Linda and Widget after medaling at the Ky Bluegrass Games
Debbie and Gentle Ben (before The Arm Stabilizer)
The Story Behind The Arm Stabilizer
Debbie and I have been riding dressage for a long time now. It seems like for every step forward we take two back. After going through several horses (Debbie two, me one) we both finally have wonderful mounts to ride. Our instructor, Linda Strine, lives 2 hours away, so we do not get as many lessons as we need and we work by ourself a lot. It seemed as if every lesson was spent correcting the things that had gone wrong since the last lesson. Our lessons always began with "Elbows back, arms at your sides" for Debbie, and "Keep your hands still, he can't come into your hands if your hands are moving around" for me. We would get this all taken care of during the lesson. Then we would get on our own, and the old habits would slide right back into place.
Debbie and I kept discussing the possibility of there being something out there that could help us maintain the correct upper body position. We kept threatening to do the broomstick through the elbows for Debbie, and I tried, repeatedly, using a bucking strap to stay still. Well we never did the broomstick thing, because that's just not safe and it's hard to open the inside rein when you are holding on to a bucking strap! So we just kept struggling on, getting more and more frustrated.
Then in September of 2000, we went to Regionals in Cincinnati to groom for Linda. (Debbie is the best braider around, and I'm a good tack cleaner, stall picker, jacket carrier, etc.) Watching other riders warm-up is always a learning experience, and since Linda had several rides each day, we spent almost as much time at the warm-up area as we did in the stands watching tests. As we watched and listened, we noticed time after time that instructors were telling their students the same thing we were being told "Elbows back, arms at your sides, steady hands!" It was nice to know that other riders had the same problems.
It's about a three hour drive home from Cincinnati. In the car, with Debbie driving as usual, we started talking about our riding problems. Then we began brainstorming about what we would need in a device to help us. Well, to make a long story short(er), by the time we got home, we had the starting design for The Arm Stabilizer. The very next afternoon, after school, (I'm a high school Math/Computer/Physics teacher and Debbie is a Veterinarian), I started sewing phototypes of our little invention. So after several days and numerous wrong turns, we had a sample ready for her to try out.
Now to the arena to try out this gadget. Debbie walks Ben for a few minutes then she picks up the trot. After just a couple of minutes, she starts exclaiming "This is amazing. This feels so different. So this is were my elbows are suppose to be. I guess you were right, I did ride with straight arms." (Debbie never believed that her elbows weren't back even when I videotaped her rides.) As she continued riding I noticed something else. Debbie's horses always have a tendency to wag their heads. We knew it must be something she was doing with her hands, but we never could figure it out. Well, Ben was not wagging his head. As a matter of fact, he was quite relaxed and moving very well. He seemed to be enjoying himself, too. Debbie finished her ride and was just beaming. "You have to try this thing. It's great!" Well I was planning on trying it, just to see what it felt like, but I don't really have a problem keeping my elbows back, so I was not expecting to notice anything different.
My horse, Widget, is a WONDERFUL horse. Linda Strine trained him to fourth level and I was fortunate enough to get him from Linda. (Right here is a good place to brag on Linda. She's a good friend, awesome rider, super instructor, and great trainer. And I thank her from the bottom of my heart for entrusting Widget to me.) Now having said all that I must add that Widget can be a bit naughty. He will do whatever you ask IF you ask right, but he doesn't give it away for free! He has a bad habit of inching the reins out of my hands. I'd have him in this lovely frame and we'd be working right along, and then suddenly I'd notice that my reins were way too long and he was going around with his nose stuck out like a green broke three year old. Then I'd have to shorten my reins and get everything back together and start over.
Now, back to the story. I got on Widget, put on this gadget, and away we went. Well, I had the strangest sensation. My upper body felt stable and secure; my hands were steady; this was an incredible feeling. Then I noticed that Widget was trying to pull me forward. Did you get what I just said? I actually felt him pulling on me. He hadn't just been pulling the reins out of my hands, he had been actually pulling my arms forward! With our invention, when he pulled, I felt it on my back, and I could resist his pull. Well let me tell you, Mr. Widget was not happy. At least not for a little while. Then all of a sudden he seemed to relax and really came together. He came into my hands as never before. I couldn't believe it - I had him round and forward in a very short period of time!
Debbie and I made some small modifications and we were both really pleased with the results. But we knew the real test would be when Linda came for our next lesson. I had told her about our device and she said it sounded like a good thing. Well at our next lesson not one time did she have to tell Debbie to get her elbows back. Ben was moving great and he was relaxed and forward. Not once did Linda tell me to keep my hands steady. Widget was round and forward the whole time. The lesson was so much fun because there was time to work on new things since I had not spent so much time back at square one. Linda was impressed with our invention. She liked that it was simple, comfortable and safe.
Well Debbie and I decided that if this thing worked so well for us, maybe it would work for other people. We named it The Arm Stabilizer and we took the plunge to make them to sell. We got the very best materials we could find which meant searching for heavy duty, commercial quality materials. (Materials from the local stores were just not sturdy enough so the first ones we made quickly lost their stretch.) Then my sewing machine would not sew the heavy duty materials, so we had to buy a commercial sewing machine. The next question was how to advertise. We quickly discovered that advertising in magazines was very expensive, but we decided to try that for awhile to see how it went. We sold some, but we were charging more than we wanted to because of all the expenses. However, we were encouraged by the feedback we were getting. The riders who were using it said that it worked. Linda used it with some of her other students and she said it worked well. Linda even tried it out herself and she was amazed at the way it reminded her to return to the correct position. Debbie and I always use it now. The only complaint we've had was from a rider who said she had trouble getting frustrated when she couldn't return to her comfortable, but incorrect, position! She said she would pop the quick release, ride her old way until she cooled off, and then re-attach The Arm Stabilizer and continue her ride!
Debbie and I really think The Arm Stabilizer is a great riding aid. We know we will never get rich selling these things, but we know it works and it's safer than baling twine, tobacco sticks, broomsticks, or whips! Actually we are so sure that this will help you that we offer a money back guarantee. If you use The Arm Stabilizer and you don't experience an improvement in your riding position, just return it for a full refund.
Thank you for visiting our website. Please visit my farm site by clicking on the SPORTHORSES link below. Also visit Dr. Debbie's clinic, NOAH'S ARK. Happy riding!
PS. Two western trainers looked at The Arm Stabilizer and said they thought it would work well for western pleasure riders.