Tense Hands

The JLC clinic was a fairly, er, traumatizing experience for me, but everything we've done has been rooted in his methods in lessons.  I'm fine with that, since I'm making mind = blown progress lately.  I think he has a lot of good things to say, I just don't want to pay $$$ to hear him say them directly to me.


(Not that it matters since I'll be tailgating with my parents for the Breeders Cup in Lexington the next weekend JLC is at the farm!!!)

One thing I really took to heart that has made all the difference in my riding lately was the idea that if there is tension in my arms and hands, Connor can't hear my core.

One of the central precepts of JLC's theory is that both horse and rider need time to process what they're feeling and feel/fix the ways the horse is crooked, and that is best accomplished with a very slow, controlled walk on the aids. Lots of impulsion/engagement, very little speed.  That's a whole post in and of itself, I know that sounds like crazy talk, but just know that it's one of the biggest reasons for the progress Connor and I have made this year.

Slow walk, much concentration on both of our parts - you can tell by his airplane ears that he is 100% focused on me and figuring out what I'm asking for here.

I had the hardest time getting Connor to slow down, and JLC kept telling me to use my core instead of my hands to slow him down.  My core muscles were tensed as hard as possible, and he wasn't slowing down, so I was frustrated.  There's nothing worse than thinking you're doing the right thing but not getting results. Then JLC did the finger exercise with me:


to demonstrate that I could feel him (JLC) tense his back and core muscles through his finger if his forearm and hand were relaxed, but I could not feel anything if his forearm and hand were tense.

It's taken me a couple of months, but since my trainer has really started nailing me on my core lately, I notice that I generally have very tense hands, and I keep calling to mind that moment in the JLC clinic.  I'm not pulling back on the reins, but hands in fists, and the attendant tense forearms.   

With 100% correlation, if my hands are tense, Connor is completely non-responsive to my core.  If I consciously relax my hands, I can feel him "hit" my core when he tries to get too heavy, the force actually goes through my arms and to my abs, and he lightens up and slows down in relation to what I'm asking for with my core.

I am close to being able to get this on demand, and it is SO weird.  I'm not sure that it will ever stop surprising me when I feel him come on my aids.

It's fascinating, and when I was not this far along in my riding journey, it sounded like new age crazy talk, partially because nothing ever happened when I tried to use my core.  Because of my hands.  

Fascinating.

20 comments:

  1. Such an interesting concept - I don't think it sounds New-Age-Crazy at all! Our bodies are one unit, and what you do in one part has an effect on other parts, as much as we strive for 'independent' aids as riders, it's still all one body. Definitely something I'm curious to play with on my pony...

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    1. Let me know what happens when you play with it, I'm curious to find out!

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  2. So true, but so many never have the revelation you did. Sally Swift of Centered Riding used to do similar exercises in her clinics to show how the body effects response and understanding.

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    1. I love Sally Swift, would have loved to see one of her clinics. I have to settle for the books!

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  3. Great post! I get more out of blogs by people who aren't (by their own admission) natural riders writing about the step by step process of figuring out this dressage thing. Keep on giving the details!

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    1. I'm so glad! They are my favorite kind of post too.

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  4. Love this--what you're saying totally makes sense and it's so fun to watch you guys get it! (And pretend that someday, we will too.)

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    1. Thanks, you will! You could now, for sure!

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  5. hm very thought provoking! i struggle with a lot of tension everywhere bc it's hard for me to separate aids (like holding my core but simultaneously being soft elsewhere - i just want to hold everything!!). amazing to hear how well it's working for you two tho!

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    1. It's really really hard. I'm only partway there, it's tough.

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  6. My first two lessons with my trainer were at a walk and trot so slow I thought for sure we were doing something wrong, but it has mage such a HUGE difference to slow everything down so that Bobby and I can both concentrate on every single aid. Mind blown for sure.

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    1. Yes! I have been sitting on that post for a while because I know people are going to be like "He's not forward enough," but it's not that at all. It helps so much.

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  7. Science! I'm really guilty of tense riding too, which is a hard but rewarding habit to break.

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    1. Definitely. Some things have to be tense to stay with the horse, others are totally detrimental if they're tense.

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    1. I'm glad you found it useful! I'll be that guy on the interwebs, the blogger who spends hours breaking down biomechanics from a single AA point of view. Sometimes it's useful. Ha!

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  9. You are tailgating at the Breeder's Cup?!?! I am SO JEALOUS. That is going to be one wild weekend! (I think the Cats are also playing that same day ...)

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    1. Yeah, I'm fuzzy on specifics but there's this thing, I think at Calumet, where they're opening up a pasture for vehicles and it's $50/car, and there's food trucks and jumbotrons and stuff. It's going to be awesome!

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  10. You and I must be channeling each other. I finally realized (after trainer rode Paddy) that she could use light amounts of core (instead of dialing it up to 11 like I was) because her hands were relaxed. Now, I just have to focus on making that happen like all the time...

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  11. This is a SUPER interesting concept and totally makes sense now that i think about it (but I never thought about it before!) Now I totally want to try this with someone...I don't think the stranger sitting next to me on the train right now would be vet appreciative if I poked him and was like "Can you feel me using my core?!?!?!" So I will have to wait until later to try it lol.

    Also wicked jealous of breeders cup tailgating!!! That sounds amazing!!!

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