Teaching what to do in a walk with your hands
Hey Dressage Superstars! Today, I am going to answer the question, “What do you do with your hands in walk, and how do you keep them still and by your side in the proper position?”
The horse’s head moves, therefore the hands must move. But how the hands should move is because, as you said, you’re going with the horse, you’re feeling the horse, and your hands will, of their own accord, move how they have to because the horse’s head is moving.
So, people need to understand, when you’re talking about contact and when you’re talking about your hand, you’re talking about your back, your shoulder, your tricep, your bicep, your elbow, your wrist, and your hand, and it’s all connected. If I tighten my bicep, my hand moves a centimeter.
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Natasha Althoff: So, how are you doing, Anu?
Anu: Not too bad.
Natasha Althoff: All right, so what do you think you should do with your hands in the walk? You tell me.
Anu: I guess I should move the bit.
Natasha Althoff: Yeah, why should we move the bit?
Anu: So the horse would get the contact?
Natasha Althoff: Yes. What else do we need to think about with our hands in the walk?
Anu: I guess you’d use them… part of the steering, where you go?
Natasha Althoff: Yeah, good point. Let’s have some steering, I like it. Anything else?
Anu: No, that’s it.
Natasha Althoff: Okay, then just keep your reins really soft, put them up his neck. Tell me, when he walks, does his head move?
Natasha Althoff: Okay, so if his head moves when he walks, does that mean our hands have to move when he walks?
Natasha Althoff: How the hell do we figure out how much or how little or how to move our hands, if the horse’s head moves and we’ve got to move our hands in accordance with the horse’s head?
Anu: Well, we are trying to keep the contact the same all the time.
Natasha Althoff: How do we do that?
Anu: We just go with the horse.
Natasha Althoff: Very good. Okay, I’m an alien from outer space. How do I go with the horse? What is that?
Anu: Well, you kind of move your hands the same than the horse move his head.
Natasha Althoff: Yes. Do you consciously move your hands?
Natasha Althoff: Great, so it’s not conscious. What is it then? Could it ever be done? “Oh, okay. I’ve measured it,” so as he’s walking, I come up with my ruler.” Keep walking, and I go, “Okay, two centimeters. Two centimeters. And what’s the rhythm of his head moving? Okay, and two centimeters, two centimeters, two centimeters, two centimeters, two centimeters, two centimeters.” Would that work?
Natasha Althoff: Okay, so what should we do instead?
Anu: Trust the feeling?
Natasha Althoff: Love it! Love it, love it, love it. How do I feel it? Where do I feel it? What part of my body would I feel, what to do?
Anu: I don’t know. I think it just [inaudible 00:02:36]. I’ve never seen anybody who would just keep their hands totally still.
Natasha Althoff: So, no, they can’t be still. The horse’s head moves, therefore the hands must move. But how the hands should move is because, as you said, you’re going with the horse, you’re feeling the horse, and your hands will, of their own accord, move how they have to because the horse’s head is moving. But where do you feel that?
Anu: In my hands.
Natasha Althoff: Thank you! Because I did ask you, “Where do you feel that?” And “I don’t know.”
Anu: I don’t know.
Natasha Althoff: Where do you think might be a useful spot to feel that? Yeah! So, for our hands to feel, do you think our hands should be tight, like you’re trying to squash something?
Natasha Althoff: Or do you think they should be really loose and fluffy and like spirit fingers?
Anu: Not that either.
Natasha Althoff: Not that either, very good! So, somewhere in between that?
Natasha Althoff: Okay. What about our wrists? Should they be fixed or should they be loose?
Natasha Althoff: Our wrists.
Anu: I don’t know, they don’t move that much.
Natasha Althoff: Yeah, but should they be fixed? So, you know, if you tense that bit, it doesn’t move, it locks. Should I lock my wrist or should I have it soft?
Anu: I think not… I think have it soft.
Natasha Althoff: Thank you, very good. You’re just 10 and 10, you’re getting all these stars. Yes, and that’s the biggest thing. So, just halt for a second. Can you see my wrist?
Natasha Althoff: Even if you want to put your hand on my wrist. Yeah, put your hand on my wrist. Yeah, so that’s a soft wrist.
Natasha Althoff: This is a hard wrist. Did you feel that?
Natasha Althoff: And when it’s hard, do you think I can feel anything in here?
Anu: No, you’ll just be-
Natasha Althoff: Yeah.
Natasha Althoff: Now, that’s totally floppy.
Anu: No, yeah, that’s not good either.
Natasha Althoff: So again, we need to have tension, but not that lock.
Natasha Althoff: Yep, so if you’ve got a soft wrist and a soft hand, what about our elbow?
Anu: They move too.
Natasha Althoff: How, when, what? Sorry, yes, they do move. So, what should we do with them?
