20 January 2018

On the other hand, they're still bad.

Don’t hands matter anymore?
     In the process of learning how to ride, (and the way I ride to this day), I learned the ‘correct way’ to hold the reins.

     This being: The reins enter one’s palms between the pinky and ring finger, in contact with the hand itself. The rein continues up through the palm and exits forward (i.e., towards the horse’s neck), with the thumb  up and flat on the rein.   One held/holds the reins as if they were eggs. Space between the hands in a straight line from the bit to one’s elbows, which are tucked neatly alongside one’s ribs. The height should be no more than a few inches...one very good teacher told me to hold my hands only as high as an extended pinky could touch the withers.  

     Paying attention to what they’re doing has helped me develop what I’ve been complimented on as being ‘good” ‘soft’ ‘following’ hands.

    What inspired this particular post was seeing a photo of a Western Equitation rider with her hands waving about at shoulder height...HER shoulder height. Ah ha, said my now chained anti-Western Equitation demon, another way I can show how superior ‘english’ or ‘dressage’ is to WE.

     But I have learned to keep her muzzled before I shoot off my mouth, so I did a lot of Google Image searching with the search term “hands on reins’.  As hands are always connected to the rider’s arms, every photo had an example.

   What I found is depressing.

     It’s not just Western Equitation riders who don’t seem to know how to hold the reins. It seems NOBODY-not Western, not English, not dressage, certainly not jumpers or jockeys-holds the reins the ‘’’correct’’’ way. I looked at a LOT of photos, from all over the horse riding spectrum, and saw all sorts of styles. I could forgive beginners or horse husbands or kids, but I saw FEI riders making the same mistakes.
  Here is a sample of the rogue's gallery:

     I was amazed at the many ways riders hold the reins. Some hold the reins with palm up, or palms down, or out to the sides. Some were pinching a rein between thumb and forefinger, some as if holding a serving tray, many of the Western Equitation dangling them a foot or more above the neck. One or two pictured women holding the reins as if they were live snakes.

    I am including a picture (below) said to be from “Vogue”... a magazine that is published, it seems solely to market stuff to rich women. Look at this photo. I'd originally intended it to be an example of VERY bad hands, but it was just so full of 'wrong' I couldn't believe it. There are so many things wrong about this bimbo on horseback you just KNOW she’s never been on a horse in her life. I’m almost afraid for her...her boots, her bare knees, she’s bouncing up and down without a helmet. If she had pockets her hands would be in them, reins and all. But I must say that is one gorgeous horse. Not HERS, mind you.

    I even watch the riders in my own barn. Only one person other than me seems to be paying attention to how she holds her reins. I can’t bear to watch our Barnlord give a riding lesson, as she advocates holding the reins up in the air.

    Yes, I did find some hands that were correct. Finding a photo of ‘good hands’ was far more difficult than I would have ever dreamed.

    This rider’s hands are pretty much exactly what I’ve learned from good books.
But the vast majority of pictures of hands on the reins show them to be anything but correct.

    Which begs the question: is the way one holds the reins that important?

    I confess I am not experienced enough to be able to state conclusively that it is.

   Perhaps I’m looking at it the wrong way. Perhaps I’m speaking only from fairly recently acquired ‘experience’, and the horses I’ve ridden since doing so number equal two.

   Maybe I’m missing something. Because I found this:

   This single hand, apparently that of an older man, is riding in a bosal. I know nothing about this specific bridle/ reins, so I don’t know if this hold is correct or not.
   Somehow, though, I get the feeling that his hand is gentle. How a man’s hands can appear to be sensitive and giving, I don’t know. It just looks to be kind and respectful. It even appears as if he is also holding a rope. One doesn’t think of a roper having good hands. Yet, this is a gentle, giving hand. 

   Maybe it’s me, then? Am I too anal? Are sloppy hands okay now?


Cavalière Attitude said...

Hi Michelle, I just have to reply to this! I do feel that unless you are a qualified expert or instructor and familiar with many disciplines, it does, imho, come across as high-handed (pun intended☺) to criticise other people's riding, particularly on the basis of still photos.
You and I have been taught in the classical English dressage "style", the ideal hand position at rest (note "correct" for this style!). But the hands and elbows should follow the movement of the horse for the sake of his mouth and the rider's safety - one need only watch film of a three day event to see what happens when needs must.
For example, in the first pic it looks like the rider may be allowing the horse to stretch down, in the second preparing to jump, in the fourth, showing "how not to" maybe? How the reins are actually held is a question of the discipline and tradition one follows. It's like saying English is the correct language and one can't express oneself in any other!
By the way, I love the last man's hands - I'd put money on him being a far better rider than the one above, who looks like someone standing still demonstrating how to hold the reins English Style rather than being in motion!

Khutulan said...

I see your point, Chris, but I will clarify the photos. # 1 is a western Equitation riding at a walk on the rail. Number 2 is a dressage rider in the ring, riding a mule(!)named Goldsmith. #4 is of a person who I will not name, as I didn't obtain permission to publish the picture, who, as a professional dressage trainer, should know better. (and who has much more money than I to sue me!)
The 'correct hands'..the rider in the Albion saddle is, as you note, standing still, is exactly what you say it is: a photo of hands of a professional trainer (and blogger) demonstrating the correct hold.
And I included the last one for precisely the reason you say. The picture leaped out at me, saying, this is soft. This is a kind hand.
I agree that various 'styles' have various holds, which is why I posted in the first place. If you note, the entire post's aim is for clarification for me. Criticism aimed at slamming other people is not what this post is about...it is a post asking for other's opinions, like yours, to clarify for me what is correct and what is not. If the concept of correct is, as you note, intended to save the horse's mouth, than I can't see why sloppy hands should be considered acceptable. We all know how easy it was..until we learned balance and harmony...to hang onto the reins when the horse moved. I know from personal experience that Raven, my friends 2nd level trained warmblood, does NOT allow me to hang onto the reins. But I'm lucky that he is such a good teacher. He quietly, calmly and yet very insistently says No, ape, this is not right.It's not an argument, rather it's an "ahem, let go of my mouth' interaction. Many folks aren't so lucky, and many folks aren't willing to listen.
The point was, I reiterate...is the 'classical' 'correct' hold such as you and were taught absolute gospel, to be followed at all times?
I don't know if it's physically possible, honestly, especially at speed. Perhaps the entire exercise I did proves that. That no matter how we try, there are times when we just have to throw the reins at the horse and depend on our seat, and balance, to carry on.

Zebra Dun said...

I use one hand, left hand the reins go into hand through bottom, slipped between little finger and left ring finger as a stop. The hand rests lightly on the saddle horn not too loose not to tight.
Reins drape over the front of the saddle to the right, if needed I good the loose ends in my right hand. I Ride lazy seat, J.T. King endurance trekker saddle. First horse ride was at four I am mid sixties now and have owned nine horses.