How to teach soft hands to children - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 47 Old 09-11-2013, 08:54 PM
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I see you've already had some great replies on this thread! For a younger kid, it's often harder to teach, other's have already stated to basic stuff that usually works to teach them such as no hands riding, holding on to the saddle, making a knot in the reins etc.

Since people have already mentioned most of the tricks I could think of, I'll give you an exercise we usually give to the more advance riders, but could work for your kid at a walk. So if your pony is good with crops, give the kid a short crop to hold in between the reins and her thumb (horizontally). So she's holding the crop with both of her hands (so you don't want a crop that is too long and will stick out too much on each sides). Now she had to try and control the horse in that position. I won't prevent her from moving her hands up or down, but it's great to show how to turn and halt without separating the hands/pulling harder with one hand. Like I said, this is a trickier exercise, I've only done it with my more advance students (w/t/c), but you could always try it at a walk and see if it helps.

If all fails, I'm afraid you'll have to be annoying and remind her to fix her hands every time she moves them incorrectly. It'll be very annoying to both you and her, but in the end repetition is key with an 8yo.
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post #12 of 47 Old 09-11-2013, 09:29 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone! Lots of great info. I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Orgo, I have been gently nagging constantly. I'm tired of repeating myself to no avail.

Since it is taking time, my first issue to address is the horses's comfort. Then, some work on lungeline...hands good = time off lunge.
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post #13 of 47 Old 09-11-2013, 10:30 PM
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It sounds like maybe she isn't ready for the reins.

Have you had her on the lunge line without stirrups or a saddle? If so, how does she do? How are her leg positions and how familiar is she with her center?

If she is solid on the above, then my next step would be a game that involves reins like this:

- Put her hands in the correct position with the reins and move forward at a walk.
- Ask her to drop one rein and touch her nose, and focus on keeping one rein in position at a time.
- Alternate, rise, repeat.

It will help her focus on her seat and the position of her hands without getting too spacey. This is an exercise that requires all your attention so it may work to keep her mind focused.

That is what I do with my young students when they need to work on hand position. It is fun and keeps the mood light while having a purpose.
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post #14 of 47 Old 09-11-2013, 11:56 PM
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Get two stress balls and get her to gather up her reins the correct length and put the balls on either side of the horn of the saddle; the inside of her wrist should hold the balls still. Before doing any maneuvers she should palm the ball and (stop, turn, ect.) the put the ball back. Makes for good showing hands. Good Luck
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post #15 of 47 Old 09-11-2013, 11:59 PM
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Also thin rubber bands that will break fairly easily. Two around the horn a wrist through each one
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post #16 of 47 Old 09-12-2013, 12:13 AM
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So if I have gathered right her hands aren't too bad until she gets distracted? I've always heard that, when teaching kids, once they get distracted like that it's time for them to get off of the horse. It's not fair for the horse to have a distracted rider yanking on his head, and if the child's mind is elsewhere then she isn't getting anything out of the lesson at that point. How long into the lessons does this problem start to occur? If it's half an hour into an hour long lesson then it's pretty obvious that the lessons are too long for her at this point. If it's 5 minutes into the lesson... then that's a bit more tricky. If it's only when the horses in the other paddock are running, or only when someone drives down the driveway, or distractions triggered by specific events then use those times to do something challenging without the reins, or stop for a water break when things aren't being productive. Pick it back up when she's a little more focused.

I also agree that she should not have reins until this problem can be resolved. Even if your horse is a saint, it's still not fair for him to not try and prevent the problem. You also want to make sure that you don't create a rider that jumps to her hands in "inclement" situations!
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post #17 of 47 Old 09-12-2013, 12:19 AM
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Oh I didn't see if you have tried this game or not, but the golfball/spoon game is wonderful for such kids. Start with a big, deep plastic spoon now and work your way down to something more challenging. Start with just a few steps at a time at the walk and work your way up to a longer run/trot steps/ a smaller spoon as she progresses. This game is really fun, but requires a lot of attention focused on the rider's hands. She'll have to keep still hands to keep the ball in place, and there's no way she can do that with her hands up by her face!
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post #18 of 47 Old 09-12-2013, 07:34 AM Thread Starter
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Duckdodgers we have done that game so many times. I like the stressball idea and elastics. Her hands never ever ever stay where they are supposed to be. One minutes into walking on the rail her hands will start out down and in front and within 5 steps they are up in the air. I think she spaces in her head. Even playing the big spoon and tennis ball (egg and spoon) she will always drop the ball within half a length of the ring. Her eyes will gaze up to look at the target and the hands will move and she will lose the ball. She is a very bright delightful child without disabilities. I think this is just a new hobby/skill and it's going to take longer. All the ideas here will help me though. One of these will have to be the "spark".

I don't think the lessons are too long in this case. This happens within the first 30 seconds. Her balance is decent, she has learned to keep her heels down and her feet firmly in the stirrups. She rides in an English saddle but we have spent quite a bit of time without stirrups at the walk. She is still learning how to post. She still flops around so no reins for trotting.

Yesterday we walked some trails because of extreme heat. I walked beside her and I made this lesson about the hands. I had my hands on the reins and was a reminder whenever she took too much. was so frustrating for me, the horse and her. I will work on her seat without reins for a few lessons. Sounds like she needs to ride with her seat and be able to be confident in her balance.
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post #19 of 47 Old 09-12-2013, 09:49 AM
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There is a direct connection between stiff hands and a stiff back. The way I dealt with this was to put the child on bareback. The horse is not bridled, but haltered with the lead draped in front of the withers. It was up to the child to figure out how to steer and get the horse to stop. My paddock had corners so the lead was allowed only if the horse decided to park in a corner. Other than that they just meandered about. I was the observer, saying as little as possible. I'm not sure a round pen would have been better as the corners did make her figure out how to turn the horse with the lead rope. That was the only time she was allowed to use it.
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post #20 of 47 Old 09-12-2013, 10:04 AM
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I learnt to ride when I was about 4 and wasn't allowed to hold the reins until I could ride balanced without them - arms folded with a neck strap just in case I needed to grab at something
This was all done on the lunge
I would suggest you try something on those lines as I think the child might be using the reins to support herself - a bit like the handlebars on a bike
Once she goes back to holding the reins you might find it kinder on the horse to use a simple sidepull bridle for a while
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