View Full Version : Critique and Hand ?

Sep. 29, 2009, 07:06 PM
My goal when taking these photos was to have something for ya'll to critique, and I'm so so SO embarrassed at my hands! UGH! so any tips on how to improve them would be awesome. Here's whats weird about my hands... in these gawd awful photos I feel connection to my elbow to the right, and to the left I struggle to maintain outside rein contact consistently. My horse and I both have our bad sides as our left side... you'll see.
Intro/Training Level

so without further ado...
to the right
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2589/3967288528_d41b0b6848_b.jpg <I look horrid but he looks okay?

to the left

and a stretch... with bad hands

be brutal, I can take it

Sep. 29, 2009, 07:13 PM
Your hands and general position look fine - but it looks like you aren't yet effective enough in your riding. Get a lesson or two with a dressage trainer.

Sep. 29, 2009, 07:22 PM
What in the photographs specifically is showing ineffectiveness?

Sep. 29, 2009, 07:56 PM
I think what shows ineffective, is the horse is jogging with a very lazy looking, flat gait without any oomph or bounce, without bending the joints of his legs, hind quarter and shoulder, and without rounding his back and neck and bending, flexing, giving in the throat or poll. He lacks energy, bending, activity.

I'm not really sure it's a valid criticism, though. It's not appropriate to worry about that before working on the position and getting to follow the motion of the horse. Specific things get criticized at different stages. Understanding the different stages of rider growth helps a critiquer give critiques.

With dressage, horses are ridden into the bit, into a contact, and they round up their back, their topline, and bend their joints, move their back, shoulders and hips, and flex at the poll and bend through their bodies when circling. But that develops over time, at different stages along the way.

For dressage, your position will need adjustment. First, you tend to lean your upper body forward some times, and pretty consistently, push your heels way down. The leaning forward puts your weight too far forward, and the heels pushed that far down, is good for jumping, as the leg then serves as an anchor, but for dressage, the leg needs to be soft, flexible, 'slapped on the horse's side like a wet towel'. To have that sort of leg, the ankle has to be soft, loose, relaxed. The heel needs to not be forced down so extremely.

Your leg needs to be rotated around from the hip, so that your toes point forward. That will 'open up' your hip joints and help you to not get your seat so far up the back of the saddle ('riding the cantle') and help you sink down into the lowest part of the saddle. In dressage the term 'opening the hip' refers to allowing the hip to move loosely, in a relaxed way. Sitting upright, with heel, hip and shoulder in a straight up and down line, as well as changing the position of the leg 'opens the hip'.

Next, you twist your shoulders around to the right and lift your left shoulder and wrist. Your left elbow is about 8-10 inches higher than your right elbow. You need to stop twisting, dropping one shoulder and lifting the other shoulder and arm. You might do this more to the right than left.

To the left, there is only one picture, and not at an angle that would show any twisting in the shoulders, but it doesn't look like both arms are carried the same way when going to the left. Your leg is a 'hunter leg', toes turned outward, gripping with the back of the calf, and closing your hip joints.

In your last picture, which you call 'bad hands', the position of your hand as it relates to your arm is actually better. Your wrists are straight, but you should not raise your arms in the air when stretching. Even so, it is the only picture where you don't have 'broken wrists'. This means that the thumbs of your hands are pointed toward each other, and your wrists are pointing up and your hands are pointing down. 'Breaking at the wrist' like that is something you just have to focus on and change. It tends to go along with the other position faults because of the issues with leaning forward affects balance, and the rider can't position his hands correctly when leaning forward and not positioned over an 'open' hip and soft, 'absorbent' leg.

Sep. 29, 2009, 08:17 PM
THANK YOU slc!!!! You've confirmed alot of what I noticed in the pictures. I have scoliosis with the bulge on the left and I'm due for an acupuncture visit (as apparent in the photos!) I'm thinking if i have to focus on 1 thing for the next week it should be equal distribution of weight in both seat bones and keeping my shoulder level... does this sound correct? I felt myself heavy on the inside of the circles.

I noticed my left leg and thought WTF?!?!? It's better than it has been in the past but it's also been better than that! And my ankles today were crazy droppy; not normally quite so plunged in the heel.

Here's where i'm stuck with my horse's performance. If i ask for more oomph he usually inverts. If I insist he activate his hind end more, he stays inverted and then I have trouble getting him soft again for weeks. Any suggestions on how to get more impulsion without messing things up for future rides? We are currently doing raised cavalettis on flat ground and on a slight incline. That's helped some but i still would like to have more arse engine. He's ex polo if that changes anything.

one more question: does my right leg look rotated in correctly or does it need to rotate in more?


Sep. 29, 2009, 09:11 PM
Here's where i'm stuck with my horse's performance. If i ask for more oomph he usually inverts.

That's something an instructor can help you with. It's a kind of moment to moment thing that someone needs to be there for and guide you in how to correct it. You create just what you can receive with your hand and seat at that moment, though always pushing the envelope and getting so you can receive more. You bend a little, push forward, bend a little, push forward, 'receive' the energy created in a quiet, steady hand and 'recycle' it back to the hind quarters...dang it's fun!

It isn't always inverting just because a horse puts his head up, someone needs to help you and give you an idea of what's 'head up, normal' and what's 'head up, inverted'.

If I insist he activate his hind end more, he stays inverted and then I have trouble getting him soft again for weeks.

Have a trainer help you - when you haven't done it before, you need help - there. Where you are, not from the internet!

Any suggestions on how to get more impulsion without messing things up for future rides?

