VOLUME 22 • © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine
Jean- Claude Racinet
I had been brooding over this article and could not make up my mind starting it because of the abyss there seems to be between the conception of the role of the hand in German riding, as we see it enforced nowadays in the dressage circles of this nation, and that of the horsemanship of French tradition, which I defend in this magazine, when the article of Mr von Hopffgarten (see DRESSAGE & CT #92) came.
At first, I thought that Mr von Hopffgarten was, as we say in French, “cutting the grass from under my foot”, meaning that he was saying by and large what I myself wanted to say.
Then I thought that I would like to take this gentleman by his own word and this is why.
Mr von Hopffgarten quotes La Gueriniere as alluding to, and Steinbrecht as describing, the three phases of the hand support, to wit, the “light” hand (“main legere”), the “soft” hand (“main douce”), and the “firm” hand (“main ferme”).
These three phases correspond to a progressive state of clenching of the fingers.
GREAT! As goes the French joke, I applaud with both hands (as if it were possible to applaud with one only!).
But now, what about the stern facts?
What do we see everywhere nowadays?
Only the “firm” hand. The two other phases are ignored or even bluntly condemned. Scores of books show a picture of the “firm” hand with “correct” as a caption and the soft or light hand captioned as “incorrect”. So many times, on occasion of my clinics, as I repeatedly ask some student to open more or less her (his) fingers, I am answered, “I am trying but I have to fight 25 years of being taught the opposite!”
For me, as I explain to my students, having one’s fingers completely closed beforehand (no pun intended, but yes, I am pleased by the wit) amounts to going hunting while prior to it having spent all the ammo. This is particularly set in evidence when I ask some student, formed in the “official” way (I haven’t said “German”, since we know now that the real German way, as described by Steinbrecht, allows for the soft and the light hand as well), to produce a given action of hand timed with some instant of the gait in order to get a given result. Nothing, just nothing, happens! The hand cannot act anymore, since the fingers cannot clench more than they already do! They try to shoot the gun but the gun is unloaded!
Usually, the student looks at me with a bland eye, wondering visibly what on earth action of hand can be, since they have been pounded for years and years that anything, everything on horseback must proceed from an action of seat and legs pushing against this inexorably clenched hand.
Now, I found a trick:
Register for FREE to access one Free Article Each Week!
SUBSCRIBE to HORSES For LIFE™ Online Magazine for full access to the exclusive and educational articles in every Issue.
Register - Login and then USE the "Subscribe"button in the left hand menu.
• © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine