“Close your hands- you’re not playing the piano!”
- My coaches on timeless occasions.
Anyone else out there have the habit of riding with fingers that are ready for tea with the queen? 👸
From a biomechanics perspective- our hand positioning is vital in how we connect to our horses.
The “proper” hand position I’m sure we all know (for English disciplines anyway) is closed fingers with the ring finger being our main contact point, and hands in an A frame shape with thumbs on top. I also see a lot of riders with closed hands but flat hands, or thumbs angled down- these two positions also cause errors but deserve a separate post.
When we lack connection through our hand, our forearm becomes a floating entity and it is much more difficult to get control of our shoulders. In many cases this leads to a shift in centre of gravity forward onto our horses forehand. This in turn makes stability difficult, balance difficult and leads to a whole realm of other issues.
Even though the ideal is a light contact and connection, we NEED to have a complete connection through the hand. Anatomy wise, the muscles that control our ring and pinky fingers- two of the most commonly left out fingers- will help us stabilize the wrist/elbow/and shoulder effectively and FEEL the most from our horses. Compared to the common issues of a flattened hand or disconnected hand - where we close the shoulder angle.
As we open the hands we also open the shoulders. We close the chain and connect into our postural stability. This can be tracked all the way down to our stability through our core, hips and lower leg if we wanted to jump into that rabbit hole. The coles notes: When we have shoulder control, we can tap into our core and pelvis that much better.
Want to improve your hand connection?
Some of my favourite exercises for improving the shoulder to hand stability chain are:
Let me know what you think and ask any questions you have about you're own history with piano hands in the comments or via email!