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Weighting your elbows....

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  • Weighting your elbows....

    I'm currently struggling with keeping weight in my elbows (as well as into the long muscles of my back). I guess my struggle is both physical and mental.

    On a longer rein it's no problem. Elbows weighted and stable but as soon as I pick up contact my elbows straighten and I've lost my connection to the horse. Also during most up transitions I allow my elbows to go forward again loosing my connection.

    Any suggestions on how to weight the elbows and ride more from the back and core? I get it on and off but easily loose it.

  • #2
    I'm not sure exactly what you're asking - I've never heard it called weighting your elbows, personally, and if I think of weighting my elbows I slouch and my shoulders round forward, at least while sitting at the computer.

    Are you just asking how to keep correct contact with the correct bend in your elbow and not giving away your reins and allowing them to get too long by straightening your arms?
    If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


    • #3
      If I'm thinking what you're thinking, here's an exercise:

      Sitting on your horse at the halt, drop your reins but hold your arms out in riding position, with elbows bent. Now open your hands and spread out your fingers. Pretend your arms are being lifted with little strings attached to your fingertips. Remember, your FINGERS are leading! Let them rise until you can repeat the exercise and lift your hands and forearm without clenching your back muscles.

      Now pick up your reins, and repeat the exercise with your fingers on the reins. (loose reins, so not to tug on your horse's mouth). Now go and walk, pick up some contact. Now think about that exercise, and raise your hands just a little, and bring your elbows back down. Repeat in trot and canter as necessary.

      As you get better and better, the raises in your hands will get slighter and slighter and you'll be able to correct your hand position easier and easier.

      Good luck!


      • #4
        well... this wont be much help - but it is difficult to ride well on a horse that isnt working properly..... so it is hard to have a proper forward thinking hand with your elbows heavy and connected to your back on a horse that isnt thru and forward.

        so dont worry about your elbows - worry more about getting your horse to move well (and i think i remember you from earlier posts) think more about pushing your hands forward and being soft in your connection and riding forward - once your horse is working more correctly your entire seat/etc will just miraculously get better!

        in any case - i always found that by thinking of keeping my elbows still i would get too tense in my arms....
        Last edited by mbm; Dec. 2, 2012, 01:56 PM.


        • #5
          My trainer likes to say "heavy elbows, light hands." Sometimes that visual helps me to push while not giving away my upper arms - because if you push the reins and give your upper arms you're straightening your arms and we all know that's no bueno.
          I'm going to try Arab_Mare's exercise to see what feeling it gives me. It sounds interesting.
          MBM has a really good point about the horse being through. If your horse is not forward and in front of your leg then it's hard to push the reins forward because there's nothing 'out there' and you end up with no contact. Also, when I notice myself battling too-straight-arm-syndrome it is usually because my horse is somehow locked in the poll or jaw and I keep looking for a soft contact and pretty soon I'm riding in bad form to compensate for her tightness. On those days it's important for me to remember to take several steps backward to find softness/suppleness in simpler or slower exercises than continuing on looking for ways to fix my too straight arms because the connection is bad.
          Unfortunately there can be many causes for the issue you're describing and you might have to peel back layers to find the real source. If it were easy everyone would do it.


          • #6
            This is copied from another thread, but meaty ogre's advice is memorable:


            "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."
            A helmet saved my life.

            2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!


            • #7
              The Posture Now device makes a great physical reminder, and is super effective at helping correct "zombie arms"
              So are tiny wrist weights worn at your elbows
              Or carrying a crop behind your back

              You can also try stacking your body by sitting with your knees in from of the flaps (like you're in a chair) getting your seatbones pointing down by scorching forward into the lowest point of the saddle.
              Then drop your legs down without moving your seatbones.
              Next, picture a steel cylinder supporting your mid section. Make your midsection feel STRONG like that cylinder.
              Stretch tall from the top of your head and let the cylinder shrink and strengthen.
              Now walk forward without altering your position.
              Slowly raise your hand by bending your elbows until you feel your abs engage just a little more (especially the muscles 2" toward your midline from your hip bones)
              You'll feel them activate when you have a straight line from elbow to bit.
              chaque pas est fait ensemble


              • Original Poster

                Thanks everyone. MBM is exactly correct. Damn!! I know this too. When he's going properly it's easy to keep my position and ride from my back (what someone above described as suspender reins.) but when my arms go straight is when I've lost him hence why I get it sometimes and not others.

                I guess I'm back to the drawing board and need to check the throughness during the times I'm struggling. Damn!! lol


                • #9
                  Your position dictates his condition. The solution lies within your position!
                  Use your arms as a KPI when they straighten, walk, get your position, get your horse situated again, and back up to trot.

                  Do not ever compromise your position, it'll only complicate or make things worse.
                  chaque pas est fait ensemble


                  • #10
                    personally, when my elbows are misbehaving, it tends to be because I'm clenching my trapezius muscles and drawing my shoulders toward my ear. My shoulders are only about one inch higher than they should be so it's not that easy to tell by looking at them, but the tension prevents my elbows from being "heavy" and my arms from hanging properly.


                    • Original Poster

                      I started my ride thinking throughness and nothing else and whatdoyaknow? lol Things started coming together. Then I was able to move on to checking my position and in particular my elbows.....

                      Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                      Your position dictates his condition. The solution lies within your position!

