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which fingers do you hold your reins with?

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  • which fingers do you hold your reins with?

    Okay, so I've been pondering this for a few days and I guess I'll just ask:

    I always hold my reins between my pinky finger and ring finger, so I'm holding them with my thumb and first three fingers. I was just always taught that was how you hold them. Why?

    I used to ride saddleseat (years ago) and when I was preparing for double-bridle work I rode with ALL of my fingers holding the reins for a while.

    2 months ago I broke my middle finger, and it's healed now, but I find that it gets fatigued easily with some really strong horses, so when it starts to hurt I switch to holding the reins with all of my fingers, and not having the reins between my ring finger and pinky.

    I have found on one horse in particular that holding my reins like that makes a WORLD of difference in her, which got me thinking about how much of a difference there might be, and then wondering if there is an actual reason for holding the reins the "traditional" way?

    So... How do you hold your reins? Does it make a difference? Why were you taught to hold them one way over another?

  • #2
    I was taught to hold inbetween my ring finger and pink ( 3 Fingers ) Somewhere along the line I adapted to holding inbetween my middle and ring finger ( 2 Fingers )

    Ive had clinicians question it and wonder why, I dont really have a good reason for it, It is more comfortable to me and I have found on horses that are more sensive it works, although X-C if I feel him getting strong I will switch to 3....

    I think its all preferance really althouhg I do think the "correct" way is the 3 finger method .
    Ride it like you stole it....ohhh sh*t


    • #3
      I think I've heard it said that it's to create a straighter line from the elbow to the bit. I've also heard people say the pinky isn't strong enough... I find I have much more strength with all of my fingers around the reins though.

      I grew up riding saddle seat too (and still do, just mix it up a lot more now), and I tried for quite awhile to switch over to holding the reins between my pinky and ring finger. I've never been comfortable doing it, so I gave it up. I also find I have better wrist control if I have all of my fingers around the reins. It gives a little more delicacy to my rein control.

      Anyway, my current trainer tells me to do whatever works for me, so I stick with the old way, and I've only had maybe one person ever comment on it. One of my friends that used to ride hunters and switched to eventers said it would likely knock you down in a hunter eq class (I personally have no idea having never shown hunters) but that there's no real other reason it would count against you.


      • #4
        You can do it either way. There is no right or wrong way. I have seen KOC hold her reins with all her fingers. I've actually seen some people hold them with just two fingers. I tend toward my three fingers, but go back and forth and have ridden a few horses that riding them with all my fingers makes a big difference.


        • #5
          It has to do with your forearm

          Here's a do-it-yourself experiment. With one hand, grab onto a pole with three fingers versus four. With your other hand, check out the muscles in your forearm.

          I think the pinky engages one more muscle in your forearm, and that adds some strength, but also stiffness perhaps.

          On ridiculously light horses, I try to relax my three fingers and keep the rein in my hand by closing my thumb on top. That makes my arm as soft as possible for their sissy lips, but I still know I have the reins should something unpredictable happens.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat


          • #6
            today I used three fingers on the outside and a driving rein on the inside for a walk working pirouette.

            I usually use three fingers but it just depends what my issue is and what I'm doing with my horse. Like today I was too heavy on the inside rein so I flipped the rein and used it as a driving rein. That softened my hand.

            And I hold the curb rein with the pinky. I actually engage more with my ring finger than my pinky.
            Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


            • #7
              Very interesting question and replies! I find myself not switching between what fingers I hold the reins but rather if I hold them deep into my fingers (like as far down towards the hand as they'll go) or letting them out towards the finger tips between the last two knuckles or actually using the tips of my fingers; of course with my thumb on top of the rein no matter what position.
              My mare can get very heavy and I buy into it. When she starts that I 'lighten' move my reins out towards the tip more and give her nothing to brace against; it works better than anything else we've been told to do to get rid of that particular problem.


              • #8
                I hold my reins the "traditional" way 99 percent of the time, because honestly anything else just doesn't feel right! But I love the driving rein that purplnurpl mentioned- I did a clinic with Jimmy Wofford a couple years ago and he had a girl in my group do that to get her out of her horse's face. Out of curiosity, I tried it on the flat once when my horse was trying his best to make me hold his forehand up instead of doing it himself. Voila! As much as he tried, I physically could NOT have too strong of a contact, and I felt my elbows being much more elastic and following without even thinking about it. It's a very useful tool to have in the proverbial tool belt!


                • #9
                  All of the above mentioned methods are correct (except for letting the rein slide down to the tips of the fingers ... bad form) and they are all used for different purposes, as mentioned, going from the normal (pinky and ring) position to the strongest (full fist) up to the one finger or the flipped for a driving rein.

                  I was taught that the variations are used mostly to get the rider to lighten their feel (and their horse) so that when they go back to the normal position it is more refined, and therefore more correct.

                  Correct meaning that the rider gets the most from their horse with the least amount of energy and the greatest amount of 'push button' finishing.

                  ETA: the full fist is sort of the 'brute force' control, sometimes needed, but not a goal to strive for (sorry KOC)


                  • #10
                    ETA: the full fist is sort of the 'brute force' control, sometimes needed, but not a goal to strive for (sorry KOC)
                    Having watched her do it and done it myself, I'd hardly call it brute force. It DOES make my hand steadier. It is also nice for me, since I can't deal with too thick of reins, to give me a more comfortable feel on big reins. Just because you are holding a rein with your whole fist doesn't mean you can't ride lightly...if that's the case, some basics need to be worked on.


                    • #11
                      Because I started out with saddleseat instruction, I rode with the rein under the pinky finger. Now I ride with it between pinky and ring finger.

                      I've also been taking carriage driving lessons, and depending on your skill level, drivers have multiple way of holding the reins. For a newbie like me, the trainer recommends that I hold the reins under under the pinky finger.

                      (Carriage driving is incredibly fun...plus, CDEs still have the long format!)


                      • #12
                        I hurt my third finger when practicing green-horse-flipping this winter (sliding on your belly works great but you have to remember to LET GO of both reins before you go, just a tip from an expert ) and it still bothers me occasionally, so I've sometimes put that rein between my middle and third finger rather than third and pinky.
                        Seems to work just fine under most circumstances -- even when the other hand is "normal." Not suggesting this as a tool for anything other than finger rehab, but I suspect there are lots of good ways it could be done.
                        The big man -- my lost prince

                        The little brother, now my main man


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by yellowbritches:

                          since I can't deal with too thick of reins, to give me a more comfortable feel on big reins. Just because you are holding a rein with your whole fist doesn't mean you can't ride lightly...if that's the case, some basics need to be worked on.
                          I would say some basics need to be worked on if you aren't finding a pair of reins that fit your hands better.

                          Most pinky fingers do not have the coordination of the other fingers on the hand to start with, and the finesse of going from strong to light with the hand and fingers is going to be lost. Biomechanically it is harder, if not impossible, to get a good, quick, hand-hip connection without keeping the rein between the pinky and ring finger. That is why the basic, correct rein hold is between the pinky and ring fingers. The hand-hip connection will, if learned properly with the rest of a correct Independent Seat, give the rider a lot of strength in an instant ... if used properly it will direct the base of weight through the hand and elbow down into the seat and hip where the rider can actually brace using the weight of the horse against itself. That is the strength benefit.

                          The subtle benefit of holding the rein between the pinky and ring finger is that it allows for a completely relaxed shoulder-elbow connection that follows the mouth of the horse without interfering. The contact should be maintained through a very soft backward pull through the shoulders with the elbows back in line with the hip and just hanging, leaving the rest of the mouth-hand-elbow connection 'loosely hinged'.

                          I can stay more or less light on a horse using a fist and a too thick pair of reins, but I know that I am giving up a huge amount of subtlety, as well as strength, when I do it.


                          • #14
                            I hold the rein between my thumb and the top side of my index finger. I use my fingers to adjust the tension on the rein by squeezing or relaxing my fingers (though they are always bent around the rein). I do only use my first three fingers... unless I'm riding a real rogue, which I don't really do much of anymore, then I might use all four fingers for added strength/security.
                            2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com


                            • #15
                              very interesting..i started with holding reins btwn pinky, ring, then when i switched breeds, was taught to use all fingers....with a snaffle, when i have a double bridlw, snaffle is on bottom, curb is between fingers, very intresting topic...


                              • #16
                                i was actually just thinking about posting a thread about this, because i recently started using a combination of 3 fingers and 4 fingers.. switching back and forth seems to help me keep my hands quieter. i don't find that it makes me more able to use force though (riding with 2 sets of reins does however).
                                also, i noticed my trainer (an UL eventer and former UL show jumper) sometimes holds his reins in 4 fingers when he jumps... particularly with more experianced horses or horse who only need light adjustment.. and I feel like i have seen pictures of other UL show jumpers who do this as well, particularly europeans, like my trainer.. anyone else noticed this this?


                                • #17
                                  When you say a rider is using 'four fingers' to hold the reins, exactly what do you mean?

                                  If using only one set of reins, does the rein coming from the bit go between the pinky and ring, curling around the ring and middle fingers, coming out over the middle finger and being held down by the index finger (rather than the more conventional coming out over the index finger and being held down by the thumb)?

                                  When describing using three or fingers to hold the reins, that could be any number of combinations.

                                  Variations add or subtract strength and/or finesse.


                                  • #18
                                    I always hold them in between my pinky and ring fingers. Thats the way i was taught.
                                    However, i've been riding a STRONG pony jumper in my barn, and when i'm jumping after a few minutes my hands, arms, shoulders, back, legs, etc. are ACHING. Love her, but she's a serious workout! I'll sometimes hold the reins with all of my fingers with her. I feel stronger that way.
                                    Horse power

                                    Horse" pow`er\ (Noun) The extraordinary capacity of a horse to elevate the human spirit.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by mvp View Post
                                      I think the pinky engages one more muscle in your forearm, and that adds some strength, but also stiffness perhaps.
                                      ding ding! this is the reason behind the 3 finger hold.
                                      chaque pas est fait ensemble


                                      • #20
                                        I think in the end you also have to factor in individualism.

                                        I hold the curb rein on the underside (pinky) because if it is held with my ring finger it is more likely to be activated. I used to the feel of the snaffle on my ring finger and it helps me keep it real. Fist to chest pump, peace out. lol.

                                        When the curb rein is on the pinky it does very little. : ) And right now that is what I'm looking for.
                                        Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!