Natasha Althoff: We’ll get back to the training in a second. I just wanted to remind you, if you’re loving this video, make sure to subscribe and leave me a comment on how this video has helped and your biggest learning so far.
Natasha Althoff: Again, it’s that tension of… The elbows need to be by our side. Do we put them out here?
Natasha Althoff: So, we need to have them by our side, but if we push them here, is that going to be any good?
Natasha Althoff: No. So, somewhere in between there. What about our biceps and our triceps?
Anu: They are still moving?
Natasha Althoff: Yep. Are they engaged slightly?
Natasha Althoff: Yes because they’re holding our hand up, so they’re engaged slightly, but they’re not Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’m about to drop it out.” What about your shoulders and your back?
Anu: Everything is moving.
Natasha Althoff: Yes, but there’s got to be a tension in all of it.
Natasha Althoff: And you’ve got to understand, so look at me. If I move my shoulder from here to here, what just happened to my hand?
Anu: It goes back?
Natasha Althoff: Yeah. So, people need to understand, when you’re talking about contact and when you’re talking about your hand, you’re talking about your back, your shoulder, your tricep, your bicep, your elbow, your wrist, and your hand, and it’s all connected. If I tighten my bicep, my hand moves a centimeter. It’s the horses mouth. If your hand moves a centimeter, the horse will feel that, so you have to be very, very clear on what you’re doing. But what if I go shoulders back, but put my hands out? So, that’s when riding dressage becomes really finesse… I don’t have a word. Finesse-able? I’ve invented a word. Don’t worry, you don’t… English is Anu’s second language. She’s like, “Aw, I didn’t learn finesse-able.” Don’t worry, I just made it up. But yeah, so the fact is, if you want to do this, but you might carry your hands out more in front. And the point of dressage is almost, if you’ve got the horse connected, you ride the hind leg and you push your hand out and the horse goes… and toes you and takes you for a beautiful ride. That’s the ultimate. I love your face.
Anu: Yeah, that’s a beautiful picture.
Natasha Althoff: Yeah, that’s great, and how would we create that? Well, we start with walk and we start with our hands. So, what I want you to do, Anu, is have your outside rein and your inside rein, and I want you to really think about what can you feel in your wrists and what can you feel in your fingers and [inaudible 00:07:02] fingers? Because obviously you want him a little bit deeper and a little bit rounder. Yep. But make sure that you don’t pull back. Yep, play with your outside rein. Good. Now, are your hands even?
Natasha Althoff: How are they not even?
Anu: Well first, I was doing more with my inside rein, but then I was doing more with my outside rein.
Natasha Althoff: Yep, so what if you did them both at the same amount?
Anu: I would go straight.
Natasha Althoff: Yeah, so do that and just make sure that your inside rein… if you actually look at the length, it’s better now, but it was a little bit… your hands were a little bit like this.
Natasha Althoff: So, you want to have them both at the same spot. Beautiful. Now, if you were holding champagne glasses, would you have champagne in your glass?
Natasha Althoff: Look down at your hands.
Anu: If I was holding now…
Natasha Althoff: Yeah, that’s my champagne. I don’t even like champagne, but your hands have to be like you’re holding glasses. So, a lot of people… For years, I have rubbed off the leather on my old saddle because I used to ride like this and have horrible bumps on my, what’s it called, pinky fingers because I would just rub days and days and days on the saddle because I would hold my hands like this and I’d have a very fixed wrist, and to bend the wrist seemed impossible for me.
Natasha Althoff: So, for most riders, bending at the wrist and holding that champagne up is challenging, so that’s why you’ve constantly got to think, especially in the walk, because the walk’s the easiest gate, “Okay, how can I have my champagne hands like that?” Yeah, good. Good, this looks much better. How do you feel?
Anu: Not too bad.
Natasha Althoff: All right, just watch your champagne on the inside rein, yeah, yeah, yeah. So, you feel, when you go, “Ooh, I want to make him rounder,” what do you want to do with your hands if you want to make him rounder?
Anu: It’s a slight… Squeeze my fingers a bit?
Natasha Althoff: Yeah, but what do you feel, unconsciously, you want to do? Do you feel your hand want to do this?
Anu: I don’t know. Maybe. Probably, yeah.
Natasha Althoff: Yeah, that’s normal. And so, if you keep doing that, sure, you’ll get the horse on the bit. If you’ve got to go out and do a dressage test tomorrow, do that, but you will never get to the ultimate connection and the ultimate dressage thing that you want to do. So, I put my hands where I know they’re meant to be, and I go, “I can’t do anything, I can’t do anything. My horse’s head is in the air, it’s all really bad.” And then I go, “But I know this is right, so my brain and my body is going to have to figure out a way to get the horse to be round or to get the horse in shoulder-in,” or whatever it is that I’m trying to do, “I need to find a way to do it in this frame.” Yeah. Good. Okay, so we’re about to go into trot and that will be next week’s episode. Cool.