Tips for Controlling Your Hands While Riding

When it comes to riding, controlling your hands is key. Your hands are one of the most important aids you have when communicating with your horse, so it’s essential to develop good habits and maintain steady, soft contact. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, here are some tips to help you improve your hand control.

1. Practice makes perfect: Just like any skill, controlling your hands requires practice. Take the time to work on exercises that focus on your hand position and movement. One exercise you can try is holding a doorframe with both hands and walking forward, paying attention to keeping your hands steady and straight. This will help you develop the muscle memory needed to maintain a consistent hand position while riding.

2. Avoid gripping: One common mistake riders make is gripping the reins too tightly. This can cause your hands to become stiff and rigid, making it difficult for your horse to understand your cues. Instead, practice holding the reins with a soft, light grip. Imagine holding a fragile object, like an egg, in your hand. This will help you maintain a steady but gentle contact with your horse.

3. Keep your thumbs on top: When holding the reins, make sure to keep your thumbs on top. This will enable you to have a more secure grip and better control over the reins. Avoid the habit of letting your thumbs point inward or downward, as this can give mixed signals to your horse and interfere with your communication.

4. Work on your position: Your hand control is closely related to your overall riding position. Make sure you’re sitting up straight, with your shoulders relaxed and down. A common issue riders face is the tendency to let their shoulders round forward or hunch. This not only affects your hand position but also puts unnecessary strain on your back and shoulders.

5. Use the right equipment: Having the right equipment can also make a big difference in your hand control. Make sure you’re using the correct length of reins, as ones that are too long or too short can make it harder for you to maintain a consistent contact. Additionally, consider using aids like a stirrup bar or an equicise simulator to help you work on your position and hand control.

6. Seek professional guidance: If you’re struggling with your hand control, it can be beneficial to seek guidance from a qualified riding instructor. They can assess your hand position and give you specific exercises and instructions to improve your control. Remember, even experienced riders can always learn something new and benefit from professional guidance.

Controlling your hands while riding is an ongoing process, and it’s essential to continuously work on improving your hand control. By practicing good habits and using the right techniques, you can develop softness and finesse in your hands, enabling you to communicate effectively with your horse.

Proper Hand Position

One of the key elements to consider for controlling your hands while riding is maintaining the correct hand position. Your hands should be held in a relaxed and steady position, with a slight bend in your elbows. This allows for better communication with your horse and helps to maintain balance.

When holding the reins, your hands should be positioned just above the withers of the horse. There should be a straight line from your elbow to the horse’s mouth, with a light and even contact on the reins. Avoid pulling back too hard or allowing your reins to become too loose, as these can lead to a lack of control.

It is important to keep your hands soft and supple, following the horse’s mouth as they move. This will allow you to give clear and consistent aids to your horse. If your hands are rigid or fixed, it can create tension and interfere with the horse’s movement and alignment.

In addition to maintaining proper hand position, there are several exercises you can do to improve your hand control and connection with the horse. Some of these exercises include:

1. Walking and trotting transitions: Practice transitioning between the walk and trot, focusing on keeping your hands steady and following the horse’s movement.

2. Mounting and dismounting: Pay attention to your hand position as you mount and dismount, making sure to keep your hands in the correct alignment.

3. Riding without stirrups: Riding without stirrups requires a strong and balanced seat, which in turn helps improve hand control.

4. Equicise simulator: Using an equicise simulator can help guide your hands and teach you proper hand position.

5. Working on a lunge line: Working on a lunge line allows you to focus on your hands without having to worry about steering or controlling the horse.

By following these tips and practicing these exercises, you can improve your hand position and control while riding. Remember to always start gently and be patient with yourself and your horse. Controlling your hands plays a key role in effective communication and maintaining balance while riding, so it is important to focus on this skill.

In summary, controlling your hands while riding requires proper hand position, soft and supple hands, and exercises to improve hand control. By maintaining the correct alignment and balance, and by working on exercises that improve hand control, you can effectively communicate with your horse and improve your overall riding experience.

Keep a Soft Grip

One of the most important tips for controlling your hands while riding is to keep a soft grip on the reins. This is essential for maintaining a steady and consistent connection with your horse’s mouth. By keeping your hands soft and relaxed, you enable your horse to feel subtle signals and guides, which are needed for proper communication between rider and horse.

When holding the reins, aim to have a straight line from your elbow through your wrist and into the bit. Avoid pulling or holding the reins too tightly, as this can create tension and inhibit proper movement in your horse’s mouth. Instead, think of carrying the reins in your hands, allowing them to gently swing back and forth with your horse’s movement.

Throughout your ride, it’s important to keep your wrists flexible. This enables you to follow your horse’s movement and make needed adjustments without creating unnecessary tension. By keeping your wrists supple and flexible, you can better connect with your horse’s mouth and maintain a light and effective rein contact.

