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Proper Way to Hold the Reins?

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  • Proper Way to Hold the Reins?

    I have a 10 year old student that injured her pinky finger. For some reason she says it hurts her pinky if she puts her ring finger around the reins. This is a year old injury to her pinky and seems to be a permanant pain issue. She is riding a large horse that can at times be somewhat strong for her and I am really not comfortable with her just having two fingers around the reins. Will it count against her if she shows with only two fingers around the one rein? I did a quick scan of the USEF rule book and couldn't find anything specific about how many fingers need to be on the reins. Does anyone think it's at all a safety issue if she rides with just two fingers holding the reins? She was in tears today over this issue and says it hurts horribly. Mom has taken her to a dr. and had it x-rayed. He said it broke at some point and healed and will probably always hurt and there is nothing to be done. Thoughts?

  • #2
    I would think at least in eq. if it was visible, it would be noted down, though I've still heard people debate how double reins are to be held so maybe not.

    Is there a brace or something she can use to hold the finger steady and reduce pain? Maybe wrapping the finger


    • Original Poster

      We've tried wrapping it and then it sticks straight out and at times has made her jam it over fences and increase her pain.Even with it wrapped she doesn't like the ring finger around the reins, says it hurts. I am at a loss and just ready to give in to riding with two fingers only on the reins, but told her and her mother that it will probably count against her in the show ring.


      • #4
        Find a new doctor. A ten year old with a permanent pain issue in a finger that leaves her in tears? Yea, I'd be getting a second opinion on that one.

        But to address your question I would be less worried about her being penalized in the show ring and more worried about the finger being in pain or being re-injured by a horse that is too strong for her. Is it her horse? Or is there a more suitable mount she could ride and show on?


        • Original Poster

          I agree on the pain issue. My first words today were, "She's too young to have permanant pain" But not my kid. Horse is hers and for the most part is very suitable, but on the rare occassion he does get strong I'd feel she has more control with all three fingers around the rein. I feel her half halts cannot be as effective this way. Also seems easier to have the reins slip out of the fingers. I am not condoning this new fangled way to hold the reins, but wondering if there is actually anything written in the USEF rules about how the fingers should be placed on the reins.


          • #6
            This may not work in the show ring but at home she could try holding the reins like driving reins?


            • #7
              There are multiple ways to hold the reins. Usually we choose to put it between the ring finger and pinky finger because that allows for strong contact and more control (so you can squeeze on finger and have contact with the horse's mouth). It is not wrong, improper or unsafe to hold it without the pinky finger. With kids who are uncomfortable with it I usually recommend it--they're not going to be doing anything that needs the more "refined" hand position anyway.

              Neither is more correct than the other. It's entirely dependent on the situation. So you can have her hold the reins with them going under her pinky instead. As long as her thumb and forefinger are strong on the reins it's not an issue.


              • #8
                The only time I've ever heard a big discussion on this at a show was at some little open show thing where one of the judges asked a rider to "address the reins," basically asking the little girl to show her how to pick up and hold the reins. The little girl looked sideways at the judge, then looked down at the reins laying on the horse's neck and said, "Good morning, reins!" Gotta love some youngins!

                I agree about there maybe being an issue in Eq. but otherwise, my biggest concern at this point would be the constant pain issue. I'd work on that mom in the kindest way possible. My hand was squished quite badly when I was 18years old and now 20+yrs later, the pain in my hand when it's cold IS unbearable. To think of a 10 year old spending her life that way...riding or not that just sucks.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by robinspaint View Post
                  I have a 10 year old student that injured her pinky finger. For some reason she says it hurts her pinky if she puts her ring finger around the reins. This is a year old injury to her pinky and seems to be a permanant pain issue. She is riding a large horse that can at times be somewhat strong for her and I am really not comfortable with her just having two fingers around the reins. Will it count against her if she shows with only two fingers around the one rein? I did a quick scan of the USEF rule book and couldn't find anything specific about how many fingers need to be on the reins. Does anyone think it's at all a safety issue if she rides with just two fingers holding the reins? She was in tears today over this issue and says it hurts horribly. Mom has taken her to a dr. and had it x-rayed. He said it broke at some point and healed and will probably always hurt and there is nothing to be done. Thoughts?

                  Apart from getting a second opinion from a good orthopedic specialist?

                  My thoughts are that showing should be the least of your worries at this stage.

                  Instead, always take care that this particular student be mounted on an appropriate horse for her ability level, suitably sized and properly bitted, and that she develops the ability to be in control at all times and to effectively use her reins, no matter how she holds them.

                  Of paramount importance is control of her horse, for her own safety and that of others. A horse that is 'somewhat strong' for any rider is not an ideal situation by a long shot; over-mounting has huge potential for an accident and should be avoided. I have seen situations where there is "only this one" [unsuitable] horse available, and the trainer goes ahead and uses it anyway. This type of situation ends in disaster frequently enough that it's certainly not worth the risk. It being 'her own horse' in my mind is not enough reason for her to keep riding it if she can't remain in control in all situations.

                  As a judge I will be comparing your rider to others she is competing against. If her inability to hold the reins correctly doesn't interfere with her ability to use the reins to better effect than the riders she is competing against, she will do well in comparison. If she is unable to perform as well as others, she will be placed accordingly.

                  That being said, many riders, with the right oversight and guidance, are able to overcome any number of inconvenient physical limitations and achieve high levels of success--google "Lizzy Traband" and you will notice that reins are merely an option in some cases--the key is that a rider who can't conform to the standard way of doing things not be presented with a risky situation that can derail their efforts at the outset or worse, expose anyone to the risk of injury.
                  Last edited by M. O'Connor; Jan. 6, 2013, 10:10 AM.
                  Inner Bay Equestrian


                  • #10
                    I've used a two finger split for holding reins in a double bridle and I've used the snaffle rein under the pinky before, I've also held my reins with my fingers, ie the reins are passing through right around that second finger joint instead of right at the hand/knuckle. ( I think lots of people do that finger thing as part of piano or puppy hands.)
                    I don't think that anybody cares as long as it's not an eq class, the important thing here to me is that the kid is in pain and likely to be focussing less on the work and more on her hand.
                    I would think that in time the pain will subside but I also think that it's sort of like stretching something, she's going to have to work through some of the pain and that's hard to ask of a kid. What does the doctor say about this specific problem? Can you wrap the pinky curled so it doesn't get jammed?
                    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                    Incredible Invisible


                    • #11
                      You could try wrapping the hand instead of the finger. Sometimes it's the metacarpals that need the support. Wrap around the palm of the hand and into the wrist to see if it helps a bit. Worth a try until the parents can get the root issue addressed.


                      • #12
                        Even in a Eq class, there is no way any judge would care about such a tiny detail if it doesn't affect her riding.

                        As a professional, telling your student that she will be marked down for that, especially a crying 10 yrs old who's in pain otherwise, is just not right.
                        She is not holding the reins with her teeth...there is one finger of difference!!! Who will see that? Have her buy a set of large black reins, black gloves and the judge will need a pair of binocular to see those tiny 10 yrs old hands on those reins, if the horse is black#dark, even better!

                        Why do people start thinking judges do care about such silly details? If you get marked down in a class is because of your riding, not because you were holding your rein only with your thumb#index. Not because you stock pin is purple or because your saddle is not X brand. You were marked down because your riding wasn't as good as the others! People just don't want to admit their riding sucked!
                        ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                        Originally posted by LauraKY
                        I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                        HORSING mobile training app


                        • Original Poster

                          Thank for the advice. Seems there really is no set hard and fast rule on how reins must be held. Found another thread on here that actually had some folks saying they held the reins the way she wants to. I am a stickler for safety and that is why I am worried about her holding her reins this way. Her horse is truly a saint, but not a robot and yes once in a blue moon can get a tad strong and he is a large horse, but he's a successful veteran of all the beginner divisions, with many years under his belt of safely packing kids around all the way from ss to the intermediates. She and this horse have already enjoyed much success in the show ring, but I do appreciate the concerns for her safety. What I am considering strong is probably not what some are picturing.


                          • Original Poster

                            This has been going on for a while. I was very sympathetic when she was crying and told her I would check on what our options were. I didn't say anything negative while she was in tears, actually gave her a hug after and told her I un
                            derstand her finger hurts and that would we find a solution. In the past I've told her I worry it would hurt her in the show ring. She is not a tiny 10 year old. She is as tall as most 13 year olds, which is why she rides a horse and not a pony. She works very hard on her riding, so I want to be sure I don't allow her to do something without knowing the consequences. She rides for the sheer love of it, but is also very competitive and wants to do well when she shows and is very eager to figure out her mistakes when she doesn't do well and go home and work on them. So want to know what the ramifications might be if we go with this.


                            • #15
                              It sounds like the best long term solution here is to just cut off the offending finger.


                              • #16
                                Her mom needs to find a hand specialist. In the mean time let her hold the reins however she can comfortably hold them. Most people, even judges, won't notice.


                                • #17
                                  I will occasionally ride a strong horse with the rein coming out below my pinky (I know she's not a h/j/eq rider, but if you watch Karen O'Connor closely, she rides like this often). I'll also do it if I'm riding a horse with reins that I find uncomfortably wide, or if I am having shoulder trouble (for whatever reason, that grip is more comfortable if I have recently separated my shoulder).

                                  I agree with getting this kid's pain sorted out, but she should be able to hold the reins how she feels comfortable, as long as she is still effective.