Get your hand position right with the help of dressage gurus Richard Davison and Jill Day

Your hands are hugely important as they’re the main contact with the sensitive structures of your horse’s mouth. Here dressage experts Richard Davison and Jill Day, share their advice on how to get the perfect hand position.

It’s important you get the movements behind your hands just right. So think about the joints in your arms as they absorb and encourage the correct movement of your horse’s head and neck, as well as your fingers that help to encourage your horse to flex at the poll.

Hands and arms

“I spend a lot of time correcting hand problems,” says Jill. “What you don’t want to see is a broken line through the elbow, hand and rein. If you were to draw an imaginary line from your elbow to your horse’s bit, the line should be straight and level. As well as keeping a straight line through your lower arm and rein, you should remember your elbow should be the heaviest point of your arm with the weight of your shoulder dropping through.

“This bend in your elbow enables you to keep a contact which will be strong if necessary. Without a bend at the elbow you cannot maintain your position if your horse decides to pull or snatch the bit.”


“Your fingers should be lightly closed around the reins with your thumbs pointing slightly towards your horse’s opposite ear. Imagine, instead of your rein, you’re holding a small bird – you don’t want to let it go, but you don’t want to squash it either, so keep the fingers softly closed.”

Carrying a whip

“A whip should rest just above your knee, any higher or lower and the position of your hand and contact with the rein will be altered. Many people
like to ride with their thumb on top of their whip, but this isn’t advisable as
it just creates tension down the arms,” says Jill.

Top tip from Richard Davison

It’s vital you hold your hands level and the same width apart while schooling – unlevel hands equal unlevel contact. Try riding holding a short whip under your thumbs. This will position your hands in the perfect place and train them to stay there with no wandering up or down or side to side. It might feel strange but it’s important to persevere.