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Any tips for keeping hands closed?

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  • Any tips for keeping hands closed?

    I grew up riding dressage, switched to hunters in college for IHSA, kept on doing hunters until last year and now Im in the middle of my (how long will it take???) journey to re-train my body into a dressage position.....not only do I have to remember to lift my chest, roll my hips under me, not jam my heels down, SIT, stop looking so far ahead for the next jump, square my shoulders, stop breaking at my hips, sit back, elbows at my sides, reins even, breath, but also KEEP MY HANDS CLOSED around the reins.


    After college, I spent a few years riding for a hunter lady who changed my position a lot to make her horses go well. She wanted me to ride her horses with only my thumb and index finger closed on the reins. The other fingers were slightly open. That and other things she had me do made for a really soft ride and she wanted her horses to go like that. Now i know this isnt safe over fences and I have had many other hunter/eventing trainers since her yell at me for it but its like second nature and Im having a hard time keeping my hands closed around the reins.

    Any tips? I think about it, close my hands, go back to worrying about other things only to find that my rouge hands are creeping open again.

    And right now we are just concentrating more on my position and getting my horse straight and tracking up rather than on the bit, bending, flexing, etc...aka trying to un-do all the damage from 9 years of hunters.

    Im wondering if we get to all the stuff that actually needs hands that I will close them automatically because otherwise, I just wont be able to do anything....just thinking out loud here.

    Thanks!

  • #2
    The question is what is 'softly open'. The thumb on the bight and against the pointer finger is a necessity for keeping reins the same length..that is a given. The hand should not be a rigid fist, the thumb highest point is a necessity. The finger pads should rest softly against the fist. But WHY not open? (Perhaps the reasoning behind it will help.) Because then there is NO elasticity left, and the rider has to given the elbow and/or rotate the shoulder...fine over fences, not fine when seated because then the base of support is like holding a tray out in front of out (which tires the arm). Also, if the thumb is the highest point (or even turning out (to put the key in the lock to 'mobilize the jaw') the hands will be MORE likely to stay closed AND that position will be MORE likely to allow the upper arms to hang properly vertically.
    I.D.E.A. yoda

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    • #3
      Usually if you can stop breaking at the wrist the hand will stay closed

      Practice keeping the thumbs up and the wrist straight. Think hands away towards the mouth but thumbs up for a while until you break the habit.

      I rode with longer arms for a while to help me get away from riding in my crotch area with open hands and broken wrist.
      ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
      http://www.off-breed-dressage.blogspot.com/

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      • #4
        Carrying a crop horizontally between your hands (held under your thumbs) does wonders for developing awareness of your hands. Or try carrying a small ball or tissue or something in each of your hands.

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        • #5
          I have this problem, too. Along with several others

          I use Courtney's trick of a quick reminder as we go by each letter, like saying "hands!" Eventually, it will become second-nature. That's the plan, anyway. Welcome back to dressage!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by alternate_universe View Post
            Carrying a crop horizontally between your hands (held under your thumbs) does wonders for developing awareness of your hands.
            Great exercise.

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            • #7
              Well one good way to do it is to put money in each hand - paper or coin - if you open you hands it will fall to the ground. Each time that happens ...stop, dismount, pick up the money and remount. Believe me one or two times and you won't have open hands.
              When I started riding decades ago - the money went to the trainer!
              Last edited by ise@ssl; Oct. 7, 2012, 04:02 PM.
              Summit Sporthorses Ltd. Inc.
              "Breeding Competition Partners & Lifelong Friends"

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              • #8
                haha. the money idea is great. When I was growing up, my trainer did the same thing except with $1 bills under our thighs when we rode bareback. The last person left got all the money.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ise@ssl View Post
                  Well one good way to do it is to put money in each hand - paper or coin - if you open you hands it will fall to the ground.
                  When I started riding decades ago - the money went to the trainer!


                  Fail-proof method!
                  Barn rat for life

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                  • #10
                    I love Thinline reins. I still ride hunters, too, and both my trainers (dressage and hunter) tell me to close my fingers. I rode babies for years and got bad habits! But the cushy feel of my Thinline reins really help.

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                    • #11
                      Think about pushing against a wall with your vertical knuckles with the energy coming from the elbows.
                      Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by LilyandBaron View Post
                        I love Thinline reins. I still ride hunters, too, and both my trainers (dressage and hunter) tell me to close my fingers. I rode babies for years and got bad habits! But the cushy feel of my Thinline reins really help.
                        Yup, love my Thinline reins...and stirrup wraps too
                        I wasn't always a Smurf
                        Penmerryl's Sophie RIDSH
                        "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                        The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.

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                        • #13
                          Years ago Courtney King-Dye used my favoite analogy. Feel as though you are holding a baby bird in your hand. Close your fingers too tightly and you will crush it, open them, and the bird will fly away.

                          The thumb must stay on top, the wrist straight or very slightly curved inward, the fingers soft, but capable of closing. The thumb, on top of the forefinger, anchors the reins. If a whip is carried, the circle formed by the thumb and forefinger, supports the cap, while the whip itself lies softly, not gripped, across the palm.
                          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

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                          • #14
                            Water balloons.

                            Hands too tight or open leaves you with a wet mess. Makes it worse when you mix flour in them as well.

                            Sounds silly but it really does help develop a feel.
                            Not my circus, not my monkeys!

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                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Thanks everyone! I really appreciate all of the ideas!

                              My first IHSA instructor in college must have followed Courtney King-Dye because thats the same thing she used to tell us. At the shows, we would stand on the side of the ring and whisper to our passing riders "Dont crush your birds" which would cause the rider to choke holding in giggles. Fun times

                              Im going to try the whip and the money idea. Fantastic.

                              Thanks so much!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Bridge the reins!
                                "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht

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                                • #17
                                  Some great suggestions here! I got tired of constantly yelling at my students to keep their thumbs up and hands closed, so this summer, on a particularly hot day, I got a group together and we played "don't spill the cheap boxed wine" (based on a suggestion I got on this board!). I got cheap plastic wine glasses and cheap wine and everyone held two glasses with wine (of course, minors got water). Then I sent everyone around the ring equitation style, and the last person with wine in their glasses got a free lesson. It was a lot of fun and yes, we all reaked of wine. But holding a stemmed glass filled with liquid (water is fine if you don't want to smell like cheap wine) is a fun and great way to improve your hands-you have to keep them closed, but not too tight, you have to keep your thumbs up, and you have to keep your hands still. It's like egg and spoon, but the adult version.

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                                  • #18
                                    The wine trick wouldn't work for me at all. I would surely be the first with empty glasses...as there's no way I could hold a glass of wine without drinking it!! :-D
                                    Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

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                                    • #19
                                      Holding pom poms works well as you don't have to have tight hands to hold them, and can still give and take, but do have to keep your fingers closed.
                                      Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by CHT View Post
                                        Holding pom poms works well as you don't have to have tight hands to hold them, and can still give and take, but do have to keep your fingers closed.
                                        That sure makes it easier on the birds!
                                        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

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