Tag Archives: rewarding a horse

Great Seat, Terrific Legs & Soft Hands …

seat

You may have a great seat, terrific legs and soft hands but does the one who really matters think so … your horse?

Stop for a minute and think about what you are doing with your hands.  The reins are an extension of your arms, the bit runs through the horse’s MOUTH! From the moment you pick up the reins you become responsible for being kind and consistent with your hands.  Be aware of the power that your hands have over the horse’s mouth, and be conscious to avoid being harsh.  Ensure your hands are closed in a soft but firm fist to avoid unnecessary communications.

The irony is that if you have to think too much about what to do with your hands they can be reactive and behind the motion. Developing non-thinking hands that instinctively do what they need to do will take a lot of effort, but it is really, really worth it.  Almost everyone, will have difficulty with how to use their hands at some point.

Learning to give in a way that is valuable to your riding is a real skill. Done correctly an onlooker would never be able to see you give.  However, they would clearly see the horse’s reaction to the give as he becomes rounder and softer and strides out.

All too often riders think that a give is a ‘throw away’ of the rein contact.  It is not, it is a softening of the hand.  Known as the ‘Descente de main’ in classical riding, the give is essentially to stop actively using the hand.

“Descente de main: the rider opens his fingers and the horse has to maintain the same gait, the same posture, and the same cadence.”  N.Oliveira (1998, 30).

Consider also whether your hands are ‘tuned-in’ to the rest of your body.  You are asking to extend, collect, turn – are your hands working in conjunction with the rest of your body and offering him a truly connected question and response?

Addressing the issues …

  • HandsIt is not just about the hands, it is the action of the arms that allow the hands to be ‘good’.
  • Thumbs should be on top to keep the wrists straight. Notice on the picture how straight wrists means hands that are angled towards each other and give the appearance of being slightly rounded, because the back of the hand is on the same straight line as the arm.
  • As humans we depend greatly on our hands.  Our arms and hands are our first line of defence for balancing ourselves in everyday life.  Instinct can take over and force you to use your hands for balance.
  • Often using your arms and hands to fix a problem or to accomplish your goal is so instinctive that you don’t even realise that this is the very thing that is the cause of the problem.  Instinct is very powerful, as is habit – the combination of instinct and habit will result in the over-use of the hands.  You need to make the habit a good one … INSTALL A NEW HABIT
  • Sometimes it is the overly aggressive use of the reins that is the problem and once a rider understands that they cannot force a horse to do something with excessive rein aids the problem is halfway solved.
  • Hanging onto the reins for balance is not entirely the fault of the hands.  The hands only come into play as other balance mechanisms fail.  The problem is elsewhere. You will not be able to develop good hands if you are still having problems elsewhere.
    • If you are having issues with heels coming up and ankles being tense, you will also be having problems with your hands.
    • If your lower back is stiff and unable to flex the movement has to come out somewhere, usually the hands.
    • If your shoulders are rigid, guess what … problems with hands.

handsAnd just as an aside, good riding gloves allow for a subtler, finer grip on the reins.

Unfortunately, I am unable give you any useful exercises to help you with your hands.  What you need to do is look at the overall picture, find the ‘root cause’ of the problem and address it.  You as a rider will never be able to develop good hands if you are unable to support them with a great seat and terrific legs and be in complete harmony with the horse, which in turns leaves the hands completely independent.

Try not to be frustrated if your hands have a mind of their own!  Quite often it is a mental problem, you may not even realise that you have set your hands and arms, simply making a conscious effort to soften the arms and keep the joints supple and flexible can correct this.

The goal is to maintain a smooth, elastic and quiet communication regardless of what your horse is doing.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

help@likecrystal.com

V – IS FOR VARIATION

VariationWhat is variation ?

It is “a change or slight difference in condition, amount, or level, typically within certain limits.”

Everyone knows that there are 3 recognised gaits in dressage – walk, trot and canter.  But we also have variations within these gaits – medium, free, collected and extended walk; working, medium, collected and extended trot and canter.

It is the phrase ‘within certain limits‘ that you must hold in your mind when training variations within the gaits.  You need a holistic approach to teaching your horse variations because, whilst the lengthening and shortening of your horses steps is important, this element (the length of the steps) is only important in relation to the overall outline or frame; elevation of the steps; raising of the forehand and neck and lowering of the croup.