Tips for achieving a soft grip:

  1. Practice exercises on the ground, like the “equicise” or standing near your horse while holding the reins. This helps you develop the habit of keeping a soft grip without the added complexity of riding.
  2. Start with a light grip on the reins and avoid squeezing or gripping with your fingertips. Instead, think of gently wrapping your fingers around the reins, allowing them to rest softly in your hands.
  3. Keep your thumb on top of the reins, but avoid squeezing or pressing down too hard. Your thumb should act as a guide, supporting the reins without restricting their movement.
  4. Follow your horse’s movements and transitions with your hands. Be aware of any excessive bouncing or movement in the reins, and try to stay steady and consistent with your hand position.
  5. Remember to keep your whole body in balance while riding. If you feel like you’re holding onto the reins too tightly, check your overall posture and make sure your legs are giving the necessary support in the stirrups.

By keeping a soft grip on the reins, you can avoid inadvertently giving your horse mixed or conflicting signals. This will help you maintain a clear line of communication with your horse and enable smoother transitions and movements throughout your ride. Practice these tips and aim to have a soft, light, and consistent hand position, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more effective and connected rider.

Use Your Hands as a Communication Tool

Use Your Hands as a Communication Tool

When riding a horse, it is essential to continuously control and maintain your hands in the correct position. Your hands serve as a communication tool, letting the horse know where to go and how fast to go. Keeping a high level of control over your hands can help you have a safe and successful ride.

One important tip to consider is that since the reins are the only direct connection between you and the horse, it is vital to always know where your hands are and what they are doing. Proper hand position is crucial, as it enables you to effectively communicate with the horse and follow its movements.

Here are some tips to help you use your hands effectively while horseback riding:

1. Keep your hands low and steady.
2. Avoid rigid or tight hand posture.

  • These may make you feel uncomfortable and give mixed signals to the horse.
3. If you need to grab onto something, like a doorframe or a mounting aid, always aim to use your thigh or leg, rather than relying on your hands.
4. Ensure your knuckles are facing upward, not inward or downward.

  • Holding the reins with your knuckles facing upward allows for better balance and aids in maintaining overall control.
5. Use a simulator or a screen frame to practice correct hand position.

  • By placing their hands on the simulator or the frame of a screen, riders can develop muscle memory and learn how to hold their hands correctly.
6. Consider carrying a crop or a whip as an aid to help communicate with your horse.

  • These tools should only be used if necessary and with skill, to ensure you are not using them as a crutch or relying on them too heavily.
7. Remember to always maintain a light and gentle touch on the reins.

  • Too much tension or force can cause discomfort or pain to the horse and can lead to a lack of responsiveness or cooperation.

By following these tips and practicing good hand control, you can connect with your horse on a deeper level and ensure a safe and enjoyable ride.

Avoid Tension and Stiffness in Your Hands

Controlling your hands while riding is crucial for maintaining a light and effective connection with your horse. Stiff or tense hands can negatively impact your ability to communicate with your horse and lead to discomfort for both you and your equine partner. Here are five ways to avoid tension and stiffness in your hands:

1. Keep Your Hands Soft and Relaxed

One of the keys to achieving light and responsive hands is to keep them soft and relaxed. Avoid gripping the reins too tightly or holding your hands in a locked position. Instead, imagine lightly holding a delicate object like a butterfly or a newborn kitten.

2. Maintain Correct Alignment

Proper alignment of your hands, wrists, and elbows is essential for effective communication with your horse. Imagine a straight line from your elbow to the bit, with your hands positioned slightly in front of the vertical. This alignment allows for a direct and clear signal to the horse.

3. Practise Exercises to Improve Hand Independence

Hand independence is the ability to move your hands independently of your body and the horse’s movements. This skill is particularly important for maintaining a consistent contact and following the horse’s mouth without interfering with their natural movement. Practise exercises such as riding with only one hand or using a rein aid to guide your hands independently.

4. Befriend Your Thumb

The position of your thumbs plays a crucial role in achieving light and effective hands. Rather than wrapping your thumbs around the reins, keep them on top to enable independent movement of your hands and maintain a soft contact with your horse.

5. Use Aids and Tools to Help You

If you’re struggling with hand control, there are aids and tools available to assist you. A simulator or an equicise frame can help you practise keeping your hands light and correct alignment. Additionally, using rubber reins or a neck strap can provide a consistent reference point for your hands and help you find a comfortable position.

In summary, achieving light and controlled hands is key to effective riding. By keeping your hands soft and relaxed, maintaining correct alignment, practising hand independence, being mindful of your thumb position, and utilizing aids and tools as needed, you can improve your hand control and better communicate with your horse.

Practice Flexibility and Suppleness

When it comes to controlling your hands while riding, it’s important to have flexibility and suppleness in your wrists and fingers. This allows you to have a soft and responsive contact with the horse’s mouth, without being rigid or causing any discomfort. Here are some tips and exercises to help you achieve this:

1. Soften your grip: One of the most common mistakes riders make is holding on too tightly to the reins. Instead, think of holding the reins like you would hold a delicate object, such as an egg or a baby bird. This will help you maintain a soft and steady contact with the horse’s mouth.

2. Hold your reins correctly: To maintain a proper rein contact, hold the reins between your thumb and index finger, with the little finger slightly separated. This allows your hands to be soft and flexible, while still giving you control over the horse’s movements.

