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Exercises to keep my hands more forward

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    Exercises to keep my hands more forward

    Both my trainers want me to carry my hands a bit farther forward with a shorter rein. I'm trying, but I am not tall nor long of limb and it is very difficult for me. A lot of times, I tend to lock my elbow when I focus on it rather than have a following arm. If I try to hold the martingale neckstrap, I lose connection with my horse, it pulls my upper body forward and is VERY uncomfortable (borderline painful) across the middle of my back. Any other tips to help me slowly move my hands forward without being miserable? Thank you!
    "Radar, the man's ex-cavalry: if he sees four flies having a meeting, he knows they're talking about a horse!" Cptn. BJ Hunnicutt, M*A*S*H Season 4, Episode "Dear Mildred"

    #2
    Is it a balance issue for you? If so try posting three strides then standing three strides without holding on to anything. You may need to strengthen your core. To unlock the elbows put your knuckles together and post!
    Humans dont mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. Sebastian Junger

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      #3
      Tie your reins together in a knot and hold your reins like a driving rein. The knot keeps your reins from inadvertently getting longer and the driving rein keeps your elbow from locking. Works wonders 🙂

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        #4
        That pain you feel in your back is linked to this issue. You may functionally not have great range of motion even with the length of arm you have. Developing the right core muscles will help. You are likely overusing the wrong ones. Rather than grab onto something like a neck strap, you can practice flatting with the reins in one hand and trying to move that other arm around. Can you put it on your hip? Out to the side? Reach straight forward? On your head? If any of these things are challenging or make you tip, you need to practice it more. Switch to the other arm. I think doing one arm at a time will be less likely to pull on your back. It's a bit of a suppling exercise for yourself. And then when that at least feels easier, it'll be about reprogramming your muscle memory. Everything new feels awkward at first even if it's the "right" thing to do. It doesn't feel right when you are in a habit of something else. If you worry about your steering or your horse, take some longe lessons.

        Off the horse, you may want to look at exercises and stretches to increase mobility and strength in the serratus anterior area. To extend the arm forward freely and independently without stiffening, your shoulder blade needs to be back and down and seated in its pocket. If you try to extend by rotating the shoulder forward or pulling with the frontal shoulder muscles, you will feel stiff and like you are reaching/leaning forward. You may feel strain in your mid/low back. The serratus anterior is what helps keep your shoulder in the right spot and your back tall while you move the arm forward. The arm is then light and free to move and it should feel less awkward to carry the hand more up and forward.

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          #5
          Unbuckle the reins, wrap them around the neck and rebuckle them against the throat. Now you only have a short rein to hold, and you will be forced to get your hands forward.

          Only do this on a horse you know pretty well.

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            #6
            There are likely a whole bunch of position/ body/ physical factors at play here, so "fixing" this wont come down to one exercise - buuuuut, bridging reins is a great option to help reinforce a more forward hand.

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              #7
              As a fellow short armed person, I feel your pain.
              As others have said, core strength is key. Up up downs, two pointing, and no stirrups are good for that. Also, try rolling your shoulders to stretch out so you don’t hold tension.
              But, sometimes you just physically can’t have your arms more forward. I had a very tall, eq type trainer when I was younger and I struggled to get my hands far enough forward with her. Then one day, I had a lightbulb moment and realized that I need to be functional, not picture perfect. My arms will not grow an extra 3 inches. As long as I had good independent hands, my hands can stay back nearer to me, where my short arms are more comfortable.

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                #8
                I once got yelled at by a trainer (said trainer was 6'2, I am 5'2) to put my hands farther up a horses neck while riding and finally a barn mate came to my rescue and said "that's as far as her hands go!" because my arms were just straight at this point. I am also a nugget with short arms and struggle with this. Core strength is key for me but also honestly so is having a horse that's an appropriate size for me. Put me on something big or especially something with a long neck? My hands barely go past the withers.

                It does sound like you could use some increased core strength if you're having pain in your back though. The stronger your core is the easier time you'll have letting your arms go because your base will be more solid. Also riding in two point a lot can help build up some back strength in the saddle, but much of it is built in the gym from my experience. Some people find yoga super helpful, I prefer strength training. To each their own.

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                  #9
                  Also make sure that when you are trying to put your arms forward that you are keeping your eye up and you aren't tucking your butt underneath you. Both of these actions tend to bring your torso back and shorten your arms.
                  **Stacey**

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                    #10
                    If you’re really visual, try wrapping a piece of masking tape where you should be holding the reins. Also some sport-focused Physio therapy out of the saddle if you’re experiencing pain while adjusting your position.

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                      Original Poster

                      #11
                      Thanks a lot, guys! I will start trying several of these ideas. Hair Stockings, that is exactly how I feel sometimes! If I reach them out that far, I feel like can't do anything with them!
                      "Radar, the man's ex-cavalry: if he sees four flies having a meeting, he knows they're talking about a horse!" Cptn. BJ Hunnicutt, M*A*S*H Season 4, Episode "Dear Mildred"

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                        #12
                        I have that same problem short arms, long torso.
                        Perhaps what you are doing is trying to change your rein length by moving your hands instead of using your fingers.

                        As a hunter rider , you do have to move the hands forward to free the horse head and neck over the jumps.

                        But on the flat you ideally want a straight line from bit to the elbow. However, that line will change as the horse moves from gait to gait.

                        Trying to force your hands forward causes you to stiffen to compensate.

                        If you trust your horse I would tie the reins in a knot on his neck and just practice sitting in the saddle and let your upper arms hang from your shoulders naturally

                        The hands should be above the withers.
                        However, this depends on the length of the horses neck and the height of the riders shoulders.

                        You want your elbows to float slightly just in the front of the hips.

                        What you may want to do is very slightly move your elbow forward and allow the forearm to drop at a slightly lower angle .

                        Experiment until you feel the sweet spot.
                        Your hands will float right above or close to the withers without tension.

                        The main thing to remember is that the correct rein length is through the fingers not by moving the hands. Except of course over a jump

                        It takes some practice to get the dexterity , but with practice you'll get there.

                        Hope this helps.



                        Certified Guacophobe

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                          #13
                          I struggled with this exact issue for the past year. I lease a lovely hunter but he has a very long neck and I am short potato shaped with t-Rex arms . I too had horrible back pain trying to keep my arms where my trainer wanted them. I focus on stretching up and opening my shoulders. I think about lifting my sternum up with a relaxed leg. It was painful and I started in small increments. I thought I would hurt my back but it was just muscle building. I no longer have the back pain. I noticed I slouch in every day life and even stretching up when out of the saddle was painful. I mainly collapse through my shoulders more so than at the waist. Now I feel so much better and can hold better posture.

                          I do a lot of two point while hacking. I also second the buckling the reins around the neck suggestion, even for 10 minutes to help build muscle memory.

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                            #14
                            Sometimes I feel like my boobs get in the way when I'm trying to reach forward with my hands while keeping my shoulders back, and I found that separating my hands a touch more helps me get around that issue(s).

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