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Thumbs, hands, and frustration!

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  • Thumbs, hands, and frustration!

    I know that I can't be the only one to struggle with this!

    *and as a preface, I am trying to find a trainer in the area that isn't 60 miles away or a 16 year old barrel racer...*

    Anyways, I was riding last night and I noticed that I can't seem to get my hands under control! It's a problem that I've been dealing with since I started riding dressage a few years ago, and I realize that it's been causing a minor roadblock for both Herself and I.

    My thumbs seems to be magnetically attracted to one another, so that when I'm thinking about anything other than my old trainer yelling "thumbs UP!" at me, they turn towards each other and I go all puppy pawed, which then breaks the line from elbow to bit and makes Herself start aiming wads of slobber into my face.

    It's really starting to frustrate me. Any tricks to help my $(%*@ thumbs to remain in the upright and locked position?!

  • #2
    I've heard of folks who have to ride for a while holding a riding crop under their thumbs so they keep their hands even and can't turn them inward.

    You might also try practicing when not on the horse. I had a trainer advocate practicing posting at home such that you had a chair you'd lower yourself down to like you're posting (and just "touch" the seat with your rear before raising yourself again) and a table in front of you so you had to keep your hands hovering an inch over the table without moving them around while "posting" (it was really an exercise for keeping your hands still) but I expect you could use it to practice your riding "position" and develop the muscle memory for holding your hands upright.
    The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
    Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.


    • #3
      I have this same problem - I can sympathize! I have a good friend whose instructor used to make her ride around holding coffee mugs with water in them. This same friend has threatened to make me do the same.
      ~*~*~*~Founding member of the Spotted Saddlebred Pals Clique~*~*~*~

      The equine love of my life: Gabriel
      4/6/1993 - 8/23/2015 ...RIP my big, beautiful boy <3


      • #4
        First off, 60 miles isn't so bad if you have a trailer.... says she who gets to the trainer's 4 times a week, 46 miles away.

        What do your elbows do? There was a time when flat hands were the style for stock-type eq, and I learned it there. However, that makes elbows stick out for a lot of us - thinking of bringing my elbows in to my waist gets my hands up. If you have flappy elbows that might fix both at once.
        If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


        • #5
          Try over compensating and turning wrists out and thumbs facing to the outside. . After over compensating you will feel relief at being straighter wrists and thumbs on top of reins. A slight inward soft curve of wrist is natural. Everyone's hand is shaped a bit differently so do what fits your hand not a picture trying to copy.

          The type of rein you are using can help as well, stiffer leather reins or reinforced with stiff rubber rather than more floppy or soft material reins.


          • #6
            I am dealing with the same issue right now. I have found that if I am consciously trying to point my pinkies at each other, this over emphasis seems to result in my thumbs being on top.

            I want to agree with the elbow at the side, too. When that elbow starts to creep out, my hand on that same side will begin to flatten. I have a picture taken last week, and you can see my left hand is flattening and my elbow is creeping out.

            So I am working on those two, quick bullet points: pinkies pointed at each other, elbows at side. I can check in with these two basic position points, and find that as long as I am saying yes, my thumbs are also on top.


            • #7
              I teach the 4 H's: Head (up, looking ahead), Hands (together, thumbs up please), Hips (even), Heels (down). If you run these H's in your head CONSTANTLY, it makes you recheck their position constantly until it's habit. So repeat after me:

              Head, Hands, Hips, Heels
              Head, Hands, Hips, Heels
              Head, Hands, Hips, Heels
              Head, Hands, Hips, Heels

              Everybody join in!
              <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


              • #8
                Holding a bat/crop under both thumbs is an exercise I use regularly to work on the same issue from me.

                I find that if I generally think about my rein aids coming from my shoulders, rather than my hands or elbows, I keep my elbows closer to my sides and keep them looser and more following of my horse's head which in turn keeps my hands in a better/more correct position.


                • #9
                  For a time I put bright duct tape on my gloves so when I turned them I saw like hot pink under me. And it just made me think about them a little more... Not sure if that's silly or smart! My old trainer had me do it. I think it worked!


                  • Original Poster

                    Wow, some awesome advice!

                    I'll dig out my old jumping bat this afternoon and try holding it while I ride tonight. If not I can 'ride' the kitchen chair and work on the same thing with the coffee mugs. Herself would lose her wackadoodle if I started dumping water on her from above, I think.

                    For me, at least, I think it just boils down to muscle memory. Isn't there some saying where it takes a 100 times to make a habit and a 1,000 times to break it?

                    I love the duct tape idea too! I have a pair of neon pink gloves that might be good to dig out. They are a bit offensive, but I bet I won't lose site of them!

                    I wish that we had a trailer, but at this point it's not in the budget. I have plans for Herself to go to boot camp this July/August while I can't ride and then I want to continue on with the same trainer after I pop this kiddo out in October. It's just a matter of finding one that I like, with access to a schoolmaster, and won't break the budget!

                    Thank you everybody for the ideas (and Chocomare for the song, DH especially loves it. DD has been singing it as well)! I'm ready to get cracking!


                    • #11
                      Go to the pet store, buy a rawhide chew bone with knots on both ends that's about 6" long. Hold it and your reins while you ride.
                      chaque pas est fait ensemble


                      • #12
                        Lots of great tips here - and also check your shoulders/collarbones/shoulderblades. When they collapse, it pops the elbows out, which leads to puppy paws. If you keep fixing the symptom while the cause lies upriver, it will be a harder fix than figuring out what is causing the whole chain of wrongs.
                        Sometimes, of course, the puppy paws happen without the elbows being out, but worth checking to see what is a symptom and what is a cause.



                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jeannette, formerly ponygyrl View Post
                          Lots of great tips here - and also check your shoulders/collarbones/shoulderblades. When they collapse, it pops the elbows out, which leads to puppy paws. If you keep fixing the symptom while the cause lies upriver, it will be a harder fix than figuring out what is causing the whole chain of wrongs.
                          Sometimes, of course, the puppy paws happen without the elbows being out, but worth checking to see what is a symptom and what is a cause.
                          Absolutely this ^^ Hands are usually a symptom of rolled shoulders or another core related issue. Try some shoulder circles and shrugs at the walk while warming up. Then visualize lifting up through your spine and core as if you have a "sky hook" attacked to the top of your riding cap. With the upward "pull" engage your core and lead with your belly button -- this will keep your shoulder and hips in alignment yet still soft. THEN draw your collar bones back, opening your chest, and closing / dropping your shoulder blades. Imagine you've got weights attached to the bottom of each shoulder blade keeping your chest open then the blades flat. This correct shoulder alignment should help rotate your arms and elbows correctly and softly and therefore bring your hands into a naturally thumbs-up position. If you just focus on correcting the hand alone, you'll further exacerbate the core issue that's most likely the causal factor Without a vid I can't be certain, but many of my students over the years (and myself as well) have struggled with this, and in 99% of the cases, the problem wasn't hands but core and shoulders.
                          Piaffe Girl -- Dressage. Fashionably.


                          • #14
                            On my phone and having trouble searching threads, but do a search under my name. There is a recent (within a month?) thread about this exact thing, and so many people commented with excellent advice.
                            LarkspurCO: no horse's training is complete until it can calmly yet expressively perform GP in stadium filled w/chainsaw juggling zombies riding unicycles while flying monkeys w/bottle rockets...


                            • #15
                              DancingFoalFarms - your post is spot on! That is exactly what I feel too - that if I can align my shoulders properly, my arms/elbows/hands fall correctly into place as well.


                              • #16

                                For me, at least, I think it just boils down to muscle memory. Isn't there some saying where it takes a 100 times to make a habit and a 1,000 times to break it?


                                If memory serves, both Kyra Kyrklund and Mary Wanless say it takes 5000 repetitions to break an old habit-- so be patient and concentrate hard!

                                Re: the hands. Those who say that you need to think core are right on. Most successful exercise for me came from Erica Poseley, who had me ride for months holding a pair of gloves to my sides with my elbows so that losing the gloves to gravity immediately reminded me when I lost control of arms, elbows and/or torso. As others have suggested, when I got those under control, the hand/thumb position took care of itself. For the first couple weeks, the gloves fell so often that I ended up tying them to my belt loops with twine so I didn't have to dismount every few minutes to retrieve them. My friends the gloves first taught me how not to poke my elbows away from my sides, and then how not to collapse my sides because I'd lose the gloves if I did either. It did take months, but it worked. I still keep a pair of gloves with twine attached hanging in the tack room just in case....


                                • #17
                                  Fish, that's a great idea!

                                  My biggest problem is keeping my core strong & straight. Never mind I've been riding forever -- it's always been a challenge. Bit by bit, piece by piece over the years, I'm chipping away at all the ugly habits that make my riding less-than-wonderful.

                                  Adding the gloves clamped under arms to my bag of tricks.
                                  Last edited by ThreeFigs; May. 18, 2013, 06:00 PM. Reason: adding info.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Just wanted to jump in and update quickly.

                                    The glove trick... HALLELUJAH! I think that the angels started singing and the thumb Gods wept. I ended up hacking around bareback last night with a friend and wanted to try it, since it was the first time I had time to do more then just feed, groom, and leave. We grabbed her gloves and tied them to my belt and off we went. It worked like a charm!

                                    I also found that riding bareback really helped me to sit back correctly on my seat bones and really elongate my leg (especially at the trot, which is where I have the most trouble... Herself has a HUGE trot), which in turn straightened my back and shoulders. With the glove trick my elbows managed to stay at my sides, which kept my hands/thumbs up and kept Herself from flinging her head all around. She actually softened and came through from behind, stepped under self and reached for the contact when I asked with my seat. The glorious, soft, tail swingy, ear floppy, back using trot was so like heaven!

                                    Now, if only I can replicated it in the tack and in the ring!

                                    Thank you COTH! You guys rock!
                                    Last edited by Superminion; May. 21, 2013, 10:31 AM. Reason: not enough coffee, too enthusiastic


                                    • #19
                                      Hurray for you! I'm so jealous, though: it took me months to get anywhere near what you got in one day Maybe if I'd stripped off the tack... but I was such a mess, I think I would have fallen off along with the gloves.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        I worried about that too, fish! Luckily it was about 90* so Herself wasn't feeling much in the way of 'frisky'. LOL. My big problem is that I second guess my ability mentally, so when we were just playing around bareback, I didn't analyze everything that I was doing. It just all kind of happened. Ask me tonight how it went when I put tack on her! It'll probably be a whole different story!