Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Left Hand

I rode tonight with the reins in my left hand, for our entire ride.

When I told J, she asked me how it went. I told her she knows my left hand is stupid.

The other thing I did was try not to be afraid of contact. I am. I'm afraid that if I use too much contact my horse will end up like Seabisquit. So, what happens is I am inconsistent (this is not helped by the fact that my left hand is stupid), and then when the contact happens it jams Ashke in the mouth and he throws his head up in the air. Poor baby. I'm a moron.

Today, I rode in the Myler with the shank. I focused on keeping a steady pressure between the bit and my hand, and asking him for some roundness. We worked on impulsion at the trot. And some on the canter, although by the time we got to the canter he was pretty tired and was struggling to find roundness. He was very good at the walk and trot though and seems to be figuring out what I am asking him to do.

We went over to the WE course and he went sideways over the pole with very little encouragement. In both directions. Then we did the jug. The biggest issue there was to stand square and wait, instead of swinging our hiney out away from the barrel. Every time he swung his butt out, I put him into a sharp trot in a small circle and then came back to the barrel. I had to do that twice and them he figured out to just stand still. I shook the water, poured it out onto the ground and even poured some over his shoulder and he just stood there. I picked up the garouche pole and carried it around at a trot. No biggie. We also worked on the clover leaf, but he wasn't as bendy to the right as I would have liked. He did better on the two barrel pattern, mostly because it isn't as tight.

Over all, the ride was good and I think we both learned some things. I need to find a series of exercises to force my left hand to do so it isn't as stupid as it is. I can't even scratch my ass with that hand.


  1. I'm trying to figure out if I missed something...does WE require that you hold the reins in your left hand? Why can't you use your right? Or is it because you need your right hand available for managing the different obstacles?

    And this is the video I was telling you about the other day, with the guy that does doma vaquera training one-handed:

    1. WE, in Europe, is ridden with the left hand only. And at an International level, although some countries are allowing two hands on the reins at the lower level. The judge marked my sheet that I should be riding with the left hand only (except to adjust the reins, if needed) and handling all the obstacles with my right. At the highest level, the rider is not allowed to touch the reins with the right hand, even for an adjustment. Since I am riding him in a curb bit (albeit a Myler flexible curb) I should be riding with one hand.

      Last night he did really well. When I ride with one hand I am asking for roundness, not for him to drop his head to the lower part of his chest, and for responsiveness to the bit. I have to be more firm in my contact, but overall, he is much more responsive to the request and I don't leave the arena feeling like I've been fighting him to get his head down and lift with his back. Sometimes, when he has his head low, it feels like he is really on the forehand. At least when I am riding now, it feels like he is better balanced and using his haunches.

    2. Interesting about the left hand. I knew that at the more advanced WE levels you should handle the reins with one hand but for some reason had not realized it was specifically the left. Always learning something new. :)

      I'm glad he's improving! And yes, when they are asked to curl with their heads low, it really does place them on the forehand. Low, deep and round is a horrible trend in dressage that enhances flashy movements during extensions but it is so very incorrect. Big warmbloods can still appear to be moving uphill with this type of frame but most horses can't pull that off; it just works them incorrectly. I wish judges would stop rewarding this kind of frame; modern dressage trainers would stop teaching it. In classical/baroque dressage they teach you to allow the horse to periodically stretch down (nose towards the ground, not the chest) while still keeping the withers up and pushing from behind. In this manner they work correctly and stretch their entire topline nicely, developing a stronger back for collection later on.

  2. The left hand is pretty standard for Western style riding--you do get used to it. Might want to look up some physical therapy exercises to increase strength and feeling in your hand. Maybe even some of the exercises they use to help people come back from strokes?
    The other thing I wanted to mention is that often Western riders use weighted reins. The weight of the reins forms a consistent contact with the bit, even with the reins hanging a bit slack, and the horse can feel when you move your hand because it changes the way the weight hangs. But it might also help you get a feel without tugging on his mouth? Perhaps you could work with weighted reins attached to a chair or something. (unless there are specific WE rules regarding reins?)

  3. Interesting that you have to ride with your left hand. That would be hard for me as well!

  4. I can see why you need to ride with one hand so you have one free for the exercises, but that would be very hard for me. I have never ridden Western, and it would be hard to teach this old dog a new trick. My hat's off to you.

  5. Eeek! I have no tips because my left hand is stupid too. In fact I like Heather's suggestion about looking up exercises for people coming back from a stroke. My whole left side is weaker than my right so I need to do that. :) Good luck!!!