How SteadyHands can transform your brain

How SteadyHands can transform your brain

Proprioception is an essential component of riding skill. Your coach may not mention it but even if you've never heard this word, rest assured you're already using proprioception every time you ride your horse.

So, what is it? 

Simply put, proprioception or kinanesthesia is body awareness - encompassing the sense of knowing where different parts of your body are, and the amount of force/pressure being applied - which increases your physical accuracy, coordination and fluidity of movement.

It's often accessed subconsciously, but bringing body awareness into your conscious skill-set can create dramatic changes in your horse riding ability!

We can use proprioceptive awareness while riding horses

For example when you think about and 'feel':

  • Your lower leg position - knowing your heels are not higher than your toe, how much weight is in your stirrup vs your thigh, if your calves are in constant contact with the horse, and how firmly you are pressing the horse's sides at any time on either side.
  • Your shoulders - the awareness that your shoulders are wide and soft, with an open chest, or feeling that they are rounded, hunched forward, or tilted more toward one side.
  • Your seat - feeling an even contact with the saddle and your seat bones and a 'weighted' sensation within your pelvis that leaves your seat moving smoothly in sync with the horse's movement.
  • Your breath - does each breath move your spine and inflate your ribs smoothly?
  • Your hands - Where they sit in space above the horse's shoulder, and what tension is being applied through the reins.

Hand movement is possibly one of the most difficult things to master as an equestrian. The horse's head moves varying amounts at different paces, and different horses move in subtly different ways - in the meantime your body may be rising and lowering in a trot, lightly rocking back at canter or steady at walk.

Both horse and rider move rhythmically and between the two bodies is a contact between the horse's sensitive mouth and the rider's hands. Scientific studies have found that both horse and riders contribute to rein tension and that even between accomplished riders, rein tension varies quite a bit.

How aware are you, really, of how your hands move?

We know it's easy to lose focus on your hands when you're concentrating on the next jump, or an over-excited horse, or other aspects of your riding posture. 

It's always a great idea to watch videos of yourself and see how steady your hands are throughout a ride but our Founder, Clara, wanted to create a way that any rider at any level, riding anywhere, could consciously check in on their hands and improve their contact with the horse.

Enter SteadyHands Riding Gloves

SteadyHands incorporate an elasticated safety strap between the gloves which lets the rider feel the position of their hands more clearly, and brings the rider's consciousness to bear on the contact with the horse's mouth. 

This conscious focus triggers neurons in the brain to use proprioceptor data to create a clearer awareness of the rider's hand position. By focusing on the pressure of the band (outward, up/down, forward/back), riders can use kinesthetic information to:

  • ensure that their hands remain the same distance apart, and 
  • be increasingly aware of how level their hands are - helping keep their hands at the same distance from the rider's body and the horse's shoulder, and
  • improve their awareness of how much tension each hand is applying to the rein
  • give the horse increasingly even and subtle aids.

In turn this increased awareness builds stronger neural pathways around 'hand position' - literally 'training the brain' to stay conscious of hand position. As a rider's hand position improves, their awareness will become more and more 'programmed', and require less active concentration. 

Riding with beautiful hands will become second nature, and you can use SteadyHands to fine-tune further as you become aware of the smaller changes in position or tension.

What changes will a more steady contact bring?

Common results from training an improved hand position and hand-rein contact include:

  • A more evenly forward horse
  • A happier, more willing horse
  • Smoother halts
  • Smoother transitions
  • Higher marks in dressage
  • More collection and power
  • Likely to have fewer refusals when jumping
  • Less neck and shoulder tension in the rider (and horse)
  • Less likelihood of lesions in the tissue and bone of the horse's jaw.

We think that's a pretty compelling list of reasons to try SteadyHands gloves! With this clever riding aid you can train anywhere, to create skilled hands, a happy equine partner - and to give your brain a workout!

Find out more about how SteadyHands work as a riding aid.


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