View Full Version : soft hands in canter
1st Jun 2002, 10:34 AM
Help! Can anyone tell me how to soften my hands in canter without letting the reins get longer? In walk and unless I get really tense, in trot, I can allow my hands to move forwards and backwards with the horses head so I'm maintaining a constant contact without pulling. In canter I just seem to tense up and don't understand how to do the same. Which bit of the arm are you allowing from - wrists, elbows or as I suspect, shoulders? The more I'm told to release my hands the more tense I get. i ride a fairly forward going riding school horse who would rather do the wall of death in trot than go into canter. It takes a lot to get him to listen to you and I'm worrying this is making my hands even heavier. Any suggestions for exercises etc?
Also, whenever something is not going perfectly my right hand just goes sky high! My left hand does it to a lesser extent but unless I think 'hands down' with virtually every step, (not easy when you're careering round the school because a scary leaf jumped out and bit you!) they just float upwards.
I'd really appreciate any suggestions as it's taking a lot of the fun out of riding at the moment. I don't want to hurt the poor horse's mouth by yanking on the bit or jabbing him in the mouth but I can't seem to make my hands co-operate. Sorry this is so long!
1st Jun 2002, 12:27 PM
On reading your post I wondered about this, it sounds to me as though in canter you are trying to hold on with the reins. Try working on your seat more perhaps and if you can do some canter work on the lunge without reins (supervised well of course) maybe this would help then when you are better balanced and more secure in the saddle you will not need to tense up so much. With my horse who has a really fast trot if you let him go you need to hold him in a bit more until he goes into canter and then you can relax your rein and give him his head in fact if yuo try going into canter on his right lead on a loose rein he starts to pace so I have no choice.
1st Jun 2002, 01:23 PM
Thanks for your suggestion but I don't think my seat is the problem. I can happily canter with very baggy reins (i.e. no support) and my seat is very secure. I can also canter no stirrups which I doubt I'd be able to do without a good seat. Really i can either ride with loose or tight reins but not find a good compromise! Please keep the suggestions coming!
1st Jun 2002, 02:41 PM
It's possible to be balancing with the reins even if they're loose. A good way to find out is to canter on a lunge line with NO reins and see if you still feel balanced. I went through this with sitting trot - I felt totally balanced and could do it without my stirrups just fine. I thought I had it all figured out until my instructor put me on a lunge line and took the reins away! I'm better now, since we worked on the lunge a while. But it IS possible to depend on the reins too much, no matter how loose they are.
I had the same problem in the canter (still do, a little), but if I just keep my shoulders and elbows loose and bending to follow his head, I'm much better.
Hope this helps! P.S. A good seat doesn't necessarily mean good balance.
1st Jun 2002, 04:03 PM
Try to rent, beg, borrow, or buy Heather's video, watch the bit where she demonstrates canter. Now decide whether you are a bum scooper, a shoulder rower or what, because all the faults with hands and legs in any gait come from your seat...honestly. I was a bum scooper, Heather got me to move correctly from the seat and my hands suddenly became still and light and subtle.
Watch Heather cantering correctly and you will not see her actively following with her hands, they do because her seat is correct and everything else will follow. Locking and unlocking from the elbows is not having light hands, rowing with the shoulders is not following the horse.
I could canter with no reins, no stirrups, on or off the lunge, but I was doing it wrong! Once you have the correct seat your hands will automatically lighten and you will feel totally different.
I have been practicing what Heather taught me, I find my horses will canter so much better for me now.
1st Jun 2002, 06:36 PM
Maybe you could push your hands up the horses neck when you canter to see if you can go with the movement more, then you can gradually bring your hands back.
1st Jun 2002, 10:46 PM
Hi all. Thanks for your replies, they've really made me think about my riding. The 'problem' is I have a really good riding instructor who rides like a dream and follows a lot of Heather's ideas just because they make sense! This makes me think my hands are at fault not my seat. However, I do take your point about the majority of problems coming from the seat and will ask for lessons on the lunge. I have also tried riding with my hands as far up the neck as I could without tipping forwards and this helped a but but you can't ride like this all the time! Riding takes up my limited spare cash so, although I desparately want to, I can't afford a whole week with Heather. Does anyone (Heather if you're around) know whether day or weekend courses are available and if so, what the minimum number of students would be? Thanks
4th Jun 2002, 06:20 PM
try this. this will only work if you have a very good seatand can ride bareback. establich a good canter and let go of the reins( if you need tie them together before you start) raise your arms to shoulder hielgh fully extended to the sides. if you keep working at this your seat will improve greatly. just be carefull, the possibility to fall could happen;)
4th Jun 2002, 06:23 PM
ooops i forgot to tell you what this will do. wen you go baqck to cantering your hands will be softer because you dont have to hold on with them. i know this sounds strange but when you canter sometimes you teld to get a death grip on the reins becuase you are afraid that you might fall off. after doing this excercise you can depend on your legs to keep you in the saddle and your hand will soften their hold. :)
4th Jun 2002, 07:39 PM
don't your instructer have any good ideas?
i would have to say that working with no rains is the best anser to your problem as you will learn not to pull on them or use them for balence. see if you can borow a horse from friend or family and try tying the rains in a not and troting and cantering with your arms folded or out at the sides like your trying to fly but keep them strait out ( if you see what i mean!). get that lung lesson booked and maybe try a lesson with a dirferent instructer to see if they have any fresh ideas.
4th Jun 2002, 07:45 PM
....with it all ! Your arms need to be absorbing any movement so the contact to the horse's mouth stays relatively steady. This can not be done with one joint alone, but needs a whole body approach. But as you will have gathered from posts by others, there are some standard places to tense up. Either hips/legs or shoulders/elbow/wrist (and the neck can join in too!).
If you have the chance, ride with one hand on the reins and see what happens if you circle the other arm. This might give you a clue if you are tensing there.
Also with the exercise appygirl suggested, try putting the arm at shoulder height in front of you. If the hand bobs up and down, then thats whats going to happen at a lesser degree when you have you hand on the reins. You need to work out how to reduce the movement. Curiously for me if I look at my hand it bounces more ! So I try to widen my focus and not be too tunnel visioned.
4th Jun 2002, 08:25 PM
Thanks so much for your replies! My instructor is wonderful and keeps coming up with suggestions but it hasn't 'clicked' in my head yet. I've tried holding the reins the wrong way round i.e. without flipping them over. This is really hard to relax to but does help a bit. Appygirl I will try your exercise probably one rein at a time to start with. It certainly sounds as if it would help my hands, I'll let you know how I get on!
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