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MuskokaLakesConnemaras
May. 23, 2012, 04:08 PM
I ride dressage and have managed to get up to Prix St George in the past (when I was young and er...supple). However, these days I am hitting middle age and like to putter at the lower levels with my greenie boy.

My biggest issue is that I have arms as short as a T-Rex. :S Its quite difficult for me to open and drop my shoulders back as quite literally, my hands are essentially at my hips. I have had chiro, laser work and ART done to work on the short and tight ligaments etc as well as stretching the arms back in doorways etc.

Anyone else suffer from short arm syndrome and what have you done to help work with/through it?

Thanks all!

BravAddict
May. 23, 2012, 04:19 PM
I have short arms! Apparent solution? Ride horse with a higher set neck, conformationally. That's what I was told, and it explained a lot to me.

PS I don't ride dressage, but your title was very eye-catching.

ako
May. 23, 2012, 08:09 PM
Um, yeah, short little stumps here, especially in proportion to the legs. And my horse likes a low head carriage. I wish she liked a higher head carriage but she's my heart horse, so...

Curious if there are any tricks myself.

DottieHQ
May. 23, 2012, 10:11 PM
I don't know if this will help any, but I recently went to a dressage symposium/clinic and the trainer said to imagine your body as being one giant pelvis with t-rex arms :D . That way, you weren't just using your hands and arms for steering and such, but you were using your whole body. I don't know if you already ride this way; kudos to you if you do--I just switched trainers and she's having me ride this way, and holy crap on a cracker...it's hard, but it works!
Just a thought

Satchel85
May. 23, 2012, 10:31 PM
LOL Love the description! I'll have to try to remember that on my next ride.

Kairoshorses
May. 24, 2012, 08:54 AM
I have a different problem--not to swipe your thread--but I have upper arms that think they're thighs. I have a hard time holding them against my body!

Love the "giant pelvis" description. I'll have to try thinking about that!

ideayoda
May. 24, 2012, 09:42 AM
Moot point, alignment is alignment. IF the upper arms do not 'hang vertically' the seat cannot be used effectually (and minimally). Straight line from elbow to horse's mouth, but the upper arms cannot be given away. It changes your balance, it changes the nuance of the seat's use.

The carriage of the horse (properly up and open) is a product of what/how the rider asked. And although there are nuances of the conformation of the how the neck comes out of the shoulders, the horse is either ridden with the chest lifted and a slightly open posture or it is not. Part of learning how to train.

CHT
May. 24, 2012, 02:07 PM
I have a short armed student on a long/low necked draft cross.

Once she learned to sit back, and keep her shoulder blades together so the horse couldn't pull her arms forward, she discovered her legs and seat could be more effective and the arms were no longer an issue. Let your reins get longer or shorter as needed if you need to let your horse have a longer or shorter neck.

I think long arms let you get away with more and that having short arms will force you to be more effective/correct.

goodpony
May. 24, 2012, 04:00 PM
Moot point, alignment is alignment. IF the upper arms do not 'hang vertically' the seat cannot be used effectually (and minimally). Straight line from elbow to horse's mouth, but the upper arms cannot be given away. It changes your balance, it changes the nuance of the seat's use.

The carriage of the horse (properly up and open) is a product of what/how the rider asked. And although there are nuances of the conformation of the how the neck comes out of the shoulders, the horse is either ridden with the chest lifted and a slightly open posture or it is not. Part of learning how to train.

Very much in agreement---Ive just come in from working on my T-Rex Arm (have one arm that is almost always 'given away" in a crunched up sort of T-Rex way). Having focused most of my ride on keeping both arms close to my body but still mobilized (softly following the connection while maintaining alignment to the bit)--and more correct alignment of my head, hip seat and leg- I ended up having one of those real lightbulb moments and could feel where the real source of my 'crunched up arm' issue seemed to be...doesnt seem to be in my arm at all...but more my left leg/side weakness where the toe wants to roll outward and the calf/thigh following suit. Was very interesting to discover. When I rotated my toe-calf-thigh more more inward with my calf resting more correctly on my ponys side the the arm issue seemed to resolve--or at least it seemed to FEEL lots better. Pony became much more through and even on both reins--and more accepting of my seat/leg aides.

mbm
May. 24, 2012, 06:41 PM
for me i think the "ah-ha" moment was when i realized that i probably will never be able to have my hands way in front of me like some can - because when my elbows are at my sides my hands are right over the top of the pommel of my saddle.... ie they are far too short to reach my horses neck. I also cant reach out and scratch the neck if i don't lean forward.

once i got that then i stopped trying to look like i had long arms.. and i explain it to any trainer that tell me to put my hands on the neck (or what have you) ... no can do and still keep proper alignment.

so, i guess all of that is to say - just ride with your elbows at your sides as Ideayopda says and all will be well :)
also you might go watch rides of D McDonald - she is very short and was able to ride quite well even so!)

MuskokaLakesConnemaras
May. 24, 2012, 10:53 PM
The comment "don't ride like you have long arms" totally resonated with me :) I am guilty of that to be sure!! I did ride alot of jumpers too, so shorter rein with arms carried up and out front. Old habits die hard ;)

Going to try to incorporate the "brain change" of how I ride... Going to concentrate on riding with the body I have, not the one I THINK I should have. Neat....

Thanks folks!!

meaty ogre
May. 24, 2012, 11:20 PM
I bet the suspender reins imagery would help with this too.

My favorite instructor shared this with me, to help me with my habit of riding with too-long reins, but it helped so many other things just fall into line too (like my busy hands and awkward elbows, and sloppy shoulders).

She told me to imagine the reins coming through my hands, then up over my shoulders and down my back like suspenders, buttoning to my belt at my lower back. Then she told me to steer, turn, halt/half-halt using my "suspenders." It's funny, every other instructor I've ridden with would focus on the hands or elbows or shoulders to fix the problem, but her imagery connected the reins to my seat and the result was instantaneous and amazing, for me and the horse. That right there was worth the $80 lesson to me. Taking my hands/elbows and shoulders out of the equation was the key. I really need to get back to her soon, she is awesome.

mvp
May. 24, 2012, 11:21 PM
The short-armed have a bona fide biomechanical problem.

We benefit from an uphill-built horse. And it would be great for us if we could just skip to the upper levels. But with a horse who does need to travel in a longer, lower frame, it won't be as easy for us.

Coming from hunter world, my usual "work around" for this handicap has been to ride leaning a bit forward. I think I sit up on my pubic bone in dressage world, too. It half-way does the job. But if I keep my hands appropriately low for the horse, I have to straighten my elbows (almost) and I tend to round my shoulders. That's a tough mental- and physical habit to break, let me tell you!

The problem with those straight arms/rounded shoulders is that I want to put my elbows out, chicken style. That lets the horse run into a relatively stiff "outside" of my arm. No good!

I think I have to think about opening up my chest, riding from my shoulders and the sides of my body-- no tension in the arms. It sounds exaggerated, but that's the only way I can "unfurl" or "uncrumple" the front of my body and my shoulders. Riding a horse from the shoulders is softer.

o0hawaiigirl0o
May. 24, 2012, 11:26 PM
Great advice all around! I'll have to bring this thread to mind, as I also am a short limbed rider. I think it's great that I'm not the only one who refers to my arms as being t-rex-like. :D

Arab_Mare
May. 24, 2012, 11:27 PM
Whoa there friends! Doesn't matter how short your arms are, keep them bent at the elbow, and carry them at a 90 degree angle (ish). The horse can yield just as well if your hands are high, as long as they aren't too high and you're arms are following and supple. Make sure the reins are long enough though.

Take a look at all the Olympic and Grand Prix riders; their hands are high, they aren't low like the modern hunters like to ride.

CFFarm
May. 25, 2012, 10:35 AM
Me too. And my legs don't go all the way to the ground either.....LOL. I just have to have a longer rein from hand to bit, than some others. Not looser, just longer to keep the straight line from elbow to bit.

witherbee
May. 25, 2012, 11:21 AM
Thanks for the laugh! Check these out - such a funny visual

http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/s/short_arms.asp

easyrider
May. 25, 2012, 12:06 PM
There's no reason that a short-armed rider should be compromised in their equitation. Your head-hip-heel alignment will be the same in the saddle as a tall rider. You will have a straight line from elbow to bit. If your arms are short, your reins will be longer. If your horse's head is down, the angle of your elbow will be larger. If your horse's head is up, the angle of your elbow will be smaller. The length of your torso will also determine the exact angle for you, which is particular to every rider but will change as the horse's head carriage changes.

Any problems in the shoulders of the short-armed rider have nothing to do with length of body parts or biomechanics. Problems in the shoulders are often due to stiffness in the arms (whatever length they are) but, surprisingly, just as often due to problems in the hips. Locking the shoulders is a common way that riders attempt to stabilize their bodies. The answer is to allow more movement in the joints -- in the shoulder joint especially but also in the elbow and all the leg joints.

Massage and other bodywork can be very helpful, as can yoga or other exercise that gives you a greater range of motion. Lunge lessons without reins can confirm that any problems in your shoulders are not, in fact, related to your arms but are independent of them.

mvp
May. 25, 2012, 12:25 PM
Whoa there friends! Doesn't matter how short your arms are, keep them bent at the elbow, and carry them at a 90 degree angle (ish). The horse can yield just as well if your hands are high, as long as they aren't too high and you're arms are following and supple. Make sure the reins are long enough though.

Take a look at all the Olympic and Grand Prix riders; their hands are high, they aren't low like the modern hunters like to ride.

Well... the next poster disagrees on that 90-degrees thing being good for all. They'd iike a straight line from elbow to mouth. The point is that someone with short arms will usually have their hands too high for the horse if they insist on 90 degrees for all times and places. That's true unless we shorties only ever ride very uphill upper-level horses. Given my handicap, can't I get this kind of help? Isn't there a law?


There's no reason that a short-armed rider should be compromised in their equitation. Your head-hip-heel alignment will be the same in the saddle as a tall rider. You will have a straight line from elbow to bit. If your arms are short, your reins will be longer. If your horse's head is down, the angle of your elbow will be larger. If your horse's head is up, the angle of your elbow will be smaller. The length of your torso will also determine the exact angle for you, which is particular to every rider but will change as the horse's head carriage changes.

Any problems in the shoulders of the short-armed rider have nothing to do with length of body parts or biomechanics. Problems in the shoulders are often due to stiffness in the arms (whatever length they are) but, surprisingly, just as often due to problems in the hips. Locking the shoulders is a common way that riders attempt to stabilize their bodies. The answer is to allow more movement in the joints -- in the shoulder joint especially but also in the elbow and all the leg joints.

Massage and other bodywork can be very helpful, as can yoga or other exercise that gives you a greater range of motion. Lunge lessons without reins can confirm that any problems in your shoulders are not, in fact, related to your arms but are independent of them.


My other problem, then, is my short torso. I have legs only, it would appear. I also think that relaxing the shoulders means that the rider need to stabilize her "flapping in the wind" upper body somehow. Cheaters from Hunter World like me get very stiff and strong in the hips. But the real cure is more core strength. I don't think anyone will relax a part of their body if that means they'll fall off.

easyrider
May. 25, 2012, 02:18 PM
Upper level dressage (and jumper) riders can carry their hands higher because their horses carry their heads higher. Still, straight line from elbow to bit is the rule, and it's a good one, because it allows a true connection. Hands that are too low, as we sometimes see in hunter/jumper riders, block feel as much as hands that are too high.

The only way to stabilize the body atop a moving horse is with balance. Some of us have that innately but we still all need some amount of strength. But it's not a rigid strength, it's whatever strength we need to hold ourselves in balance (which means allowing our body to move). Think of Philippe Petit. He doesn't stay on that rope through rigidity.

In terms of biomechanics, a short torso is an advantage, because there is a smaller perpendicular element to balance atop the moving horse. Another thing (even though this is the dressage forum) that makes William Fox-Pitt all the more amazing.

mbm
May. 26, 2012, 12:30 AM
i think that a longer torso is more advantageous because of the leverage it gives a rider (think of Gal) - altho a good rider can come in any shape :)

easyrider
May. 26, 2012, 10:28 AM
Yes, a little goes a long way with a long torso. That's why it's a disadvantage for most riders. Of course, those who've learned to use a long torso effectively -- like Gal, Fox-Pitt or Brannaman -- can do a lot with that leverage.

abrant
May. 26, 2012, 11:16 AM
I once had an infuriating time with an instructor. She was very good in a lot of ways, but it was a constant back and forth between "bend your elbows!" and "give with your hands!" I was like, yeah, I have short arms... you need to pick one.