3. Keep your hands steady: Avoid excessive movement or bouncing of your hands. Instead, aim to have a steady and consistent contact with the horse’s mouth. This helps the horse understand your cues and aids in maintaining a balanced and harmonious ride.

4. Practice exercises: There are several exercises you can do to improve your hand control. One simple exercise is to place your hands on a doorframe, with your fingers facing downward, and gently push against the doorframe. This helps to stretch and strengthen your wrists and fingers, allowing for more flexibility and control.

5. Follow the horse’s movement: As the horse moves, your hands should move with them. This means that when the horse swings its head from side to side, your hands should follow this movement. This requires a certain level of coordination and balance, but with practice, it will become more natural.

6. Pay attention to your elbows: Your elbows should be soft and slightly bent, allowing for a more flexible and responsive contact with the horse’s mouth. Avoid locking your elbows or keeping them too rigid, as this can cause discomfort for both you and the horse.

7. Think about your whole body: Achieving a balanced and soft contact with the horse’s mouth requires more than just controlling your hands. It requires a balanced position in the saddle, with relaxed legs and a supple seat. Make sure to maintain a good posture and engage your core muscles to support your body while riding.

8. Get feedback: Ask an experienced rider or instructor to watch you ride and give you feedback on your hand position and contact. They can help you identify any habits or issues that you may not be aware of, and suggest ways to improve.

By practicing these tips and exercises, you can learn to control your hands effectively and maintain a soft and supple contact with your horse. Remember to always be patient with yourself and your horse, as achieving true softness and flexibility takes time and practice.

Stay Calm and Relaxed

Stay Calm and Relaxed

When it comes to controlling your hands while riding, it’s important to stay calm and relaxed. Your hands play a crucial role in maintaining balanced and effective communication with your horse.

Here are some tips to help you improve your hand control:

1. Maintain a Soft and Light Contact

Always aim to have a soft and light contact with the reins. Avoid gripping them tightly or being too rigid. Your hands should be relaxed and supple, allowing for a fluid and responsive connection with your horse’s mouth.

2. Keep Your Hands Steady

Practice keeping your hands steady and still. Avoid excessive movement or swinging of the reins, as this can confuse your horse and disrupt the overall balance of your ride.

3. Follow Your Horse’s Head and Neck Movement

As your horse walks or trots, allow your hands to follow the natural movement of its head and neck. This will help you maintain a consistent contact and prevent any jerking or pulling on the reins.

4. Carry Your Hands at the Correct Height

Walk Trot Canter
Hold your hands slightly above the horse’s withers. Hold your hands at or just above the level of the saddle. Hold your hands slightly in front of the vertical.

5. Practice Rein Length Adjustments

Practice adjusting the length of your reins while riding. Be sure to maintain a consistent contact and avoid allowing the reins to become too long or too short.

6. Strengthen Your Core and Leg Muscles

A strong and balanced rider starts with a strong core and legs. Regularly practice exercises that target your core and quadriceps to improve your overall stability in the saddle.

Remember, hand control is a crucial aspect of riding. By staying calm and relaxed, practicing good posture, and following these tips, you’ll be on your way to becoming a more effective and confident rider.


How can I improve my hand control while riding?

Improving hand control while riding can be achieved through various exercises and techniques. One effective way is to regularly practice exercises that focus on hand coordination and dexterity, such as squeezing a stress ball or doing finger and wrist stretches. Additionally, working on your overall body posture, balance, and core strength can also improve hand control while riding. Lastly, it can be helpful to ride with a qualified instructor who can provide guidance and feedback on proper hand positioning and control.

What are some common mistakes riders make with their hands?

There are several common mistakes riders make with their hands while riding. One mistake is gripping the reins too tightly, which can result in tension and restrict the horse’s movement. Another mistake is allowing the reins to become too loose and slack, which can lead to a lack of control and communication with the horse. Additionally, riders may also unintentionally use their hands for balance, pulling on the horse’s mouth and causing discomfort. It’s important to be aware of these mistakes and strive for a soft, steady contact with the horse’s mouth.

Are there any specific exercises that can help improve hand control?

Yes, there are several exercises that can help improve hand control while riding. One exercise is practicing transitions, such as trot-walk or canter-trot transitions, while maintaining a consistent and controlled hand position. This exercise helps to develop a light and responsive feel in the hands. Another exercise is riding without reins or with just one rein, which forces the rider to rely more on their seat and leg aids for communication. This can help improve overall balance and coordination with the hands. Additionally, practicing lateral movements, such as shoulder-in and leg yield, can also improve hand control by requiring subtle and precise rein aids.

How can I prevent my hands from bouncing up and down while riding?

Preventing your hands from bouncing up and down while riding can be achieved through proper positioning and relaxation. One tip is to maintain a soft and elastic contact with the horse’s mouth, allowing the reins to flow through your fingers. Avoid gripping the reins tightly, as this can lead to tension and bouncing hands. Additionally, focus on keeping your hands steady and following the horse’s movement with your elbows and shoulders. Developing a strong and stable core can also contribute to a more stable hand position. Regular practice and awareness of your hand position will help prevent bouncing hands.

Leave a Comment