Keep in mind the horse SHOULD feel stronger in your hand. He should have a sort of untutored, Baby Huey-ish kind of feeling in your hand. he SHOULD feel stronger in the hand while he goes through the first few moments of trusting the bridle and thrusting his energy forward from his hind legs, into your receiving hand. Note i said 'receiving', not sliding away, not giving, but actually giving him a bit to face and accept...the trick is to do it without actually getting set, stiff, too fixed. It's a tough note to hit - have someone - a good trainer - help you find out how it feels.

We are currently doing raised cavalettis on flat ground and on a slight incline. That's helped some but i still would like to have more arse engine. He's ex polo if that changes anything.

I think Polo horses can be wonderful dressage horses!

one more question: does my right leg look rotated in correctly or does it need to rotate in more?

Both your toes are rotated outward, with your heel forced down, the knee and all the way up to the hip is rotated outward.

And please - get off the 'I suck' thing. You ride very well, and you have a lot of potential. In dressage, there's always something to work on, and then the next thing and the next thing. It's just a process. Don't get down on yourself.

Sep. 29, 2009, 09:24 PM
Thank you, that actually helped me understand alot what sort of feeling I should encourage. I'll openly admit I have had a bad habit in the past of throwing away more contact when my horse offers it... workin on it. It's funny to me because in one of the photos where I am looking down, I realized that im looking down and smiling because I can feel his hind end working a tad harder.
Unfortunately my instructor has been MIA since May because she's an upper mgmt for a big corporate company :( so i've sort of been working on the same dang homework for 5 months. She's incredible, but that doesnt do me much good if i'm not in lessons right now. :lol: I've been using photos and video to try and help myself in the meantime.

Thanks again! i'll post more pics in a week or two to see if i'm getting anywere. maybe i'll strap rulers to my wrists lol

Sep. 29, 2009, 09:35 PM
Don't laugh. I taped a ruler to my arm with duct tape. When I dropped my hand like that...it HURT.

Sep. 29, 2009, 09:39 PM
Don't laugh. I taped a ruler to my arm with duct tape. When I dropped my hand like that...it HURT.
that's the goal. I thought my hands needed work, but when i say the pictures I was apalled at myself:eek:... i think it's time to break out the rulers... i know better than to have hands like that!

Sep. 29, 2009, 09:47 PM
I agree with many of slc2's thoughts on your position. However, even in the stretch, your wrists are compromised. You need to keep your thumbs on top. What you are actually trying to do as you ride is lead with your whole left side. This means that not only is your left shoulder too far forward, but also your left leg. If your turn your left thumb upward or so that it slightly points more to the left a tiny bit, it will help you keep your left shoulder back better. What you need is more awareness of how close your shoulder blades are being carried in relationship to your spine. If you think about your shoulder blades as you ride, you will be able to feel that your left shoulder blade is farther away from your spine...either direction. What needs to happen is that the shoulder blade on the inside of the circle needs to be closer to the spine than the one on the outside of the circle. The slight forward fall of your left leg which puts it more forward in relationship to your right leg means that your horse does not bend enough into the direction of your right rein when you are traveling left. To help fix that, lift your toes and turn your feet...both of them...to point the line along which you are traveling. When you do this correctly, you will be able to use your inner left groin to better push the horse into the right rein.

The other thing that I notice is that someone along the way has told you to slow your posting by not posting as high. As you rise to the post, you are gripping with your knees in order to try to do this. Allow the horse to throw you into the air non-restricted. It is the angle of your pelvis as you come into the sitting that determines whether the horse moves correctly forward or not. As you rise to the post, the weight of your torso should fall into your heels, and as you sit the post, while the heels do remain down with toes lifted, the lift is not as extreme. The heels remain softly down as a portion of the weight of your torso is taken back into your seat. Whether you are rising or sitting, your buttocks should be rounded under you a tad. That, coupled with keeping your shoulders back will help to keep you from tipping forward.

I think your horse is moving along quite nicely at this level, but you will need a more erect position in order to help him lift for higher level work.

Sep. 29, 2009, 10:01 PM
Ask your trainer if there is someone she would recommend you work with while she is away. If she has no recommendations, ask around and find someone you can work with when she disappears.

Sep. 29, 2009, 10:12 PM
I do what you are doing, and when I do my trainer says my hands are whimpy, wants me to take a good grip of the reins, not loosen up my fingers and open up my hands like that. when you do that, you are not connected to your horse through your shoulder, arm, hand. Your hand should be firm, and fingers closed. I feel like I am gripping tight, but I know I am doing it right when my trainer gets after me. When I do what you are doing, I sort of revert back to my equitation days, when I thought I wanted to look casual and relaxed and unconcerned. Bad habit. Be concerned!

Watch some good dressage videos and see how their hands grip the reins, and are solid, and not opening up, not once. You can't maintain good contact when your hand opens up, and you have to keep a closed grip, so the contact moves through your elbow straight through to his mouth. I can't describe it better than that, because I also have your problem. I just know when I attend to the tension down through the arm and closed, firm hand, I can begin to ride effectively.

Yes, you need a trainer to talk you through this. When your hand is closed and firm, you will be able to ride up into your hands, and use your seat correctly, but there have to be some firm, good hands there to ride up into, not down onto. I also noticed your back and core were not engaged, and all of this works to bring your horse up into your hands, to move him up and through, like squeezing toothpaste from a tube out in front of you, but you can't do it if your hands are WHIMPY!!!

Sep. 29, 2009, 11:02 PM
Often, people break their wrists rather than do what they're supposed to be doing, give from the shoulder. If the shoulder is loose and soft, the give comes from there, and one doesn't have to lift 'break' the wrist.

Sep. 30, 2009, 09:25 PM
go here and read all of page one and all links