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Correct hand positions for riding

The position of our hands holding the reins is extremely important to how we signal our horses mouths.


And whether we ride English or Western, hand position for using two reins should be the same.

This first picture shows correct hand position. Fingers are closed and thumbs are on top. The rein comes through the palm on the hand and between the ring and pinky finger.


This position allows our fingers to stay light yet firm on the reins. I always tell students to hold the reins like you would hold a baby bird. Tight enough it can’t get away yet soft enough that you don’t squish it.


It helps to keep our elbows in which gives our hands more stability. Keeping our hands still but not tense allows us to give quiet signals to the horse’s mouth and let’s the horse know they can trust our hands.

This second picture shows a rider holding the reins with only his fingertips and his pinky fingers are in the air. His thumbs are turned down and his elbows are out.


This position can cause us to have “jerky” hands and the reins are more apt to slide through our fingers when we aren’t meaning them to. Also this idea of “being fingertip light” on the reins actually can cause more issues than solve problems. Being finger tip light causing our hands to be more bouncy as our elbows are out of position. This causes incomplete signals to our horse and can cause them to ignore our cues. And because of the instability of our finger and arms, this can cause our horse to brace on us as our hands are jerking and bouncing on our horses mouths.


So, just close your damn hands!!!

And then the last picture shows the hand position being completely incorrect. The thumb in pointed down and the fingertips are on top.


This position is first of all very uncomfortable for the rider in my opinion as the wrists are turned at an odd angle. Also we have no real ability to grip the reins so the horse can easily pull them through your hands. This position also causes our shoulders and arms to become locked and tense which causes are hands to jerk and bounce. We also don’t have the ability to have good rein management in this position causing riders to tend to ride with either too long or too short of a rein as it is hard to quickly shorten or lengthen the rein.


Hand position on the reins is extremely important to proper rider balance and biomechanics. If our hands are correct, our arms can be correct which allows our shoulders to be proper and then it just trickles down from there.


And more importantly, soft yet quietly firm hands allow safe and consistent feel for the horses mouth. We should protect the horses mouth at all costs and we should want our horse to trust their mouth in our hands.


We should never jerk with our hands but instead use a steady hold until the horse softens.

If you have questions or problems finding the proper hand position on your reins, taking lessons from a qualified instructor will greatly benefit you and your horse will thank you!


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