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Training Tips: Arms NOT Hands!

Keep thumbs on top to stay freer and softer and avoid tightening the forearm and shoulder

Keep thumbs on top to stay freer and softer and avoid tightening the forearm and shoulder

We often talk about the hands of the rider when training, and rarely hear the term ‘bad arms’, but we should be talking about the arms of the rider as well as the hands.

The rider’s position is always a hot topic and when we hear riders talking about the areas that need improvement and trainers correcting students during a lesson, we regularly hear about the position of the hands, they are too high, too low, too forward, or too far back. What we really need to be concentrating on is making sure the position of the arm is also correct.

Correcting the hands starts from the shoulder so we have maximum range of movement, if a rider is stiff in the shoulder this carries to the arms, hands and the back which can make the upper body tip forward and put the rider out of balance.


An example of nice relaxed arms which maintain a good contact

Tip: Once our back is in a good upright position, we should make every movement start from the shoulder, followed by the elbow, and then the hands will naturally follow. The wrist should be straight and the thumbs up, no other action should be made by the hands except to follow the shoulder and the elbow movement.

Hands, particularly the fingers, can help softening the mouth but suggesting this before ensuring the arm position is correct will often cause other ‘position mistakes’, and might obtain a roundness without the back being engaged.

Moving the fingers or hands will make the mouth softer and will possibly make the horse’s head drop, but without a correct arm position the outline will return to where it was.

Tip: Concentrating on the position of the arm will encourage the rider to concentrate on their upper body position and head carriage so the hips will be ‘encouraged’ to slide forward on the saddle with the rider’s legs underneath. If a rider thinks only about the hands they will end up on the hips, be blocked and have nowhere else to go.

Remember, when the movement starts from the shoulder it’s much softer and wider, the elbow will be free to slide back and the hands will just follow giving the arm a much bigger and softer range of movement. The shoulders will naturally be open and not drop forward. A good starting point is to ensure the rider’s arms and elbows are naturally falling to the sides of the upper body.


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