                      YES YES YES

                      Use your arms as a KPI

                      What is KPI? lol

                      Do not ever compromise your position, it'll only complicate or make things worse.
                      I kept my position no matter what. If I felt it starting to slip than I knew that something was going wrong. I went down to the walk, fixed everything and proceeded with what I was doing. It really was amazing the difference it made. The more interruptions I had to make the more annoyed at myself I got and therefore the harder I worked to not allow it to happen in the first place. Then it got to the point that I would only have to make very slight adjustments with my leg and seat to send him back out to the bit and there was no need to let elbows come forward nor mess around with the hands too much at all. What I felt was much more of my horse in my core and back than in my hands. I had an excellent ride. Thanks for the tips. Can't wait to ride tomorrow and try to ingrain some of those feelings.


                      • #12
                        This is something I've been working on myself lately. Mary Wanless says to think of your armpits closing at the back. If your elbows and upper arms aren't at your sides, your armpits are closed towards the front. If they are closed at the back. your upper arms will be along your body and elbows at your side.

                        She also says to think of pushing your shoulders down so your lats muscles (think of Superman and his wide muscles from under his arms to his lower ribs) stand out. This will make you more centered and stronger in your core.

                        Like you, I can sit w/o reins and my arms are where they should be. Put reins in my hands and my arms go forward. I'm also overly careful of not hanging on the reins, which usually means I'm too giving with them. Like someone above said, if the horse is working correctly it's easier to keep your arms where they should be.

                        Remembering to keep your thumbs up makes it a bit easier to keep the elbows at your body too. If I imagine myself opening a book, like you would act out in charades, my thumbs will be uppermost (and not out to the sides as if I did the book opening thing). It feels like a bigger move than it is.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                          Your position dictates his condition. The solution lies within your position!
                          Use your arms as a KPI when they straighten, walk, get your position, get your horse situated again, and back up to trot.

                          Do not ever compromise your position, it'll only complicate or make things worse.
                          well.....have you ever noticed the difference in how a rider looks ona trained horse as opposed to a green one? usually there is a big difference.

                          that is because until the horse is working correctly it can be very difficult to have your body/seat correct.

                          as an example: i have a pretty good seat - i get compliments on it - its pretty rock solid, good alignment etc etc. until i ride my 4 yo. then it is different - it is very difficult to sit still and connect my back to his mouth etc. once i get him working correctly then my nice seat magically returns......


                          • Original Poster

                            Thanks Pony. I've actually ridden with MW and love her visualizations.

                            mbm: I know what you mean. It seems though that those riders have developed the correct muscle memory and as soon as the horse is going correctly they are able to correct their position. This is what I'm working on. Getting the muscle memory. I can def feel when all is good vs bad so I'm at least on the right path.


                            • #15
                              Kurplexed: that's fantastic! Oh, and KPI is "key performance indicator"

                              MBM: no, I don't notice a difference when it's a good, professional rider. I do notice a difference with ammys still learning. Rider position should be the same on all horses. It is what helps the horse to be correct!
                              chaque pas est fait ensemble


                              • #16
                                well considering most of us are ammies and very few people are good pros'.. my point is valid as an example: out of all the folks i know who ride - maybe 2 are good enough that their seat doesn't change. for the rest of us? it matters.

                                and as an aside: one of the most helpful things i have ever done for my riding is to stop comparing myself to some mythical perfect rider. its ok if i am not perfect - and expecting perfection only sets one up to fail big time.

                                so to the OP: since you (and me!) are just lowly ammies expect your seat to not be as good on a green horse. and just work the horse as that is a really great way to develop a horse that can carry you correctly

                                good luck!


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by mbm View Post
                                  so to the OP: since you (and me!) are just lowly ammies expect your seat to not be as good on a green horse. and just work the horse as that is a really great way to develop a horse that can carry you correctly

                                  good luck!
                                  mbm, I'm right there with you and the OP. My seat and hands are different on my greenie than on an experience horse. My instructor has been reminding me to put more weight in my elbows during my last few lessons. What I feel is that my shoulders drop a bit when I think about putting weight in my elbows versus my hands. I get a few strides of brilliance but then I drop the contact and have to start all over again. Its a lot to think about but I know that muscle memory will take over after a while.
                                  My May boys: Beau, Neon, Criss


                                  • #18
                                    Here's my thought on it:

                                    My position is far (far FAR FAR!) from perfect. However, each "green moment" or "a-hole" moment where I allow my position to degrade I am 1) losing effectiveness and 2) teaching my horse that misbehavior gets me out of their way to allow more misbehavior.

                                    I'm certainly in the grouping of those whose position can go to hell in a handbasket in the case of blowups, but I'm working on figuring out what reactions and muscles I am using incorrectly in those situations so I can let the correct muscle use become more and more ingrained and become a more consistent, correct and effective rider.

                                    I believe we should ALL forgive ourselves our flaws. But at the same time use those flaws as indicators of what we should work on to improve, not just dismiss them.

                                    On that note, I WILL kill the stupid duck butt habit. Soon.

                                    At the same time, celebrate when you DO get it right.
                                    I was so proud of myself for not doing the instinctive hand raise/toe point here!

                                    15m later, you can see a lot of my position issues I deal with (and I don't know why I was leaning forward!), but it was effective enough to get him cantering like this again. Not perfect, but better...
                                    If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                                    • #19
                                      The suspender image is awesome. One more thing - if you are struggling to keep your elbows back, its often that you really need to keep your body forward. Post thru your elbow, forward, not up. Play around with how much easier it is to maintain correct posture when you deliberately focus on going forward. The horse is moving forward, you must, too.
                                      "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                                      • #20
                                        At a Betsy Steiner clinic she had the riders place a nerf ball underneath their armpits. If you don't keeps your elbows where they should be you loose the balls. Teaches you to keep elbows back and down.