Pushing Hands is best known by tai chi players. It’s also important for riders. We all know that contact comes from giving the rein, so the horse can reach into contact, as opposed to taking the rein or “taking contact,” which is an oxymoron.
At the dressage clinic yesterday given by Deb Hindi, she said something to one of the riders that really grabbed my attention:
“You can’t push hands with your arms; you must engage your core!”
The goal to pushing hands is to influence your horse to lengthen his neck which allows him to really step under his belly and reach over his back. Here is a picture of Monarch & I pushing hands. There is definite contact between his mouth and my hand, but it is light and giving. The weight is in the elbows, not in tight arms or tense joints. Even though the rein is relatively short, his neck is long and his stride is open, reaching. I am following his motion (which is quite alot in a canter this big), but I think he is also following my motion. (This is the second, grounding beat of the canter stride, which is the deepest. After the third beat, the inside fore, we will be air born.)