I have always felt very thankful that I learned dressage the right way: a month on the longeline, no reins, no stirrups (posting!), and yet another month just working on my hands, and the rest was putting two and two together and then the rest of the rest was history.
My first dressage instructor had some wonderful hand analogies for me to use. I had learned to ride western, particularly barrel racing, so neck-reining and horn-grabbing was something I was already quite comfortable with. Now I had no horn and I had to use two hands and thank goodness I was not EVER allowed to use the reins for support, because that's my leg and seat's job. The fact that it had been almost four years and three of those years being on-the-ground rehab and rescue work since I had formally rode a horse didn't help much as far as exclusively riding goes, excluding the fact that I learned a lot about horse care and ground training (bareback with a halter and leadrope in the pasture is riding, yes, but not formally, considering the horse was, well, grazing....)
So as you can imagine, my hands were rusty. My poor instructor was going to need a great deal of WD40. Thankfully, I caught on quickly with these wonderful analogies. I still use them!
The Bird Analogy
I'm sure a lot of y'all have heard this one. I even saw it in a book (Centered Riding, by Sally Swift and it had a wonderful illustration!). Basically, one must pretend that you are holding two baby birds in your hands (the reins). Hold them too tight, and you'll crush them. Hold then too loose and they'll fly away. Hold them too close together and you'll bonk their heads together. Hold them too far apart and they'll call obnoxiously for each other. If you can't quite imagine baby birds, think puppies or kittens or mice or anything that you would want to hold carefully, like your horse's mouth.
The Stereo Analogy
Imagine your connection to the reins like sound coming through a stereo. Keep the connection too soft and it's like very quiet music, you can't hear it, and when you ask for something and suddenly pick up contact, then it's like a pair of cymbals suddenly banging together, it's startling! But keep your connection like a death-grip on the reins, then it's like death metal music blaring trough the speakers: it's there, but it's so there and incessant and unintelligible that it doesn't help any!
A good connection is like a symphony: harmonious, just the right amount of sound, and if it needs to become louder then it's gradual and gentle, and if it needs to become softer then it's also gradual and gentle, rather than just throwing the reins away (then there's no sound again). Everything is precise and accurate and symphonic and it's appealing to the ear (AKA your horse's mouth.)
Of course there are those emergency situations where you NEED a death grip on the mouth, but that's regardless....
More Greta glam this weekend... I've just been wanting to share these because they help me a LOT! Happy Labor Day weekend and I hope everyone in Hurricane Earl zone is only a little wet and nothing worse! And for everyone in Central Texas, ENJOY this rainy and COOL weather, we NEED it!