Help me fix my hands.

I don’t ride with a trainer anymore so I often ask for advice on my blog. THANK YOU to everyone who takes the time to comment. I’ve learned so much by reading the advice of so many riders. For months and months and months I’ve been trying to improve my leg position. While I’m not perfect, I feel like I have a handle on what I’m supposed to be doing with my legs. My heel stays down pretty well and it feels normal to have my leg underneath me for that hip to heel line. So let’s move on to my hands.


For years I’ve ridden with my ring finger loose on the reins. I thought I was being kind to my horse by not pulling on his mouth. Turns out, according to Jane Savoie (Olympic dressage coach), that loose fingers result in a stiff wrist, which results in uneven contact, which results in an annoyed horse. Apparently my attempt to be kind was just sucky riding. This is why we ride with trainers, people. This stuff is not always just common sense.

I’ve made a conscious effort to close my fingers and keep even contact. I know that at the walk I’m supposed to have “following hands” that move forward and back as the horse’s head moves. That’s second nature to me now, but something I had to concentrate on in the beginning. At the trot my hands can stay still because the horse’s head doesn’t move like it does at the walk. But what about the canter? I’m supposed to have following hands at the canter too, right?

I’m figuring out how NOT to balance with the reins at the canter. I’m concentrating on letting my arms move forward as Baron’s head moves forward, and not balancing myself with the reins at the canter.

Baron has a big canter. By “big” I mean that he loves to canter and he has a lot of upward movement, impulsion I suppose you would call it. I can feel so much energy underneath me and I can tell that he truly loves a good canter. He works hard at the trot, but it’s work. He LIKES to canter. I’ve said it before; Baron is FUN to ride!


So any hand/ arm tips would be appreciated. How can I have softer hands? Bent elbows? Tighter pinkies?


2 thoughts on “Help me fix my hands.

  1. Amy October 3, 2014 / 3:27 am

    You look like a kind rider which is very nice and is great because your horse is able to move freely. Making a bunch of changes without an eye on the ground, while though they may be “correct riding” can also cause some issues. Making changes can also make an obtrusive rider if not an experienced eye making sure it is being done correctly. I do also understand not being able to make trainer rides a reality. First I recommend watching good riders and then watching them some more. As far as your position here are the things that I would recommend.

    It is good that you got your leg more stable and under you. Now try to rotate your hip inward. Go to and listen to everything she has to say. Even if you can audit good instructors it can be a huge help and very inexpensive. Internally rotating your hip is the next step in your leg position. As far as hands are concerned the biggest thing I see is you need to have your “thumbs up!” Think about holding a champagne glass in your hands. You want to hold it tight enough it doesn’t slip out of your hand but not so tight you break it. You should pretend your elbows are glued to your sides. At the trot you just open and close the angle of your elbow. At a walk and canter they will move slightly forward and back but still should never come in front of your tummy.

    Good luck. Any position change can be difficult because your nerves need to make new pathways to create new muscle memory.

  2. kshai1715 October 3, 2014 / 6:26 pm

    I see so many riders who rest their hands on the horse’s neck/withers. I see hunters over fences leaning over their hands.

    My first (and probably biggest) critique on your riding is that your hands are way way way too low. You already know you’re not holding your thumbs up, so you know you should fix that.

    Have you ever tried riding with a small oval tack sponge in your hand? How about an egg – yes seriously – an actual egg. Get an egg that fits comfortably in your hand (not an “extra large Grade A hormone created monster- a normal chicken egg) and ride with it – see how it takes you to either crack it or drop it all together.

    Bring your hands up, think shoulders back. You need to feel like you are leaning backwards, like you are going to touch your shoulders to his croup. You will be sitting straight,and it is all connected — don’t sit straight but keep your hands so low. Bend your elbows, bring your thumbs up, hold that egg or sponge so you can get an idea of exactly where your pink needs to be closed to.

    I do disagree with the idea that loose fingers cause stiff wrists. I think being stiff causes stiff wrists! Yes, you do follow the horse’s head at the canter.

    tha-da-dum ( the 3 stride canter), your arms move with it, just following the motion. Tha-da-dum ((shoulders, hands, elbows), tha-da-dum, shoulders hands elbows moving slightly in synch with the rhythm.

    You do see to be concentrating a lot on how to fix things at the canter, but you need to understand that you have to fix it at the walk, then the trot first.

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