Hard hands...

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Hard hands...

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    04-30-2014, 09:35 AM
Green Broke
Hard hands...

How do you know if you ride with hard hands??

And what sort of horse would you get if you rode with hard hands?
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    04-30-2014, 09:56 AM
Do you mean hard hands or busy hands? Hard hands means you are hanging tightly onto the reins with excessive contact on the horse's mouth, while busy hands mean you can't keep your hands still. Either way, it's a bad habit that you should fix rather than find a horse that can deal with it. If you find a horse with tolerance for a hard hand then it will probably not be very responsive to the bit, maybe even be the sort that will take the bit and run.

How to TELL your hands are hard is a difficult question... In English you SHOULD have contact with the horse's mouth at pretty much all times. But you shouldn't be actively pulling back or yanking, just a soft, steady contact without major pressure.

The easiest way to tell if you are hard handed is probably by your horse's reactions. Does it have a hard mouth? Does it toss its head or carry itself with "giraffe neck" to escape the pressure? Does it start backing up when you are trying to get it to move forward? Does it get frustrated and start dancing or otherwise exhibiting symptoms of mixed signals when you ask it to move forward? If so, you may want to soften your hands. There should not be slack in the reins, but you don't need to be hanging on, either.
Palomine likes this.
    04-30-2014, 10:14 AM
Rather than the term hard hands I prefer unforgiving hands. A boarder couldn't relax her elbows and when her horse was trotting there was a continual bumping of the horse's mouth. As she urged the horse to canter, it would speed up the trot and of course the bumping got worse. This caused the horse to raise it's head and hollow it's back making for a rougher ride. When the horse began wringing it's tail and I suspected it's intent was to toss the rider just to get away from all it's discomfort.
    04-30-2014, 10:23 AM
Green Broke
Is there a way you can train yourself out of having hard hands?
    04-30-2014, 10:24 AM
Green Broke
And as a bystander would you be able to tell if someone was riding with hard hands?
    04-30-2014, 10:29 AM
Yes, you can get rid of "hard hands" and, yes, you can tell from the ground because you can see the hard pull on the horse's mouth.

You need to focus on letting the elbow be a gentle hinge, opening and closing as the horse moves to keep the contact without pulling on the mouth. People usually have hard hands for the same reason they have busy hands: Lack of an independent seat. You tighten your grip on the reins because it makes you feel more stable. I would suggest working on the lunge line without reins. Practice balancing without relying on your hands and stopping and steering with your legs and seat. Once you feel comfortable, get off the lunge line, tie up the reins and move the horse around the arena with just your legs and seat. Make it so that you are not dependent on your hands for security. They should be the third line of communication, after legs and seat. Once you are secure in your balance and well versed in the other aids, the need to grip with your hands will lessen and you will be able to keep gentle contact without pulling.
Gossalyn likes this.
    04-30-2014, 01:25 PM
A good visual for me w/ the elbows is picture your arms are rubber bands that connect your shoulder to the reign. You have a bend in your elbow.. but your arm isn't locked in that position.. it has to be loose and move. This is because your horses head moves.. and you want to move with it. Make sure your shoulders stay back! (sometimes when my rubber band arms go forward w/ the horse my shoulders come forward - the shoulders are not rubber bands! They stay back.) but the arm should be flexible.

It's good to have a good grip on the reins, but I try to really grip them between my thumb and pointer finger (The top two) and leave the rest 'softer'.

I love DressageCowGirl's suggestion of no reins lunge line work.. ! And I've just started some 10 minute core workouts each day... it should help with being more secure in the seat. (so far this is my least favorite part about riding - but I am determined to ride better!)
    04-30-2014, 03:09 PM
Unhappy This is me...

At time, but not on purpose...

My horse was originally trained to western riding style. I feel like I am ALWAYS on this mouth in my English lessons during the posting trot.

It must not be too badly (or he is INCREDIBLY tolerant) because he doesn't act up. But, there are times when we have gone around the ring and I swear I did more "hanging on" than rhythmic posting.

I am working very hard on keeping my elbows bent, hand further down, back straight, chest forward.

Where I run into problems is when he moves his neck. Sam wants to naturally trot with a lower neck set than I see others on youtube. I feel as if I am leaning forward to maintain contact and not give him 5 feet of reins. If I pull the reins to put his neck/head in a better frame, I feel as if I am completely on his mouth, not just providing contact.

There are times when the moon aligns and my elbows soften and give and he breaks nicely at the poll, but other times I am being jerked forward and back.

Imagine waterskiing. Do you know that feeling when you pull your arms and tow rope in to your chest and then move your arms out? Because of the tightness and slack in the rope you fall back and then forward? My horse's neck is the tow rope.

Any tips for this to help me be a better rider?
    04-30-2014, 03:12 PM
I'm starting to sound like I am on the payroll, BUT Clinton Anderson's method teaches you to handle from the ground asking for "ounces", instead of pounds.
You could retrain your feel of the reins by retraining your horse from the ground to lead and handle with very light pressure. Translate that to leading with the lead as you would handle the reins and you should be able to ride more lightly.
    04-30-2014, 03:53 PM
Super Moderator
Balance, balance, balance
Lots of work on the lunge without anything to hold on too - arms folded or outstretched - I would allow a neck strap to grab if you feel the need to steady yourself
There are horses with hard mouths - often made that way by riders with hard hands - but a hard mouth = a horse with very poor brakes so not to be recommended
If you have really busy hands then try tying some baler twine between the D rings on the front of the saddle at just the right place for your hands to be when riding normally and hook your little fingers under it to train yourself to keep them there
Corporal likes this.

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