Saturday, November 24, 2012


Let's just put this out there: I am not a handsy rider. It has taken me almost a year to lean to ride Cuna into a connection because I never actually give him any connection to start with. Yes, impulsion comes from the leg, but if there isn't a complimentary connection offered from the hand, the energy has nowhere to go and is just lost out the front.

From a few weeks ago

S, who gave us a few dressage lessons last summer, kept getting after me to pick my thumbs up and keep my hands together.

Believe it or not, this is a much improved shot of our progress. My hands are almost above his withers and my thumbs are almost up. In fairness, connection is hard for Cuna and we are still in the beginning stages, but still.

This extends to our jumping as well--when I need to half halt or collect after a fence, I'd go low and wide with my hands and use an ineffectual pulley rein. Cuna would plow around on the forehand and just get longer.

Hot mess.

Anyways, in our last lesson, we had a tight course of related jumps and I HAD to be able to half halt effectively coming towards home. After a couple of failed attempts, Steph finally told me to "lift my hands and use them together". I made it my goal, even if I did nothing else right.

You know what? He collected and his energy came up, setting us up perfectly for the final jump. Interesting. 

Because I love this shot
I haven't jumped since then, but I've been doing a ton of flatwork and focusing on riding him into the contact (that I provide) and then keeping my reins short enough to be effective. Last night we just did a short ride, but I kept my hands up and together. We had a lovely, balanced canter and then I asked for the downward transition without dropping my hands.



Steph laughed when I told her my "ground breaking" discovery, but I'm excited to apply it in our lesson today.


  1. I could not agree more about the hand position you described. I have been working to perfect this for some time myself. Up is good, down is just not effective.

  2. This is so the story of my life. I feel like we're on parallel journeys - even though I intellectually got the whole connection thing, it was only this summer that I could actually ride it. I'm still in a state of wonder...:) Have a great lesson!

  3. I face the same challenge. RO is always telling me to keep my hands together and my thumbs up. I tend to ride with very OPEN hands and a soft, soft, soft feel because I ride so many problem horses, so when I get on a horse that's ready to ride in a frame with connection... forget it!

  4. Ha, it's the simplest things sometimes that make the biggest difference. I struggle with this every day - 10 years of having a horse that takes NO contact at all left me with a rather bad habit! Glad to hear that Mr. Cunafish is giving you a good feel when he has something to go into!

  5. I had almost the same exact moment in my riding with Libby. Being a naturally heavy horse, if I keep my hands long and low, she can't pick herself back up to balance her, she just falls on her forehand. But if I just lift my hands, and hold them out in front of me, she magically is balanced, and overall easier to handle. Of course my trainer has been telling me this for a long time, but what does she know ;-)

  6. It can be really hard to constantly remember how to hold your hands.
    For me though, I have the opposite problem to you. Because I ride a lot of hot, fast horses I tend to hold my hands too high.

  7. This is great for me to read -- right now I am struggling with the opposite problem. I push my horse into the contact, but then I am blocking the flow out the front by failing to keep the connection "alive." I'm not pulling him back, but my hands are sometimes an energy dam and it frustrates me. Sometimes I lose it by giving away too much too. It's such a delicate thing and if people knew how much thought we put into this "simple" thing....

  8. Completely great reminder right now! I can pick up my hands, but using them effectively is my problem. Sometimes I'm too handsy, sometimes not enough, bah! Anyone want to do video critiques this winter?

  9. I had the very same epiphany a few weeks ago in a lesson! My instructor finally had to walk over to us, take the reins, and demonstrate the kind of connection I should be giving/taking. Wow, what a difference!

  10. I went through this last February. My hunter/jumper brain thought that contact should be light, light, light, and I distinctly remember my trainer saying "Of course he's on his forehand and can't sit back, you're letting all the energy out the front end!" Then I was terrified I was making a "hard mouthed pony" for a couple months there, that contact was so much firmer than what I used before. It's scary at first, but makes a big difference.

  11. I'm glad I went from riding one handed Western to dressage so I didn't have this problem lol. You're doing an awesome job! Keep it up!

  12. Love that canter pic! Cuna is so up in front - great work!


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