Put your hands in the air… Lucy Nicholas talks hands and gloves!


The great classical dressage teacher Nuno Olivera was a big advocate of riding with ‘good hands’:

“The hands have to be like cement when the horse resists, and like butter when the horse yields,” he famously said. “When riding a well trained horse, the fingers should only very rarely close… the small and ring fingers can yield, but never the thumb…. each use of the hand has to be preceded by an action of the upper body, otherwise the rider is merely influencing the horse’s head. Don’t play with the reins when they are tight, but yield first and then play with the reins. The hand should be like a filter, not like a lid.”

The rider’s hands are key to a successful partnership and picture, so the right gloves are key to ensure a sympathetic ‘feel’, good contact and a comfortable experience. Practically, they also save our hands from being made sore from pressure or slippage! But how do we choose from such a wide range of riding gloves? Despite there being gloves available for a diverse range of equestrian disciplines, including show jumping, dressage, hunting, eventing, driving, and polo, as well as general work gloves, the physical differences in glove styles are actually quite slight. In terms of design and engineering, it is generally just about the reinforcement requirements for the discipline in question, where gloves for horse riding are concerned. Plus, your budget will affect the quality of the material used.

You do get what you pay for, so look out for durability, quality and comfort – a combination of the right materials and designs, as well as quality production will offer a pair of riding gloves that lasts and lasts.

Technology has changed, and heavy, wet woolly riding gloves are a thing of the past! So what is the most exciting recent development seen in manufacture? The main differences today are in the materials. Natural leather is more popular in traditional equestrian disciplines such as showing, carriage driving, hunting and dressage competitions, while synthetic materials are often seen for eventing and showjumping, in line with the modern competition outfits that are commonly popular.

dublin-leather-winter-gloves-with-thinsulateHere are some suggestions: The Dublin leather winter gloves (left) boast thinsulate – the ideal riding glove for cooler weather. They have an elasticated wrist and touch tape fastening tab across the outer palm for perfect adjustment.

Synthetic materials are more commonly favoured in riding gloves for jumping, eventing and polo.

The benefits of a synthetic riding glove is that they are washable, durable and generally more comfortable; this makes them extremely popular.

They can often be machine-washed and air-dried, and when you put them back on the next day, they’re usually like a new pair of gloves!


As an example of a smart and functional synthetic riding glove, the Caldene Ladies Competition riding glove (below) is made from a flexible, lightweight PU material. It is washable, durable and comfortable.

caldene-ladies-competition-riding-gloveIt offers maximum grip without compromising feel of the reins. It has a hook and loop fastening for a close fit.

Lucy Nicholas represents The Saddlery Shop.

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