Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hands Off!

I'm still waiting on the call from the vet. Unfortunately, I forgot this was Labor Day weekend so that means I most likely won't hear anything until Tuesday. Drat!

But, I went ahead and started riding again. I just couldn't wait any longer. (Sorry honey!) My first ride back was so-so. Honestly, Loki had been off for such a long time I'm not surprised that he was super heavy in my hands and kind of all over the place. I was honestly not riding great either. I think we just needed a day to get some kinks out of our systems.

So I rode again today. It was okay. We spent a lot of time just walking and working on moving up into the contact. I threw in a lot of shoulders-in and out to break it up some. When we started trotting I tried to just build on the walk and it started out okay.

Then I had a small light-bulb moment. I started to get really frustrated because while we started out pretty nicely and somewhat soft the further we went along the more resistant Loki became. I was frustrated because in my mind I was thinking we just did this why are you 'hanging on me,' 'resisting the contact,' etc. I found my half-halts getting stronger and stronger and then I stopped and took a deep breath. We walked for a while why I thought about what was going on.

I just wanted Loki to be soft. Then I remembered something I've heard before which was along the lines of in order for him to be soft I HAVE TO BE SOFT first. So I tried a different approach. We picked up the trot again and this time I made myself just stick my hands on the saddle, looping my pinkies under neath so that I couldn't pull on the reins at all. I still kept a light contact but this way the contact was 100% stable and soft.

We just trotted around like that for a while and eventually Loki did start to soften. No, we weren't super round or anything but we were so much softer. I concentrated on what the reins felt like, imagining the two baby birds in my hand that Sally Swift talks about in her book Centered Riding. I still had contact I could still squeeze my fingers and get a response but this way I had to rely much, much more on my legs. So when he started getting heavy I had to bump him with my leg and ask him to please get off my hands. Once he realized I wasn't going to yank on his face he started staying softer.

I think Loki and I do need to take a few steps back and work on this for a while. I have let myself get too handsy because Loki is so forward and I forget to use my leg. We end up bracing against each other instead of working together. I know I should do this now I just need to make myself accountable and actually do it. It was amazing how responsive he was once I let go of his face. I was able to steer and do everything I needed to do while not changing the contact at all. I am going to ride like this until that feeling of light contact sticks with me enough I'll be able to do it in my sleep. Well that is the plan, anyways.

Sorry for the length. We're off to go see Mumford & Sons in just an hour. I hope the rest of you enjoy your weekend as well!


  1. Don't be too hard on yourself, its easy to get sucked into the tug of war of contact. I have to remind myself every ride when Ramone isn't responding the way I would like.

    1. It is definitely easy with Loki. Ghazal was always so light in the bridle that it has taken quite a lot to get used to. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. I love the Sally Swift book! I need to re-read it! I'm glad you had a little 'light bulb' moment though :) I also love Mumford & Sons... jealous!! And it took me 9 days to get a call back from my vet :\ hopefully it's good news though!

    1. Still no word from the vet. I will call tomorrow if I don't hear anything by the morning. Mumford was amazing! Lots of fun fun fun. :D

  3. I have a very similar hands problem and have to remind myself of the exact same things when arena riding. Nancy is very sensitive to this and speeds up on me when i do this (her way of pulling against me), which typically makes me close my fingers on the reins = bad reflex reaction. I need to recondition my brain to relax my hold on the reins whens he does this, as soon as i remind myself of this she does slow down.
    I am reliably told that I am stressing my horse without meaning to, after having read your post and knowing I am not alone, thanks to your words i better understand where I am now going wrong.
    Fingers crossed, when we return to arena work later this month, i can remember them!

    I hope you enjoyed Mumford & Sons, I saw them last summer at a festival here - they were great fun!

    1. This was my second day of working on the hands thing and I can tell it is definitely making a difference. Just having that steady contact so that he can learn to trust it and not worry that I am going to take back on him all the time, etc. I'm also really reinforcing a lot of leg. That helps too!

      Mumford was great! Thanks!