Thursday, 25 October 2012

Rein in hand

In early October, I attended a lecture by Kerstin Kemlén on the topic bit and bit related problems.

Kerstin has for over three years been involved in intense email exchange with Dr. Cook, an American veterinarian and professor emeritus, who has devoted much of his professional life to studying horses and their mouth and throat health and its connection to bit.

According to Dr. Cook, there are 47 problems that can be scientifically verified to be connected to the use of bit. A part from the physical damage that bits can cause in the mouth; damages on the bars, ulceration of the mucous membranes and deformation of the teeth, there are a number of behaviors that can be associated with bits and with a scale from immobilised to flight. Kerstin has the full list, if you want to know more contact her.

During the lecture, with an audience coming from both the riding and the harnessed horse world, those who wanted to try Kerstin home made reintaking gadget were urged to do so. The picture shows the principle of the gadget (lackning round rod, I had to use my son's wooden Winchester replica). The spring balance is attached to the rod together with the rein.

Anyone who wanted to test the pressure on the reins took the reins and tried to establish the contact they usually had while riding or driving. Kerstin was reading the pressure on the spring balance and kept the value to herself. Then she got the rider/driver stand between the reins and put the bit on forearms and lean on the bit until Kerstin said they reached their previous pressure. (The picture was taken by my 4-year-old assistant, so he has time to get better at sharpness ...)

Putting the bit on the forearm is as close as we can get to the horses bars in on our body, the bones have only a thin layer of skin over them, just as the bars themselves only have a thin mucosa over the thin and sharp edge.

Those who dared to try the gadget in front of the group had a range in pressure from 15 kg to 600 g.

She who held her mighty strong horse with 15 kg in the reins found it difficult to lean into the bit with the equivalent weight because of the pain she felt in her arms.
This is perhaps not an exact scientific method, but it gave palpable knowledge to each rider and groom! Please read a previous post on the blog about pressure on the bit.

I want to remind you of the importance of avoiding bringing your hands backwards when you hold the reins in riding or driving (more difficult to completely avoid in the latter case) and if you do have to take your hands backward REMEMBER to ease off!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

More hands

The hands theme continues. A rider's hands are expected to have many qualities, it should be soft, sensitive, quiet, offering horse support and much more.

Many of these qualities, can be impoved off the saddle and in third posting I'd like to give you some ideas of how you can train your perception of and in your hands. The basic idea of the Alexander Technique is that anything you are unaware of, you can not improve, and awareness is aided by the ability to percieve.

By taking a few moments each day to pay attention to what your hands are doing and how they do will refine your perception.

Take time to notice how what you are holding in your hand feels; its weight, texture, temperature. When you let your hands stroke the horse, notice how the hair, muscles underneath the skin feels and you try to register any temperature difference on the surface.

A good opportunity to exercise, that many of us have every day (and I am at right now), is when our fingers and hands move across a keyboard. How hard do your fingers press on the keys? Or when you hold a pencil, how hard do you have to hold it to write?

Become an explorer in yourself, experiment! If you can do something with a certain force, try to do it with half as much power next time. Be easier in that you do!

Take the time to rest your hand against your thigh when the opportunity arises. Avoid pressing down on the thigh, just rest your hand, that in itself encourages relaxation and is a very soft stretch of the hand muscles.