How do you develop a good hand when riding your horse ? This is a question that many riders ask themselves, even at a professional level !
First, how do you hold the reins properly?
I advise you to hold them between your forefinger and your thumb and then add two fingers (the middle and ring fingers). The little finger is not useful. It allows you to keep a little finesse in the contact. So, the basic contact is with the forefinger and thumb. The other two fingers will be used to « squeeze and release » the reins to relax the mouth.
Developing a good hand is, above all, having a supple hand which follows the movements of the horse’s neck to allow it to lengthen or shorten while always remaining in contact. So, without ever losing the connection or being in brutal opposition.
Hands do not work alone: the shoulders, elbows and wrists must be supple to accompany the motion of your horse and be in harmony with its neck movement. This allows your horse to function well, have good gaits and jump well.
Your hands don’t make your horse jump or won’t give you nice gaits, but they can get in the way of your horse’s motion. A good hand allows your horse to express itself correctly and to show all its skills.
How do you choose the length for the reins when you ride?
First of all, there is no standard length since there are different kinds of exercises to train your horse. You can work on stretching the top line with the head down and do more dynamic and collected work with the head up, etc. The length of the reins will be adapted to the length of the neck you want. Keep in mind that you should always hold your hands in front of the withers and in front of your shoulders. It’s easier in dressage, of course. Because when you’re jumping in a two-point position, you have to shorten your reins, put your hands in front of your shoulders and always keep a contact in your reins.
A good test: A horse who has worked well will immediately stretch down in the walk and reach for contact on a longer rein. Otherwise, it means there were contact problems during the session and that the horse is unable to relax physically.
Having a good hand is not just about getting a good extended trot or achieving a particular exercise, it’s useful for everything! Your hand must not be predominant, it is there to give your horse certain directions and be as discreet as possible.
Finally, a good hand doesn’t get into unnecessary fights. You have to be smarter than your horse. If it pulls, don’t encourage it. You have to use discontinuous actions. You squeeze the reins, then release, squeeze again… It’s down to you!
Are you struggling to develop a good hand when riding your horse? Did you enjoy reading this email? Leave me a comment here.