Achieving a steady hand contact with 3 fun exercises

Achieving a steady hand contact with 3 fun exercises

Riders need to develop a steady, following hand in order to be able to give independent rein aids that won't interfere with the horse's movement involuntarily. Otherwise, the horse will usually look for ways to evade the contact, which could manifest itself as head tossing, going above the bit, or escaping behind the bit - and usually, a combination of all of these. If the rider fails to develop a steady, elastic connection between the horse's mouth and the their hands through the reins, the horse will never trust their hand and seek the bit in a correct way.

These principles apply to dressage riders, showjumpers and eventers especially. In these disciplines, a constant connection is sought to be established between the horse's mouth and the hand, so that even very subtle aids can be received by the horse almost immediately. However, this also means that if the rider makes involuntary movements, the horse will immediately feel these and react!

It is therefore crucial that riders spend time and effort to developing full control of their hand position.

Here are three fun exercises you can try to improve the steadiness of your hands. Ideally, these should be done on the lunge, but if you can't get someone to lunge you, then they can be done on a quiet horse in an enclosed arena. Just knot your reins together and never mind if your horse wanders a little bit!

1. Alternating patting

In this exercise, hold the reins in one hand. First at the walk, then at the trot (and at canter too if you're very confident!), pick a rhythm and with your free hand, pat the horse on alternating sides of the neck, in the right rhythm. For, example, at the walk, you could pat the right side of the neck when the right front leg moves forward, and the left side of the neck when the left leg moves forward. You would do this as an alternative movement using one hand, for example, your right hand.Then swap hands and repeat with the other hand.

In the trot, you can do this on every "sitting" beat of the rising trot, for example. Again, start with the reins in one hand and the other hand free, and pat the neck on alternating sides in that rhythm. After a few rounds of the arena, or a few circles, do it with the other hand.

You will probably notice that one hand feels easier than the other (usually your right hand if you're right-handed, and your left hand if you're left-handed). You may want to do a little more with the more "difficult" hand, until it feels easier!

This is a great exercise to develop independent hand and arm movements, which results in a more steady hand.

2. Hugging a ball

For this exercise, you need both hands free and cannot hold the reins, therefore, it should only be done on the lunge or on a horse you trust without holding the reins, in an enclosed space (and make sure to knot the reins so the horse can't catch their legs in them!).

Starting at the walk, hold both hands in front of you at shoulder height as though you are holding a gym ball. Your fingers should lightly touch. Then, you want to imagine the ball getting bigger and your arms making a bigger circle, with your fingers now coming apart a little (they can come apart as much as 30cm, but the important thing is for you to decide and control how far apart to let your hands move). Do this back and forth until it feels easy and very controllable.

You can then do the same thing in rising trot, sitting trot, and during transitions (as always, you can also do it in canter if you are very confident!).

During this exercise, it's important to keep your back erect but not stiff, and the hips needs to continue to follow the horse's movement and not stiffen up. This is an excellent exercise to achieve independence of your arms and hands from your seat and the rest of your body.

3. Balancing the whip

This next exercise is a little more tricky and also requires both hands free, but the results are worth it!

Start by balancing your whip across the top of both wrists - this is a lot easier with a short whip, but it can also be done with a dressage whip! Then, bring your arms up to about shoulder height. Make sure to keep your shoulder blades down and your seat relaxed (although your posture should remain straight and erect). First in walk, then rising trot, and lastly sitting trot, your job is to make sure that whip stays balanced across your wrists and doesn't slide off one side or the other!

You can make it a little easier by keeping your hands at about bellybutton height in the normal riding position - and you should try it at different heights (between bellybutton and shoulder height) to challenge yourself!

If you can keep the whip balanced at all paces, then you are truly on the way to achieving an independent hand, well done!


Of course, we would also highly recommend riders of any level using the SteadyHands gloves to develop control over their hand position. SteadyHands has a unique design: the high-quality gloves have an adjustable band attached, which can be adjusted for various distances between the hands. The band also has an elastic insert and a safety release. The elastic insert allows the rider to put some resistance against the band without the safety release being activated. However, if the rider faces any emergency situation, the clip will easily release so the rider has both hands free to deal with the issue.

Using SteadyHands will give your brain instant feedback on what your hands are doing (for example, if you have a tendency to hold one hand higher or lower than the other, or further back than the other). The band also acts as a "boundary" within which your hands must stay - so if you have a tendency to carry your hands too wide, this will really help! Importantly, the resistance band allows you to push your hands gently apart from each other, which activates the correct arm and shoulder muscles, resulting in an improved position overall!

You can join the growing number of riders who have noticed a huge improvement in the awareness of their hand position and how much SteadyHands has helped them to improve their contact by ordering your own pair today here.

SteadyHands really does help riders achieve "steady hands"!



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1 comment

These tips were really informative! Thanks for explaining everything so well. The gloves certainly help a lot!


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