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Do you have any exercises to help students develop steady hands? I have been using the exercises that you taught at the Rancho Vista [horsemanship clinic] for establishing correct leg position and have seen great results in my beginner students.

Lorna Pullen
CHA Certified Instructor
Fort Collins, Colorado

I have many exercises that I do in clinics, that help riders learn to have independent, quiet and steady hands. Of course, good position is a pre-requisite for good hands, so work on that continuously. I also like to do some coordination exercises with arm motions done while riding at walk, trot and even canter (in very advanced students).

Hopefully the riders are on safe and reliable mounts that will work steady in the round pen or arena without the rider's hands on the reins (most reliable horses actually work better without the rider's hands on the reins, go figure!). Be sure to secure the reins in some way and also empower your students that they can pick up the reins anytime needed or do them with one arm free and one hand on the reins.

You can do almost any arm exercises you can think of. First do them at a walk, in rhythm to the walk then try it at a trot. Do arm circles (both directions, single-time and double time rhythm with the walk/trot); punching out in front (right-left-right-left), truck driver's whistle with arms (up and down, R-L-R-L); paddles (arms extended out in front with paddling R-L-R-L motion); scissor motion with arms; hands behind head and swing elbows forward, alternating R-L-R-L.

These coordination exercises help riders feel the rhythm of the gait (you can do them at walk, trot and canter (start slow and work up to it) and also help them isolate their hands from the motion of their body. Riding is a very bilateral sport and these exercises help riders to be coordinated with both arms, as well as illuminate for the instructor just how bilateral (or unilateral) your students are. As an added bonus, these exercises will also improve the rider's balance.

These exercises are very fun and very productive and sometimes my clients refer to them as mounted aerobics. Experiment with these arm exercises, doing it yourself first and then teaching them to your students. I find that students really benefit from a visual demonstration with these exercises, so you'll want to practice them yourself a lot!