Do You Ever Get Heavy Hands? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 03-23-2016, 03:08 AM Thread Starter
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Do You Ever Get Heavy Hands?

I feel myself using too much rein sometimes and I feel bad about it. Especially because I have been riding my entire life and have no excuse for having heavy hands.
I always stress the importance of lightness in the bridle to myself and to my little riders who I help out, so it makes me feel like a hypocrite! I try my very best to have soft hands at all times and use my legs and seat for the majority of the communication with the horse I'm on. But in stressful situations, without realizing it, I think I rely way too much on my hands. I ride a few green and problem horses, and sometimes when I'm frustrated dealing with a buddy sour/gate sour/dead-sided horse, it's really really tough not to depend on the reins for direction. Or to use too much force when stopping a runaway freight train.
So sometimes after those depressing days of using too much rein and feeling bad about myself, I go home and ride my old gelding bridleless. Just to prove to myself I don't suck that much.
Am I the only one who gets down about using too much hand?

"Never give up for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn." ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

Last edited by Spec; 03-23-2016 at 03:13 AM.
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post #2 of 9 Old 03-23-2016, 10:34 AM
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I get upset and tend to focus on my mistakes, too.

Really everyone makes mistakes. Including the horses. Keep riding. You will improve and you are most likely not as bad as you perceive.
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post #3 of 9 Old 03-23-2016, 12:22 PM
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When I saw the title of your post, my first thought was: "rider tension".

A common reaction to stressful situations is to become tense in an effort to gain control or at least not lose control. Because our hands have proven useful in so many situations, we tend to depend on them too much when riding.

That said, there are times when hands are useful in riding. There are times when rein tension is useful. But it is important to consider how best to use these. A give and take on the reins is often more effective than simply pulling on the reins. This give and take should be applied in a smooth manner, hopefully in rhythm with the horse's movements. In this way, it becomes more an influence than an attempt to force a response.

Developing such an approach takes experiment and practice. Remind yourself that both you and your horse are constantly learning. This is made more difficult by the fact that the circumstances are constantly changing.

Training riders and horses to work in harmony.
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post #4 of 9 Old 03-27-2016, 03:27 PM
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Its normal. I've been riding for years and I know I have the same issue.

Kenzie is a very forward, high strung horse. The worse thing to do with her is try and hold her back with the reins. Lots of circles, moving her hinds, etc, are how you get her to slow down and focus.

Yet the other day I caught myself trying to hold her in on a group trail ride, because I knew we were annoying a few off the other riders, by constantly circling, yielding, backing, etc. And I got frustrated at her for tensing up, tucking her nose to her chest, and starting to jig.

I had to give myself a mental slap to stop worrying about the other people, and do what works best for her.

So its totally normal to screw up when you are stressed. I know I do and I'm sure every rider on here does too.
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post #5 of 9 Old 04-01-2016, 01:22 PM
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You are certainly not the only one who does that!

There are times I get SOOOO frustrated with Duggan for not doing something that I know he knows how to do, and 99.9% of the time it's because I'm trying to hard and apply the pressure, but forget to release. I've been riding for 15 years and should know better. Soft hands were next to godliness in my grandfather's book and that's how I was raised.

I have a nice little ritual I do when I realize what I'm doing. I stop him, drop my reins, breathe, put my hands on my head and leave them there, and push him around with my legs. I get a good walk, trot, and canter in each direction with my hands still on my head, and what do you know, he's back to his old self when I quietly pick my reins back up.

Don't beat yourself up. Just work twice as hard next time to be conscious of your hands.
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post #6 of 9 Old 04-01-2016, 01:27 PM
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No, you are not the only one, we are all work in progress, some of us more than others. The thing is, if you are aware of the issue and are constantly working to improve, then you are doing OK....

Fergie is teaching me so much about lightening my hands, the right horse is very educational on this matter!
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post #7 of 9 Old 04-01-2016, 01:42 PM
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I have light hands as a rule, but lately on my four year old I have been finding myself heavy handed due to tension and anxiety. She is a very anxious creature who gets stressed about the most minimal pressure, and tends to react to it badly often. It has taken a lot of work to get her over that. Still, even though I know she is all bark and no bite, when she pops up her front end, jigs in place, shakes under me, pins her ears and swishes her tail - I am just waiting for an explosion and I find myself tightening the reins.

I am just now learning to not be afraid of her massive forward motion. I have put myself in a situation where I just flick her out rein, ride her one handed, and let her trot out until she is tired. It has helped her anxiety. Regardless though, it is very hard to check yourself when you are riding tense. Self preservation is normal, even for people like me who are constantly starting colts and training on horses. Somewhere out there, you will find horses who intimidate you - Hopefully though you don't get lucky enough to own one like I do. lol

Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
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post #8 of 9 Old 04-01-2016, 01:58 PM
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Yes, because like TXhorseman said, I'm tense. I've only been riding hunt seat for a few months, and I'm still figuring out the whole "soft contact" without pulling thing.

In this week's lesson, my instructor was working with me on keeping the horse bending into the turn, and I was having a really hard time remembering to let go when he gave. I just wanted to keep pulling. She said many beginners struggle with that and it will come in time!

I am not going around yanking on his face, but learning to release is something I have to REALLY concentrate on. At the same time I'm concentrating on my own body position--hands, heels, butt--I always say I'm too uncoordinated for riding but she assures me it will come.
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post #9 of 9 Old 04-01-2016, 02:57 PM
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Maybe to approach the question from a different angle ... are there times when heavy hands are necessary?

I've had times out on the trail, just as an example, when I suddenly notice a wire laying on the ground that my horse is about to step over. I will suddenly and abruptly grab hold of the reins and get my horse to stop immediately, for fear of him getting tangled in the wire. In the end, I feel bad for "grabbing" him so quickly, but I did what I thought I needed to do to keep us safe.

Will I have any long-lasting effects from being heavy handed like that once in a while? Probably not. Horses are mostly forgiving creatures and they'll move on.
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