“The hands receive the work of the legs”
This quote from Nuno Oliveira sums up the crucial relationship between the rider’s hands and legs, if a rider’s legs and seat act correctly, the hands can be light and tactful. If the rider’s legs and seat don’t act with precision, the horse becomes heavy in the hands.
Remember that a rider’s hands start in the shoulders, as any movement in the arms or shoulders is magnified in the hands and can interfere with the rein aids. The upper arm should hang close to your side, not clamped in, with the elbow near the hip. Your hand is carried by your forearm allowing the wrist to be supple and the fingers free from gripping. Your hands should be close together, as a pair, just above the withers, not dropping down to your thigh or carried wide. Keeping your elbows close to your hip, your back and seat moving with the horse’s back, your hand will follow the movement of the horse’s head.
It’s difficult to control your hand movements. In everyday life we tend to use our hands first, but in riding we should use them last and with great tact. You must be able to have a still, soft hand before you can do anything with them, then you can give delicate tactful aids and place your hand in the best position to help your horse.
And a thought from William Cavendish about the hands:-
“The main secret for a horse that is heavy upon the hand, is for the rider to have a very light one; for when he finds nothing to bear upon with his mouth, he infallibly throws himself upon the haunches for his own security.“
These pictures demonstrate the effect of the hands. The first two show correct hand position and contact the other four pictures show the negative effects of incorrect hand aids.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer