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  1. #1
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    Jun. 8, 2009
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    Default Need help with my hands

    So I have horrible hands. They bounce and post and I can't keep them still for the life of me! I also have issues bending my elbows. I have independent legs and seat but my hands and elbows just don't want to cooperate. I can be a little bit of a rigid rider but that has gotten a lot better. My horse is very narrow and downhill and rigid and I have a harder time on him with my hands but they still move on anything else from a small pony to my trainers grand prix horse. Any ideas?



  2. #2
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    Oct. 14, 2012
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    Default

    My guess is this isn't a hand issue but a shoulder issue. You're probably tense, and probably not as nice in the seat as you think you're being. It's pretty rare to find someone who is tense in the upper body and not have that transfer down.

    The first thing I'd do, if you have decent balance is take you reins away and start with your hands away from your body and then slowly work towards bringing them back in. I'd also have you do shoulder circles, neck circles and any other type of stretching at both the walk and trot to help loosen up the muscles. People think they are bouncing because they are too loose when more often then not it's because they are trying to not bounce by tightening everything up.

    That's where i'd start.


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  3. #3
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    Oct. 10, 2007
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    Bouncy hands have a lot to do with your core strength. Your core is just not strong enough to hold your upper body, arms and hands, in position and still. Work on some core exercises such as planking. Put a crop behind your back through your elbows to retrain your arms from getting stiff and straight will help also. The more locked your elbows are the bouncier your hands will be so work on relaxing those elbows and arms.
    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole



  4. #4
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    Jun. 13, 2001
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    Default

    The fact you say you have an issue with bending the elbows gives you your answer. THink of the hands holding a tray, the further out in front of you the tray is the less stable the glasses are on the tray, they start to slosh. Same thing with the horse's mouth in the hands. The upper arms function as part of the trunk, and although the elbow joint and shoulder socket allow bascule/telescoping of the neck within walk/canter/o.f. they should always return to neutral (and stay there in trot), and neutral is hanging vertically beside the trunk...otherwise the seat has no impact).
    I.D.E.A. yoda


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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb. 1, 2013
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    Default

    Can you stay in 2-point without losing your balance at the trot? Can you also keep it through walk-trot-walk transitions? Do you ride without stirrups as much as you can? If you can do all of these things it can indicate that your lower body and core strength are pretty solid. If it isn't that solid, asking someone to longe you as you work on those things (to save the horses mouth!) can really help with upper body instability. Another great exercise it to do an up 2 beats, down one beat posting rhythm and vice versa.

    I like the crop behind your back exercise, too. Another place to start is to ask someone on the ground to hold their arm over your hands, and simulate a slow posting rhythm, really focusing on allowing your elbows to open and close as you go, and yes, relaxing through your upper back and shoulders. Be sure you are letting the small of your back hollow just a bit to allow for the natural curvature of your spine, which also means you'll want to allow your upper body to stretch towards the sky without getting tense. When you can, while posting the trot, try stretching your pinky finger out so that it lightly touches the pommel or the horses neck, and see if you can post without losing that contact (be careful you just open your pinky though, try not to hold it rigid, otherwise you risk jamming it). This means your hands may be lower than ideal, depending on the horse, by breaking the line to the bit but it can create better habits, and also be prepared that you may have to post smaller than usual. Put both reins in your outside hand when you can, too, and hold your inside arm straight up and then straight forward, and then straight in towards the middle of the arena. Doing this at the canter especially, will really help soften your upper body. Lastly, try envisioning that your wrists are tied together by a string about 6 inches long, keeping your wrists a short distance from each other even as you apply any rein aids.

    Hope this helps...



  6. #6
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    Jun. 8, 2009
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    Default

    Yes I am very competent without my stirrups, can two point with or without stirrups jump 3'6" courses without stirrups.
    I have a naturally hollow back due to years of gymnastics and tumbling, a little to hollow actually.
    I just can't seem to bend my elbows without it turning into a backwards pull.



  7. #7
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    Pick your hands up. If you bend your elbows and your pulling back then your hands are probably to low with good contact. Raise your hands up and keep them over the withers not low and out.
    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole



  8. #8
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    Default

    If you have a video or pic that would help a lot to see what is going on.
    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


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  9. #9
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    Aug. 25, 2005
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    Difficulty in bending the elbows loses you your shock absorbers. The elbows "give " minimally or maximally depending on the relationship of your body to the nod or lack of nod in the horses head and neck.

    If your elbows are fixed and the horse's head moves or your body moves, then you hands will appear to move out of sync. rather than following the flow.
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.



  10. #10
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    May. 12, 2010
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    Westchester County, NY
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    You might try having someone lunge you on your horse without holding the reins. Put your hands on your hips or thighs.
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  11. #11
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    Aug. 28, 2007
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    You need more abs and less back. You're most likely posing with muscle strength instead of balance.
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble


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  12. #12
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    May. 3, 2011
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    Zone 5
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    Your problem isn't that unusual. You need to think about your hands and arms as being part of the horse instead of part of your body. Let your hands follow the horse's mouth and allow your arms to be elastic, like a rubber band. If you focus on keeping the straight line from elbow to bit but also focus on a consistent amount of contact with your horse, your hands will start to work independently of the rest of your body. It's true that people who are tense and stiff have problems with their hands but I don't get the sense that you are tense overall, just that you seem to have the problem in your hands and arms.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov. 29, 2008
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    Default

    Don't focus on your hands. Think of your hands, forearms, and elbows, as an extension of the reins.

    Practice developing your contact from the muscles in your back. Have a friend hold a pair of reins off a bridle, and let them move the reins back and forth in an unpredictable fashion as you hold the riding ends and try to maintain about 3 pounds of continuous elastic contact.

    Have your friend hold the reins solid and see what 10 pounds of contact feels like in the muscles of your back. Hold that 10 pounds while relaxing your hands first, then let that relaxation flow up both of your arms and into your shoulders, and learn just what muscles are necessary to create contact.

    You may find that you have been holding tension and rigidity in parts of your arms that had nothing to do with the creation of contact.

    Then go back to maintaining 3 pounds of contact as your friend moves the reins for you, and really get a feel for having arms that feel like they have springs in your back making them hold that three pound. Then have your friend randomly drop those reins and see if your arms spring backwards as far as they will go in a riding position, without you thinking about it.

    This is one frame of mind for creating elasticity, understanding that your arms will always snap back if the reins were ever to disappear.

    Once you have elasticity, then you can work on creating aids without blocking that elastic flow (connection) with the horse.

    Much of the above is a dressage concept, but you can still ride with a looser hunter rein while having true elasticity available in those moments when you need it, like asking for half halts, transitions, changes, lengthening and shortening.

    What I think is nice about the above exercise, is that you do it off of a horse, and can develop a working awareness of what independent arms will feel like.

    Then when you get on the horse, you might discover something about your position or balance that interferes with your new found ability for creating elastic contact. That should be your light bulb moment for the areas of your riding that need work. For nothing about the rest of your body should interfere with being able to use your back and arms to make that contact.

    One of the most common things students discover, is that they are balancing off their knees, and compensating for their upper body imbalance by using the horses mouth for stability.... whether it be intermittently while asking the horse for certain things, or continuously, even if the dependency on the reins is very light.

    This is why we start beginner students on lunge lines with arm maneuvering, strengthening, and coordination exercises. We want to establish independent seats and balance at the foundation, so later on when we teach independent use of aids, the balance will be pre-established and likely make learning much easier.

    Riding is balancing on the back of a horse while being as transparent and non interfering for the horse as one can possibly be. The only thing the horse should feel from it's rider, is the riders weight comfortably on it's back, and clearly communicated and well understood rider aids without any distracting or frustrating "noise" or "Loudness" of those aids.



  14. #14
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    Jan. 3, 2013
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    Orange County, NY
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by EquitationRider View Post
    Yes I am very competent without my stirrups, can two point with or without stirrups jump 3'6" courses without stirrups.
    I have a naturally hollow back due to years of gymnastics and tumbling, a little to hollow actually.
    I just can't seem to bend my elbows without it turning into a backwards pull.

    I think this is part of the problem. If I were you, I would be asking yourself "Why is your trainer having you jump a 3'6" course if you haven't mastered your hands yet?"

    I'm sure you're a great rider with great potential and there's some fantastic advise on this thread with many options for you to improve your hands but I can't help but wonder why your jumping if you have as you stated "horrible hands".

    I see this so often in the H/J world. Kids and beginner riders who don't have have grasp of some of the basics of riding and they are jumping already. Why skip to 4th grade when you haven't mastered 2nd and 3rd grade yet?



  15. #15
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    Apr. 19, 2011
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    Madison, GA
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    Default

    I think it also depends on the type of horse you typically ride. I have two geldings that I ride primarily - a short fat paint that is an absolute angel and a gorgeous, athletic Hanoverian that totally has my number. On my paint, I have no problems allowing my elbows to be elastic and move with him. My Hanoverian tends to suck back a little and almost have an up/down feel to his canter and its hard to have elastic elbows on something that feels up/down instead of front to back if that makes sense... On my paint the elasticity comes naturally, but on the WB I have to constantly remind myself to move my hands forward when he needs a bit more rein.
    Southern Cross Guest Ranch
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  16. #16
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    Sep. 20, 2007
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    Default

    Make sure your reins are short enough to maintain a consistent contact. You may be straightening the arm and dropping it down in an attempt to maintain feel on the reins. Ever had a hair elastic that stretched out of shape an you have to keep winding it around and around your ponytail, only to have it slide out later? That is the kind of elasticity too long reins gives you. You want the real elastic feeling that nicely broken in hair tie gives you. At first - particularly if you have been riding with habitually long reins - it may feel like you want to choke your horse when the reins are short enough. But the way not to choke them is to let your arms be supple and extendable (which requires starting from a position with bend in it...wink wink).

    For me, riding alone gave me a bouncy hand problem I didn't even realize was happening...I had some looseness and motion, but it turns out - not nearly enough. So when I started getting help, I would often hear coaches say "still hands", or "stop being so busy/working so hard with your hands". Well, turns out when they thought I was working hard, it was actually at the times I was not trying to accomplish anything with my hands, but rather was just generally tense...and therefore had a tense, stiff arm. What I felt like was trying to stay quiet with my hand, actually was clear to the observer (and horse) to be a hand that moved in all sorts fo directions the horse didn't. Same thing would happen when they said "still hand". I would end up trying to "hold" them still, but it would be relative to my body or maybe floating in space....in any case, less in harmony with the motion of the horse. When I first realized this was happening, I actually asked that instructor to use a different term, as that one was provoking the wrong imagery for me. Now I can just translate in my head. When they say I'm busy, I know I just need to breathe and relax. When I hear "still" I actually start thinking of moving...particularly my elbows like a big hinge, and letting my arms have some energy flow through them. You may find a different key imagery works for you, but something should click.

    There are also some "tricks" you can use to grasp the feeling of having a supple, moveable arm and elbow. Put the pinkies through a neckstrap while posting. Bridge your reins. Hold the reins driving style. Put knots in them so you cant let them slide long.

    Finally, it sounds like your horse and you may be perpetual tuating a bit of a viscous cycle. You mention he is stiff and rigid, but remember, he can only lean on you if you give him something to lean against...and if you get into a pulling or even bracing match, he is sure to win. Don't forget to give periodically. You can even think "one, two, soften" for awhile if it helps. Try the tricks above (especially the driving reins) and see if all of a sudden you don't have such a rigid horse anymore.



  17. #17
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    Jun. 8, 2009
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    220

    Default

    Thanks for all the advice!! I watched a video of me riding my trainers very well made GP horse today and I think I may of found the root of the problem...but of course I could be completely off. I think my upper back is super rigid and tight. I have had shoulder injuries in the past and I was a gymnast for years that I think has in all kind of messed up my back. I have a slightly rotated spine from a fall a couple of years ago, and my back is very tight and hollow. I think this stiffness slightly prohibits my elbows to bend and stay elastic, thus translating to my hands. Is that even a possibility? Any exercises for helping with that?



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