Long ago and far away, I developed this crazy idea..... that my hands needed to be on or really close to the withers at all times. I'm not sure where or when this started or really the reason why. It might have been from showing and always seeing riders with their hands close to the withers and somehow thinking that this is where mine belonged too.
Then someone had gotten video of me riding the WB mare Aruba and I sent a link to a friend of mine, asking her to watch it and tell me what I need to fix to improve. One of the things she told me was that I needed to widen my hands and give the horse some room to work. I tried it the next time I rode and wouldn't you know? My mare worked about 1,000% better. It took me a while to make this the new "normal" and some days, it's still a work in progress.
So imagine having someone else now telling me, that I need to ride with my hands close to the neck/withers. All I could think was- "Do you know how long it took me to break that damned habit?" Yeah. That's where I'm at. So what would you do?
Now both of these people giving me advice, definitely have their 'creds'. Person A has shown at upper level shows, both nationally and internationally and Person B has judged a lot at upper level shows like Regionals & World for breed shows. They both know a lot of big names in their resective sport- B is more western, A has done both but is more English discipline focused now.
As for my hands, I have finally found that the 'Sweet Spot' is for them to be as wide as my feet. That way the horse has the area the width of their body, to move between them. What I was being told was- whatever the width of your hands, that's how wide the lateral movement of the horses head will be. If they are close to the neck/withers, the horse can only turn their head that much back and forth, but if your hands are wide apart, they have more 'wiggle room' and it's easier to evade the bit and avoid or refuse obstacles.
My thoughts on that are that if the horse is not sure of something and is not confident enough in you or themselves, they don't give a shit where your hands are at- they are Not going over or thru what's in front of them. More realistically, the horse probably doesn't care if we stay on them and some of them might prefer we come off so we can't 'push them' anymore to tackle the obstacle.
So has anyone else been in this position before or am I the only one?