All these elements are thoroughly interconnected and should be considered as the ‘certain limits‘ you must set yourself.  So, you would not set out to simply lengthen the stride when beginning in with the working to medium trot, you would set out to lengthen the frame, encourage more power from behind, raise the forehand and so on.  This is an important point for you to get into your head, because too many people send the front legs flicking out without engagement of the hind quarters and the way you approach the training will set you up for success.

Developing your horses ability to vary the gaits relies on your ability to do your transitions well and this in turn relies on your ability to recognise the absolute purity of the footfall within each gait, consistent tempo and regularity of the rhythm at all times – especailly throughout the transition.

Trot on

Products showing the ‘Trot On’ image can be purchased at …Zazzle/Kelli Swan

Here’s what to do …

Continue reading V – IS FOR VARIATION

Coveting the Red Rosette by Creative Equine

wpe2cce869_06My dear Dressage fans, today I have a treat for you!

Trudi Dempsey of Creative Equine Training has created this guest blog specially for The Crystal System.  It’s a topic that quite simply I have not considered before …. read on

COMPETITION

The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others

When Patricia kindly invited me to guest blog she mentioned that it would be good to pick a subject that engendered lively debate! To be honest I’m not really someone who goes out of their way to stir things. I’ve signed petitions protesting about rollkur, against the appalling conditions that horses endure when travelling to slaughter across Europe, the right to compete in bitless bridles etc and I’ve written of the sadness I feel when seeing lost souls hauling the front end in with draw reins and other dreadful devices but these topics are hardly likely to engender any form of debate at The Crystal System let alone lively debate! They are a done deal, we all agree, yay! So what to spout about, what can I whip up any kind of frenzy about? As always when blogging the subject has been knocking about in the depths of my consciousness for some time but I’ve been pushing it deeper to avoid jumping off my comfy fence!

Continue reading Coveting the Red Rosette by Creative Equine

TO PAT OR NOT TO PAT – YOU DECIDE

I was reading a study the other day by ISES (International Society for Equitation Science) in which Dr Andrew McLean and Professor Paul McGreevy suggest that “Patting – rather than stroking – may not be the positive reinforcer we think it is”.

In this report McGreevy cited unpublished data that shows that 2/3 (two thirds) of horses at the 2012 Olympics accelerated on being patted, whereas horses stroked on the wither displayed more ‘affiliative behaviour’ Power(friendlier for those of us who don’t speak equitation science).

This theory is not new and was bought to my attention many years ago.  It is suggested that giving a little rub on the wither will help lower a horses heart-rate and settle them better than a pat.

For me the issue is not should we pat or should we not pat – it is how the pat is delivered that is the key. A hearty loud slap on the neck may not mean much to a horse and for me a quiet, delicate touch that sends a gentle sensation through the horse creates a much more pleasant sensation and as with everything in dressage, when you are pleased with your horse and you want to reward him – less is more!

patMy personal view is that I’m not sure how necessary it is to make a scientific study of the subject.  Most equestrians know when their horse reacts positively to the delivery of their reward (be it a gentle pat or a scratch) whether the delivery is right or not and given that horses learn through repetition the hearty slap might not feel the best but if this is what you do when you have just finished the jump off and you have gone clear, it will be associated with pleasing circumstances and a happy rider.  Surely this will therefore reinforce the positive outcome.

pat

Bit like the ‘Pile On Celebration’ in team sports.

Can’t imagine for a minute that it feels good physically but it sure does feel good emotionally!

  • Any thoughts? What do you think about the patting principal?
  • Given that most scientific studies throw up more questions than answers. What do you think about science in equestrianism?
  • Is this type of study helpful? Necessary?

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

help@likecrystal.com

 

 

 

 

REWARD WITH A PAT?

A hearty loud slap on the neck doesn’t mean much to a horse.  A quiet, delicate touch that sends a gentle sensation through the horse creates a much more pleasant sensation.

As with everything in dressage, when you are pleased with your horse and you want to reward him – less is more!

And … any reward must be immediate.  It is said that a horse has a shorter memory than a dog-which might be three seconds. In my experience they have selective memory!!!

1 PAT

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

help@likecrystal.com