Tips from Trainers Who Teach
shares Allison how riding with soft Brock arms promotes better connection
We have all heard that you should ride the horse from back to front. How does the position of your arms allow this to happen? When you are riding, all your joints should be supple and movable. The bend in the elbow allows elasticity forward and backward to follow the horse’s mouth every step. In the walk and canter, the horse biomechanically has to move the neck forward and back. Creating this elastic connection means you’re not holding the horse on the bit—pulling his head down and holding it there. You are riding him out to the bit and on the bit.
Many people unintentionally ride with a straight or rigid arm. This causes a braced and backward contact with the horse’s mouth because the arm can’t follow the horse’s head and neck. If the rider’s arm is rigid with a straight elbow, all the weight of the contact is in the rider’s hands and forearms, and the horse can’t properly respond to the rein aids. With a straight arm or a stiff arm, you lose the ability to separate the rein aids from the seat and leg aids because the stiffness connects the arm and the body. This stiff connection to the mouth causes the horse to not move the neck freely forward and back and therefore, he can’t yield in the neck, poll and jaw.
Correct Contact & Connection
The ideal contact has a comfortable weight in the hands. It should feel like when you hold someone’s hand. They’re not gripping you to death or jerking you. They’re just holding you and leading you as you walk down the street. You feel they are gently there, but they’re not disturbing you.
The exact weight you should have in the hand varies from horse to horse. Some horses don’t want to take the contact, so you must encourage them to move into the connection. On the other hand, some horses are heavy and you may need to be more elastic so they have nothing to lean on. The contact may also change depending on what phase of the training session you’re in.
To find the connection, the horse must accept your rein, seat and leg aids. Use your calves to lift his back up. You should feel his withers rise and his neck drop in a relaxed manner. The horse should be on the vertical as he reaches for the bit. Ideally, you create a wheel of energy that gets pushed through from the hind end, over the back and to the bit. The energy travels around the wheel to be recycled again, so you feel that you close the leg and push the horse into the hand until you have a positive contact, which is enough weight to gently pull your arm forward but not enough to pull you out of the saddle.
Following, Flexion & Half Halts
Keep your hands in front of you and make a work space in front of the
Allison Brock demonstrates keeping her hands in a work space in front of her so she can move elastically and follow the horse’s mouth with bent arms.