Hands. I've got 'em. Little, chubby hands.
Horses. I ride 'em. Little, chubby horses ;)
Steady hands? Gentle, still, strong hands? I've never had them. I watch riders who DO have them with ill-concealed jealousy.
This has been the biggest challenge of my horse riding career (at least to date). It's a persistent issue that every single trainer brings up. I've always had a hard time with keeping them steady. And I've tried just about everything to fix them (whip in hand, whip in between elbows and back, elbows ALWAYS at side, very soft elbows, closed hand, open hand, etc.)
My dear horsey bestie tries to buoy my spirits with gentle pep talks that sound a bit like this:
L: "You're hands aren't unsteady."
Me: "That isn't the same thing as steady."
L: "But few riders have truly steady hands"
Me: "Fine. But I want to be one of those riders."
L: *shrugs* "yeh...."
So, you can imagine my happy shock when over the course of the five lessons I've had with my new instructor my hands have magically transformed. I'm serious guys... I haven't wanted to say out loud to anyone (including my trainer or my friend) "my hands are so much steadier!" Instead I've been carrying the secret around for a few days, afraid to tell anyone for fear that the ability will suddenly vanish. But it doesn't seem to be vanishing. It seems to be sticking!
And I think I have the secret formula (at least for dressage queens). It is something I didn't understand until my stirrups were raised several holes.
When my stirrups were raised, and I was asked to quit bothering my pony with my leg, I was pretty put off. It was painful and I felt as if a lot of my control had been taken from me. But slowly, after many, many rides - I've learned a bunch of stuff. Stuff I was never taught by multiple dressage instructors (a couple of which are very successful). Here are the two major things I've learned:
- Forward is key. If you don't have forward you don't have anything. I don't care if the horse is framed up. If the horse isn't forward, then the frame isn't true anyways.
- If your legs aren't stable, your hands aren't going to be stable. If you have a stable lower body (legs, pelvis), and a strong core you are set-up for hand success!
I can imagine alllll of the eye-rolling on the other side of the screen. A lot of whispered duhs. ut whatever. These two things might help someone else just like me who for whatever reason didn't get it!
I'm not saying that my dressage instructors didn't know these things. They probably knew them instinctually. But I didn't. And it didn't really click with me until the last few weeks. It has been soooo awesome and soooo eye-opening and really a relief to say to myself "get these two things and then we'll discuss contact with Gavin". And guess what? He takes the contact like a boss. He's happy and through and swinging. His canter is fucking majestic now. Fucking. Majestic. :)