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Training essentials: How to ride with soft hands

February 21, 2017

How to ride with ‘soft hands’

Riding with ‘soft hands’ is something all riders should aim for. Not only is it good for the horse but it also benefits your own riding and development. Jane Savoie, a renowned rider and trainer has given us some excellent tips on Horsetalk, which can assist every rider to develop so called softer hands.

Exercise 1: Tie your reins to a fence. Take the reins in your hands as if you are on your horse and hold them tight, as if you are carrying at least ten kilos in each hand. Stay in one place. Now slowly relax both of your arms until it feels as if you are holding about 5 kilos, then relax your arms further, until it feels like you are only holding 2 kilos or even less. Repeat this exercise a couple of times so you’ll learn to recognize how you can release tension and relax yourself. When you recognize the strength you have in your arms and you learn how to adjust this it will help you do so when you are on your horse and you can feel you are holding him too strongly.

Exercise 2: Teach yourself to relax by building up tension first. Grab your reins with your hands and hold them so tight and squeeze until your hands start shaking. Finally, relax your hands, without letting go of the reins and remember the feeling. Tell yourself to let go. Repeat this exercise a number of times. You will find that you can learn to relax your hands without building up the extreme tension first. Just tell yourself to let go and let the feeling of relaxation come over you.

Number 3 is a mental exercise. When you are on your horse, holding your reins imagine these mental tips which help you to keep your hands soft.

  • Imagine you are holding a baby duckling instead of the reins. You want to hold it so it doesn’t fall but you also don’t want to hold it too tight and squeeze it to death.
  • Imagine you’re holding a raw egg instead of your reins. If you squeeze too tightly, it will become a mess.
  • Pretend you are holding a glass of champagne. You want to hold it elegantly and straight so you don’t spill anything, but don’t squeeze it too much or it will break.

Last tip; every rider should visualize how riding with soft hands will look for him or her. Keep that image in your mind when you are riding and let it help you and your horse to ride with softer hands. Your horse will be grateful.


Thanks Jane Savoie for these excellent tips!

EUR Equestrian



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