with her size & her own issues, I always bring her into work slowly, and we're not yet at the trotting stage again. And will open my chest/put my elbows closer! Thanks for the handy hints!!
Never heard the thumbs on top/bit idea, but I'm truly interested in this! Will be looking into it and paying good attention, getting my hands up is so important to me!
Hahahahahhahahahah It's like you are reading my miiiiiind!! I have a buddah belly and I also have the bending issue and it drives me NUTS. Try having SHORT ARMS paired with a gut, makes for some HILARIOUS photos. I mean...i know im supposed to have a bend at the elbow and I think about it alllll the time, but the execution can be somewhat lacking: