Low hands help...
My instructor says that I carry my hands too low and wide which can be uncomfortable for my horse, are there any exercises I can do in my sessions without my instructor to help me carry them higher??
I already ride with the whip across my thumbs which helps a lot abut when I take the whip away they drop again ! It's very annoying as I don't want to be hurting my horse, I want him to trust my hands...
What discipline are you riding?
Shall I guess that by "English," you mean a forward style/hunt seat saddle?
You want to have a straight line from the elbow to the horse's mouth (both when the viewer looks at you from the side, and when you look from above. The thumbs should be rather upright/highest point; this keeps the upper arms closed to the body (and the upper arm should hang vertically).
WHY carry the hands higher? Because low wide hands create pain on the bars and precipitous flexion, so the horse will be too closed first and then often come above the bit in an effort to avoid the pain.
Try resting your knuckles just in front of the horse's wither, or use a neck strap to hold onto.
It's about muscle memory, if you have something physical to focus on it will be easier to correct your hands than only thinking 'hands up'.
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Resting the knuckles will lower the hands, and holding a neck strap will tend to create piano hands.... those go against what the op is requesting AND they straighten the elbows away from the trunk.:-|
We used to use an elastic band and string on our upper arms (just above the elbow - string around arms then tied to elastic band that went behind your back; tension adjusted so that if your arm was where it should be there would be none to minimal pressure from the string). The purpose was to keep your arms (and consequently your hands) in their proper position. Elasticity was important in the event you needed to make 'save yourself from injury' adjustments.
Sorry I must disagree with this. Resting knuckles/using a bucking strap is a tried and true method for getting the rider's muscle memory correct in positioning of the arm.
The upper arm should rest beside the upper body, there should be a slight bend in the elbow which changes as the rider posts, or the horse canters, etc, in order to keep the hands still relative to the horse's neck. The best way to train this is to have the rider use a bucking strap until s/he has good muscle memory. Some riders (myself included) who have stubby arms will find that they have to carry the elbows infront of the torso, this is not incorrect. What is correct is to have the hands quiet and independent. What is incorrect is to have the hands too high, working backwards and pulling (as is seen in 95% of north american riders), likely because of this "posed" thumbs up, heels down mentality.
I do not have a problem with "low" hands. However wide hands are a vice which needs to be stopped. The hands should be no wider than 4" apart at any point. By keeping the hands close together, they cannot drop below a certain point on the wither, they cannot be brought onto the saddle or the leg, and they generally stay in their "box". Riding with a bucking strap is the number one best way to get a rider to hold his/her hands close together and quietly.
Until the rider can effectively press the hands away from the body and use them in a completely independent fashion, the hand position will never truly be correct and the horse will always have a sore mouth from being pulled on. Learning by use of a bucking strap, pressing the knuckles, etc.. is the best way to learn to be kind to a horse's mouth.
Good luck OP!
Couldnt have said it better myself, Anebel!
Even now I will often tuck a finger under the velcro of my saddle cloth, to test how dependant I am on my hands. It you start pulling agai st the saddle cloth/neck strap you know there's an issue to address.
There is no need to have a 90 degree bend in your elbows!
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