I recently did a clinic with a Grand Prix rider and within the first 5 minute 'position check' she noted that I had short forearms and I wouldn't be able to carry my hands in front of the saddle and *that's ok!* I could have hugged her.

My horse has a ridiculously low head carriage which has actually been helpful for me because things really click for both of us when I think about riding from my elbows rather than my hands.

With my greenish horse, she had me use my thumb to 'lock' in my rein length and when I need to give, I open my lower fingers to give him a few inches. This is preferable for us because if I try to move my arms I tend to get straight arms-locked elbows which is not much of a gift for my horse.

fairtheewell
May. 26, 2012, 11:47 AM
A couple of things come to mind. Length of reins for one. Up and open is important and correct. Long and low is only a temporary position the horse assumes that some systems utilize when developing the topline and engagement in the early stages of training; it is not actually a frame you are looking for to last forever, rather it is a technique to achieve an end. Elbows at your side and direct line elbow, wrist, bit is essential. Angles are important. One thing I'm not hearing is softness of the wrist...as in the flexibility your wrist has when writing in longhand...also very important (not to be confused with giving hands). Correct position combined with correct rein length for the frame of the horse is available to most riders. I can see where large or long horses and shorter riders can have trouble achieving that balance without adjustments though. Ultimately, it is the impulsion of the horse that fills up the slack all around.

mvp
May. 26, 2012, 02:37 PM
I once had an infuriating time with an instructor. She was very good in a lot of ways, but it was a constant back and forth between "bend your elbows!" and "give with your hands!" I was like, yeah, I have short arms... you need to pick one.

Yeah, exactly. Pick one because the laws of geometry, those ain't changing.

easyrider
May. 26, 2012, 05:22 PM
Often we say there should be movement in the elbows when what we really mean is that there should be movement in the shoulder joint. I'm not sure why, but if you ask a rider to follow with their elbows, you usually get movement in the shoulder joint. If you talk about moving the shoulder joint, you often get a locked shoulder and a torso rock.

If you can get the elbow to move forward and back (longitudinally) without opening and closing the angle too much (which would raise or lower the hands), you've automatically achieved mobility in the shoulder joint. If you have mobility in the shoulder joint, you can give with your hands and retain nearly the same angle in your elbow.

It's silly, though, to be telling riders where to put their hands in relationship to the pommel, since riders and their saddles come in different shapes and sizes.

mbm
May. 26, 2012, 09:29 PM
i have a lot easier time with where my elbows/hands go riding my 15h shorter necked guy as opposed to my 16h long necked mare. it is just easier on the little guy. why i am not sure.

Kolsch
May. 27, 2012, 01:28 PM
If you feel your arms are too short also look at where your butt is in the saddle. Even if your position is spot on, some saddles are more forward balanced, some center balanced. When I get the feeling that my arms are too short it's one of my mental notes that I'm not sitting correctly- I then bring my body forward.

Niennor
May. 27, 2012, 02:18 PM
I have a different problem--not to swipe your thread--but I have upper arms that think they're thighs. I have a hard time holding them against my body!

Love the "giant pelvis" description. I'll have to try thinking about that!

Well, since you're already hijacked the thread a littlle...:D
I never thought of it that way, but I think I have the same problem. After my trainer pointed out my "chicken wings", I start to try to keep my arms closer to my body, but i forgot that I have these things called elbows *facepalm* So now, instead of "keep your shoulders straight" I keep hearing "Don't forget to bend your elbows!" :lol:

Ysabel
May. 27, 2012, 10:16 PM
I have super short arms and legs. Like others have said above - I feel way better on a horse with a higher neck set (i.e. Friesian, Morgan, etc.) - but I don't have any of those so I have had to work it out with my horses with regular neck sets. :winkgrin:

I had coaches yell at me for years to keep my hands lower - I finally decided to ignore them and my riding has improved leaps and bounds. I keep my shoulders back, my elbows at my side and maintain a straight line from bit to elbow, and then let my hands fall were they may (usually over the pommel of my saddle). The pain in my shoulders that I had for years is now gone, my seat and balance has improved and my horses are going much better as well. Because of my short arms I also have to ride with my hands a bit wider apart because I have teeny tiny forearms and a wide midsection.

The main thing I am jealous about normal armed riders is that they can pat their horses necks while riding - I have to lean way forward to even reach the withers for a quick scratch. :)