Tuesday 20 September 2011

Riding Is Harder Than It Looks

I was going to do a post just about my training but quite a bit has been going on so I’ll be talking about some of that too, I haven’t got any photos that are really relevant so the photos are all old because it’s always raining and the camera isn’t fully water proof.

My riding instructor is coming to ride Niko again and will be teaching me a bit afterwards. In between my lessons I have obviously been doing lots of riding and I hate to say it but I am just getting frustrated, I have read it, I have been told it, I have watched it, and yet I cannot do it! I am completely useless with my reins I am not sure what the contact should feel like and I can’t get my hands to stay still even when I try to use my elbows as shock absorbers I can’t seem to get it right, I’ll have to talk to my instructor about the contact and see if they can help. In the mean time if any of you have advice or things you found worked for you please do tell.

We’ve been doing some work with Pip, now he can be quite stubborn but he was really good today, we’ve just been working on basic stuff for now but I was still happy with him. Also I have been riding Madeline again that didn’t go so well as it had been raining but was drying out, I asked for a trot and a few seconds afterwards we went thought some shade from the trees and it hadn’t dried up there, next thing we are both on the ground covered in mud luckily Madeline was fine, and we got back to it and finished the ride with no more mishaps.

Also Tipper was quite odd today, he was mooching about lying down in different places trying to get comfy, this is odd because normally when he tries to go down, be it for a roll or for rest, his legs tremble and sometimes he has to stop before he can lay down, but today he was seemingly fine and in the end went to sleep in the straw after a while snoozing he got up still fine and went back to eating straw, so I think he must be feeling pretty good or at least I hope he is.

Anyway I’ll try to get some new photos soon, and maybe I’ll manage to get this whole contact and still hands thing sorted.


Anonymous said...

Don't be too hard on yourself - we're all on the road with you. Keeping your hands still is very hard - you may want to have someone video you (so long as you don't take it too hard if things aren't perfect, which they won't be). To get the feel of keeping your hands still - doesn't work at the walk but will at the trot - put your hands in one spot on the neck and keep them there, or on the front of the saddle or hook your thumbs through a strap that is across the front of the saddle between the D rings. Those aren't where you will want your hands in term of position, but it may give you a feel for keeping them still. And then also do some of the exercises without a horse that are on my blog's sidebar regarding softness - it takes another person and can be pretty illuminating.

Good eyes on the ground will really make a difference - it takes some relaxation and also a stable seat and legs to really get there, but you will, so don't be too frustrated.

allhorsestuff said...

Kate has all really some good and also excellent points..all of them about not being too hard on oneself, we are all in degrees of doing things correctly... Your trainer will focus you and if you have problems...just stick to it till you and he come to that wonderful sounding development of praise," that's it, feel that". You will no sooner get it with your contact, then your leg will need and then your core...and its all good Ed, cause they are all totally related!

Sometime having the instructor hold the reins and have contact with them, then increase /decrease pounds of pressure,still while they hold the reins.

Also, my sister taught me to consider the reins an extension to the horses delicate lips. Your are holding their lips, and that is communication. She taught me,The horses own your hand to elbow...so, that said, as you see photos if yourself riding( highly recommended) you should be able to take a pencil straight from the bit-through your hand-up your arm, to elbow...straight line. If you are pulling down, I'll show, if up to high in false balance, it'll show. One should be able to point with your pointer finger, as you hold the reins, right to the contact point, the mouth.

Ya know, Kate said something I've always wanted to try...if you have a "grab strap"attached to your saddle's D rings, you could use a small piece of hay rope(maybe 4 inches) to hold as you rode. Not only would it make one have Shoer enough reins, but probably would help one keep hands level.

I had a lesson too yesterday!! On my sisters mare. Not an easy ride. The mare would like to canter over trotting...so then my lesson takes a turn with that, , literally, into a tight 10 meter circle I go ,inside hip forward, torso on the circle, hands level...man...all I want to do is TROT HORSE!

BUT-last year it was my leg, it was not under me. Now it is so...the more you ride, the more ways you evolve into the horseman you should be. Again, please don't be hard on yourself...leave that for the instructor! And, if you are like me, I love every last correction!
Proud of you for taking lessons dude!

RDA Pony Tales said...

I remember you saying you were 17 Edward, but don't think you mentioned how long you have been riding. I was very young when I started riding and was taken out on a lead rein so did not need to use my reins much. When I was a bit older and had lessons, I remember being asked to put a knot in the reins and leave them on the horses neck, then ride using legs only. I got so used to this that I was happy to take the horses down to the field riding bareback with just the rope on the headcollar and holding the mane. I never owned my own horse, and I ended up riding so many different ones that it took some time to get my riding position just how I wanted it. Then one day it just clicked. You will know it is right.. at one with the horse. It will happen Edward, enjoy your horses and your lessons and don't worry. I would rather you talk to your instructor about your frustrations than me tell you what I think. Although the basics are the same, every instructor has their own way of teaching methods. Go on a few hacks in between lessons, have some fun and most of all, STOP beating yourself up about your hands! Abby

RDA Pony Tales said...

Oh, forgot to say, glad you and Madeline were ok. And Tipper seems to be enjoying life with straw :)
And thanks for your kind comments on my post, glad you liked the display's... I think you may like my next post more! Abby

allhorsestuff said...

Came back to say...I adore these random, beautiful photos today too!

Sherri B. said...

Well you know I don't have any knowledge about your riding, but I can tell you that all things that I have tried to learn have been very frustrating for me for awhile and I always tell myself "you'll never get this" and then one day it all just 'clicks'. I know it will for you too even if you can't believe it right now, just keep chasing after it!...You can do it Edward!!

