Learning to isolate and use different parts of your body at different times and differently can often be a huge challenge for a rider. Typical example unfolds when we are asked to engage our abs or use our core or use our seat in a downward transition in order to get our horse to come under in the downward, meaning put his hind feet more under the center of his body and drop his butt, coming more up in the withers. This is an important concept to master because we want to preserve our horses mouth and not pull back on the reins in this downward transition in addition to keeping the withers up and butt down rather than looking like a wheelbarrow.
I had been asked to do many things to achieve this but it wasn’t until I could keep a soft elastic elbow and arm, giving and taking, while at the same time allowing myself to use my body to drive my horse under in the downward.
What I had to do was allow it to look really ugly. Give myself permission to lean too far behind the vertical. This is OK as long as a didn’t take my hands and arms with me, but left them in the same space they were in and just used my seat to tuck, engaged my abs and leaned a little bit back, everything down and under. But..leave my arms and closed hands alone.
After working on this and once the desired result is achieved consistently…then I could refine what I was doing. We all know we don’t want to be behind the vertical or brace but that is the ugly truth that I had to allow happen before we could slough off the old ugly and embrace the emergence of new beautiful downward transitions!
My personal tip to help isolate your arms and elbows from the rest of your body: Walk and jog on an eliptical that has a middle hand rest to grip while walking. Focus on walking and jogging and keeping your arms and elbows loose and elastic while moving your lower body. Advance yourself into doing this at more of an uphill incline…voila after a few weeks you will totally understand how your upper body is supposed to feel and be, completely separate from your lower body.