If you want your horse to happily accept contact, you need to offer him an elastic contact. So just what does “elastic” mean in each of the gaits?
In walk and canter, elastic elbows allow for the forward and back movement of the horse’s head and neck.
So start with your elbows in “home position”. In home position, your elbows are bent and about 2 inches in front of your waist so your hands are right above the withers. Then as your horse telescopes his neck forward, straighten your arms in fr
ont of you. Then bend you elbows again to go back to home position. Imagine how a jockey’s arms look as he gallops down a racetrack toward the finish line. That’s the look you’re striving for.
Here’s an exercise you can do. Get up in a 2-point position while in the halt. Then practice ”galloping” for the finish line with your arms. While opening and closing your elbows, sit back down in the saddle, but keep your elbows moving the same way.
–In posting trot, elastic elbows allow for the up and down movement of your body. So in this case, open your elbows like a hinge. If you get out of the saddle 4-5 inches, open your elbows 4-5 inches so your hands stay in the same place just above the withers. If you don’t open your elbows, your hands will go up and down with you as you go up and down.
To get the feeling of this “hinge-like” action, pretend that as you post “up”, your hands push your horse’s mane down into his neck.
You can also do this exercise at home. Stand behind a chair with your knees bent. Pretend you’re holding reins and rest your baby fingers on the back of the chair.
Now straighten your legs as if you’re posting while keeping your baby fingers in contact with the back of the chair. Do this several times and focus on the action of your elbows opening and closing so you can get some muscle memory for elastic elbows in posting trot.
For more info on how to train a happy horse, go to: www.janesavoie.com/happyhorse/