View Full Version : For english riders learning western - is it hard to ride with one hand?

Jun. 9, 2012, 10:11 AM
For english riders learning western - is it hard to ride with one hand?

Oh, and can you use either hand? Probably, I guess. Meaning if you are a left handed person (riding western with one hand - left) that is fine?


Jun. 9, 2012, 10:32 AM
It was not hard in terms of balance or cues (they were fairly similar), however I have a heck of a time keeping my reins in one hand. 25+ years of two hands has made it a challenge to pick one hand and stick with it. I was learning to ride western so I could do a little WP and I never did figure out how to accomplish the way they sat. It was fun, though, and I have a circle y that I use on my retiree for our occasional ride-outs. I never rode anything spur broke so I can't comment on that aspect of it, but I think I would find it confusing!

Jun. 9, 2012, 10:34 AM
It can be difficult switching from riding with two hands to riding with one. I wanted to always grab the reins with my free hand, so my trainer made me ride in a pair of romals. It gave me something to do with my free hand and made me much more aware of what I did with it. I've gotten much better later.

You can ride in either hand. I am right handed, but ride left handed.

Jun. 9, 2012, 05:49 PM
I had a heck of a time (still am) learning to ride one handed. Remy's down to the fine points as far as cues, so I don't have a lot to do with my riding hand, much less using my free hand for corrections. And that dang free hand is always wanting to jump in to help! I am right handed and do right handed. Eventually I hope to switch to left handed to be more correct in shows, but I don't think that it's specified that you ride with a particular hand.

Plus, I've gotten really good at opening left handed gates. :-)

Jun. 9, 2012, 06:21 PM
Well, I'll say one thing...it's a lot easier when the horse knows how to neck rein. ;)

Little FYI...if showing, the ends of the reins drape down the same side of the neck as the hand holding them.

Jun. 9, 2012, 06:34 PM
For people used to riding with a much heavier contact, the weight of a draped rein can feel disconnected and out-of-control at first--especially if the horse isn't dead-broke. The solution is to let them get used to the new feel on a very well-broke horse in a confined space like a round pen or small paddock until they gain confidence with the lighter feel.

Myself, I've always found loping in a Western saddle difficult; perhaps just lack of flexibility in my lower spine from so many years hunt-seat?

Jun. 9, 2012, 07:39 PM
We used to hold with the left hand because we were still pretending to have something to do with cows, and most folks being right handed they rope with the right hand.
I can't say I ever showed Western though, except some gaming and backyard type stuff.

Jun. 10, 2012, 02:44 AM
Traditionally, your reins are held in your non-dominant hand so that your dominant hand is free to rope, work gates, handle the lead rope for a pack horse, etc. Since most people are right handed, most western riders ride with the left hand.

Jun. 10, 2012, 08:07 AM
You'll be surprised at how it "opens your chest" and deepens your seat to have one hand down by your side!

Jun. 10, 2012, 11:14 AM
It was only tricky for me on one particularly wiggly and squirrelly horse. That being said, she was in a snaffle and I suspect that was part of the issue (I also only rode her once, so I might have gotten used to it).

Even when hacking English I frequently rode my big TB with my reins in one hand and my other hand by my side. Always felt more comfortable to me to ride like that, particularly if I wasn't "doing anything" but chilling with my horse. When I was growing up I had a wonderful QH that neck-reined and I did that a lot trail riding him. I rode him with either hand because usually the other one was in my pocket trying to keep warm!!

Jun. 10, 2012, 11:48 AM
Interesting. 99% of my riding has been english, and much of that Dressage. But all 'my' horses that I end up hacking around the country side end up learning to neck rein as I always hack one handed. LOL I have no clue how to intentionally teach neck reining, but they always pick it up on the trail.

Jun. 10, 2012, 05:28 PM
For me the hard part wasn't holding the reins with one hand, it's keeping my rein hand down and low, in front of the horn. When you raise your hand it has to mean something. And then you only lift it a couple of inches. And to give a direction you move your hand only a couple of inches to the left or right.

It's much harder than it looks.

Jun. 11, 2012, 01:30 AM
I ride english but ride one handed quite a bit on the trail. How else can I hold my beer? The girl handily won her trail class at her show today (in English tack)- we skillfully navigated the gate opening one handed. Depends what we are going. When at my eventing lessons of course we are two handed but I like that she goes well with one as well (unless we are going fast, then Miss Ex race horse requires two hands). It's just another skill to add to the tool box.

Jun. 11, 2012, 09:35 AM
I also tended to ride one handed while trail riding and cooling out my english horses so it wasn't too bad learning to ride one handed, but it did take awhile to get used to it. Now my biggest problem is wanting to switch hands all the time.

Jun. 11, 2012, 10:41 AM
The 'hardest' part of switching to riding one handed for me was that it pointed out exactly how much I'd been 'hand riding' instead of using my seat >.< But, once we got that squared away and the horse and I understood each other, it wasn't so bad. ;)

It helps sometimes when my extra hand starts to wander to the reins, to just sing in my head "Hand on your knee hand on your knee!"

Jun. 11, 2012, 11:41 AM
Nope, not really hard at all. Will take some practice, however it will improve your seat for when/if you go back to english. Not sure how, but when I was ponying my injured horse with the neighbors cowpony for a few months it really helped me learn to use my seat better. Not sure about the neck reining, all of mine have always known both and we have switched between since I was a little kid. Current horse was a polo pony so teaching the contact was the issue. Horse is thrilled to get to neck rein and its used as a treat when pony does a good job! If pony is real good we go out in the pasture and gallop on a loose rein, but the buttons are all there from the polo career. Don't try that as a newbie or on a horse thats not used to it before you get some practice in! Good luck!

Jun. 11, 2012, 12:10 PM
. I was learning to ride western so I could do a little WP and I never did figure out how to accomplish the way they sat.

Myself, I've always found loping in a Western saddle difficult; perhaps just lack of flexibility in my lower spine from so many years hunt-seat?

Now, I've never shown western, so I don't know how well this would go at a WP show, and the people I know who do WP showing sit differently in the ring then on the trail...

But, if you want to comfortably sit a western saddle for hours on end, this is how an old ranch-hand taught me and how I've taught lots of other people.
Stand up in the stirrups. Get your butt tucked way up under you and then sit.
Take your feet out of the stirrups. From the hip, move your whole leg away from the horse and up towards it's neck. Let your leg go limp and slide back into position (it will feel very forward to an english rider)
Once you've done that with both legs, bring your foot back by bending your knee only (thigh doesn't move) and pick up your stirrups.
Without moving your butt or thighs, get your heels down (heels down is universal!!) This may move your lower leg forward. That is ok. If it moves forward a LOT, let your stirrups down another notch. Some people have found they ride as much as 3 notches lower once they have their seat right.

What you will feel is the long muscle on the inside of your thigh "lock in" to the shape of the saddle. If the saddle is the right size you'll feel very secure (lol, and like you're leaning back a lot, don't worry, you're really not)
Riding in one too small you'll feel severely pinched and like you need to lean forward. But most people ride in one too big, which is actually not as likely to put you in the wrong position.

To describe the right seat, some people say to slump a little, but that's not right. You want a straight line from shoulders to hips to heel, just like when riding english, but you want that line at an angle. If english is ^l, then western is ^/ - not that extreme an angle (though it will feel like it at first, have someone take a picture, you're really not leaning back that far)

And there is a right way to post in a western saddle. NOT up, back into the cantle. It's very hard to describe without showing. Kind of pump your heels, on the diagonal at the trot, ever stride at the canter. But as you get better at your western seat, you will find yourself relaxing into it and wanting to "post" less.

But never, EVER touch the horn. All you will accomplish is pulling yourself forward and forward is the last thing you want - you will pull yourself right out of that sweet spot in the saddle and throw yourself off-balance.

Thread drift, but having learned english first and then western, I found that a lot of what made it hard for me to hold the reins right was my seat - not that I balanced with my hands, but I kept trying for the feel of what I knew, and as long as I was sitting (or trying to) the way I had learned (which is improper for a western saddle anyway) I kept on with ALL my english riding habits, like having the reins in two hands, wanting to post, etc.

Once your seat is right it feels so different, that it is easy to change your mindset to learning the new, and it all sort of crystallizes together and feels more right and natural.

meaty ogre
Jun. 11, 2012, 04:30 PM
Riding one-handed was no biggie (on a well broke horse :lol: ). Much easier for me than trying to keep 2 sets of reins straight, as with a pelham or a double! I was told in a show you can pinch a piece of fringe on your chaps to keep your hand steady. I just pinched the seam of my jeans and it kept my hand from flying up to try to "help."

Now, riding the spur broke horse was and is quite difficult. Feeling the need to create some impulsion, I gave a good squeeze and instead nearly gave myself an emergency appendectomy with the saddle horn. And this was after the instructor explained to me the spur broke horse cues. Just habit, spurs mean move to me!

I was suprised with the subtlety required. In watching some AQHA/Paint shows there is a lot of bumping or jerking to be seen in the show pen, but the show horse I lessoned on was very tuned, and only required a subtle lift/shift of the hand. Instructor said to keep my hand in a 6" cube. When we did a little trail course I accidently sidepassed him the length of the 10' pole plus another 10' by being a touch overzealous with my spur.

Jun. 11, 2012, 08:41 PM
Actually, if you do any amount of 'classical' schooling in dressage, with the sort of instructor I had way back (Cadre Noir/Saumur), you need to be able to ride one handed with a double bridle. Which, although I grew up riding western/one handed, actually helps improve understanding of how one handles a horse western.

When foxhunting (or otherwise in an English saddle for hours, as on an all day trail ride), I pretty routinely ride one-handed. Though not for jumping or handling trappy terrain or galloping flat out, typically.

Jun. 11, 2012, 10:47 PM
I still (after almost 5 years) have difficulty riding one handed - particularly in show hand. My current horse isn't quite finished and I have a much harder time with keeping him straight, soft, and lifting himself/engaging one handed than two handed.

Jun. 12, 2012, 01:19 PM
I ride english but ride one handed quite a bit on the trail. How else can I hold my beer?

My sentiments exactly! :lol:

Jun. 12, 2012, 01:38 PM
Riding one handed boggles my mind. It's the only thing that has kept me from taking my "ok" english horse and turning him into a really nice western horse. Heck, half the time I feel naked just riding with a single english rein instead of a double bridle. Now take it down to one rein and one hand? *death*

Tamara in TN
Jun. 12, 2012, 02:21 PM
when we train the horses with two hands,we train them to understand that the area around the horn is the "box" and every time we have done "something" when it is over we put our (both) hands in the "box" and back to "neutral"

and the horse keeps doing "whatever" until we move our hands back out of "neutral"

so I guess an English rider could sort of envision that area being like a gear shift that you keep your hand on....the shifter never moves even though the car (animal) is constantly moving

by always returning to the neutral position in two hands the change is automatic in one hand riding