This is a repost from a blog that no longer exists. I really liked the explanation and thought it would be a good post to revive…. Hope you enjoy!
Why is the pinky finger tucked under the reins when riding using two hands?
I rode western as a kid out on the cattle ranch in Texas, on the trails and on five day rides through streets and sprawls of land with large groups of riders. And I started as a small person. My dad had me start learning my reining technique using two hands and a simple snaffle. I can remember him getting after me if I placed my pinky finger over the reins when riding. So as an instructor I’ve always told my students to do the same. But then someone asked me why and to my surprise I was stumped.
Why did I tuck my pinky finger under my rein? After screwing up my face a little and staring at the ceiling, I remembered two reasons my dad gave me. 1) It’s small and we don’t wanna hurt that pretty little finger. Cowboy translation: The pinky finger is weak and by tucking, it greatly reduces the chances of injury. He used to give me the example of how a strong headed horse would pull the reins through my hands and possibly roll or twist the pinky. 2) Let the fingers do the job. Cowboy translation: When the rein enters between the pinky and the ring finger and exits between the thumb and index finger, the grip is stronger. The security of the hold is stronger as well.
There are times when using the pinky on top of the reins comes in handy. When using a western leverage bit or when learning to use a double bridle in english riding a rider will wrap the finger around the reins. Some people just feel more comfortable with all their fingers around the rein and that’s OK too. But when using a snaffle or direct reining technique where there is no leverage and the rings of the bit are directly at the horse’s mouth, having the rein between the pinky and ring finger is the standard and most adopted position.
The thumb and index fingers are our gripping fingers and the bottom two fingers are our talking fingers. Talking fingers are a way to create quiet mini conversations with our horse without ever having to grip hard, pull or tighten our elbows and shoulders. If our trusted mount is too busy thinking about his next meal and he does not respond to your talking fingers, then the gripping fingers engage and demand an answer. Keeping the pinky tucked under the rein when using a snaffle bit simply gives us a steady hand to communicate softly but assertively. I’ll probably always use the tucked pinky technique myself because it’s the first method I learned. And…. I don’t wanna hurt my pretty little finger.