Tips from Train­ers Who Teach

Dressage Today - - Content - By Al­li­son Brock with An­nie Mor­ris

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.

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