If you are having trouble with canter pirouettes, the solution is usually not to do more of them. The question, however, is what to do instead. My answer is to list all the elements of the relationship with your horse which you need to perform a pirouette correctly. Then remembering the Vending Machine analogy from DRESSAGE Unscrambled, devise specific exercises which test that each of the reactions you need are present in him.
BILL– I’m assuming I should confine my answer to dressage-related activities. Even so, my answer would be different if we are talking about in the show ring, best case scenarios when you’re schooling, or some of the exigencies which arise when confronted with impenetrable inherited tangles.
Let’s begin by agreeing that it is OK to use your hands. However, at all cost avoid random, habitual niggling. Anything you do with your hand must be on purpose and carry a message. And generally speaking it should be as a modifier to a primary aid which began with your seat or legs. Nor should it be used in a backward direction (other than when you are in survival mode). Non-allowing – yes. Pulling – no! Often when you think pulling is the solution, a greater push to that same non-allowing is a better choice.
Remember, your hands have some things to say, but in the context of the rest of your arms. Your elbows must remain elastic, and your forearms must be soft. “Your forearms belong to the horse!” Imagine that the reins continue through your hands and up through your hollow forearms to connect into your elbows and back. At the same time, as I wrote in DRESSAGE Unscrambled quoting Rosemary Springer, “Quiet hands are not dead hands.” An inert, non-communicating hand just allows your horse to lean on it.
Another issue is hands which stay too wide apart. I’ve been known to say, “Don’t push the wheelbarrow. Imagine you’re strangling the barn cat.” Not so much in the show ring but sometimes with a greener horse, it’s OK to open a rein but hardly ever both at once. But immediately after you use it, put it back where belongs. Don’t keep it wide.
As for those extreme cases, if I have to describe to you what to do, you probably aren’t ready to be doing. Keep in mind that your hands may need to be corrective, but try, try, try not to let them become punitive.
Reiki, pronounced ray-kee is a lovely, ancient healing art that originated centuries ago in Tibet. As you probably already know, Tibet is located in what is now China. You also know that acupuncture began in China, and that acupuncture is centered about the concept of a life-force energy called chi. So we are talking about ancient cultures that regarded disruptions in the body’s chi as a source of dis-ease. Today this concept is being given more attention, as science begins to accept the idea that there is more to physical disfunction than just germs and broken bones.
Susan: I was watching you as you schooled Biotop in the indoor arena this morning, and it was wonderful. I noticed you were working him in a fat snaffle, and I wondered if you could talk about the importance of working in the snaffle for upper level horses.