Sand. said...

Hey Edward, when you figure out still hands, you'll need to let a lot of us know! I *still* ride with chicken wings somedays! : ) Okay, most days! Riding is one of those things that you'd go nuts if you seek perfectionism. Do your best, and you'll be surprised by how well you're doing. As I've often been told, you always feel like you look way worse then you are! : ) Enjoy the ride!

juliette said...

Good hands take time. You will get it. Everyone has good advice above.

Keep everything soft, even while you are learning. Your hands, fingers, arms don't have to be static. They should be gentle and light. They may look static for a straight line and perfect form, but keep your mind aware that they are connected to your horse's mouth. I think of that connection as a give and take - mostly give and gentle take. Hardly any take. It is all very fluid even though it seems like you are keeping them still.

You may be bending your arms and holding them "still" in a line from elbow to bit, but in reality, it is soft and your hands actually move forward and back with the horse's motion. It is like you are dancing with your horse. You have to move with him so as not to hit him in the mouth.

It takes time and practice. You'll get it!

Anonymous said...

Don't be too hard on yourself, just go with it and don't try to force it and and it will come. These things take lots of time and practice and just when you think you are getting nowhere and will never get it all of a sudden it will happen and you will know. You have some wonderful advice from everyone, try all the different things and see what works for you. Good luck. Hannah. P.S. Thanks for your nice comment on my cushions :)

Margaret said...

Your horses are beautiful! I can only think to say is keep it fun and enjoyable. It will come, but maybe not as soon as you would like... you know the story of the little red engine that could! Just keep trying, keep practicing and also break away from the ring and practice a bit on a trail. (no eyes to see you and you will be more relaxed... that is what I did the other day).

Since I am newly back in the saddle, I don't have much advice to give, other than, negativity can be your worst enemy. (can you tell I'm a mom? :)

...keep chuggin' away!

AC Quigley said...

You are right - but that's the joy of riding: always something nre to learn and always something learnt to improve! Relax and enjoy it and you'll see how, little by little, things start to improve. It's a long journey but so worth it!

Robin said...

I agree with everyone here. A lot of the refinement that comes with riding will come in time. The general wisdom is it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to "master" any skill. I've only put in about 70 hours of riding this year, and though I've been at it for 20 years I know I still have an awful long way to go.

Of course you can be pretty good at something long before you master it. As far as the noisy hands go, some other people have already offered good advice. I'd add the idea that the key to riding with quiet hands is in your hips. If you can soften up and separate your torso from your legs by letting your hips act as a hinge, your lower body will go with the horse and your upper body will stay still. Just another thing to think about while you're accumulating your 10,000 hours. :)

Michelle said...


I am so sorry to hear that you are frustrated. I have never rode english before, just western, but I do remember being frustrated a lot of the time. I could never get my leg contacts right at the right time and my reigns always were ending up uneven.

I wish I could give you some sound advice on your riding, but I can't. All I can do is tell you what a great friend you are to all your horses and that in time, things will come together. Don't give up. We all believe in you and support you in every way.

Hang in there Edward and you will succeed!

Anonymous said...

Hi Edward,

You've already got lots and lots of good advice here, I just want to add that getting quiet hands is all about not bracing against the horse. Your seatbones should always move with the horse, so in walk, you "walk" your seatbones along with the horses motion, same in sitting trot. That way your pelvis absorbs your horses motion and that will give you a quiet upperbody. Then make sure you keep your shoulders relaxed and your hands will follow. Good luck!

Grey Horse Matters said...

Your horses are beautiful. I try to refrain from giving training advice on the internet because it's just to hard to try and correct something you can't see on a video. Just try and relax and don't think too hard about it. The steadiness will come in time with practice and experience. Have fun.

Val said...

Thank you for joining my blog, Edward!

Unfortunately, "trying too hard" is counter productive in riding as it usually results in lots of muscle tension. You will probably improve when you start to "give up a little", as your muscles will finally let go. The shoulders are where many riders, including myself, hold a lot of tension. Best wishes!

allhorsestuff said...

I'm backkk...as if I wasn't wordy enough!! Well, as I've taken lessons too lately, and then gone to practice...been thinking of ya.
I've had some neat success!!.

So all that to say, really hope you're well and having fun ad you ride..small changes lead to big ones.
I'll post my cool technique I tried.
Be well friend!

RDA Pony Tales said...

Hello Edward
Hope you are ok? You mentioned on your last post that you had not been so well, so hope you are not under the weather. I also came back to say that my friend gave me a copy of 'Your Horse' magazine. Instructor Richard Davison has written a great tip on achieving 'even hands'. He writes:- "Try riding while holding a short whip underneath both your thumbs as you ride. This puts your hands in the perfect position and will help you train them to stay there with no wandering up or down or side to side. It will feel really weird for a while but persevere as the results are worth it".
I thought this was an excellent idea and worth a try :) Abby

Daisy said...

What wonderful pictures! I'm sorry you're frustrated Edward - I hope it works out for you soon. All I know is that for myself, if I begin to try too hard on some aspect that's escaping me - it's best if I just put it down for awhile and relax. Then come back to it again later. Take care!

Wolfie said...

Hi Edward! Thanks for following my blog! I look forward to reading about your adventures. :-)

Achieve1dream said...

I unfortunately don't have time to read the comments so this has probably already been mentioned, but in case it hasn't I will.

For me what helped me with contact was using a bucking strap. The little piece of leather that attached to the rings on the front of a dressage saddle. I think she had me hook my little fingers through it so that I could push my hands forward (I was bad about pulling back) and keep them steadier. Good luck!

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