The correct position of a rider’s hands when horse back riding depends on the discipline or style that the rider is riding.
When riding with English tack — When riding English, the rider’s hand position should be even. The rider should have one rein in each hand. The hands are held in front of the torso, parallel, with with approximately six to 12 inches between them. This distance will vary according to the rider’s shoulders and the horses width. The hand should be held in a loose fist, and the reins should enter between the rider ‘s 4th finger and pinky finger and come up through the hand and exit out the top of the fist between the thumb and index finger.
When riding a Western horse- When riding western the correct position of the hands is to ride with one hand. The correct position of the hand is to have the dominant hand held in front of the rider’s body. With the back of the hand facing up, and palm facing down. The reins of the western bridle should be picked up with one rein on either side of the index finger with remaining slack of the reins (this is called the “bite”) running down through the loose fist. The correct position for your hands when riding western is to allow slack in the reins at all time. Western bits are more severe then English bits and are meant to work on the leverage of slack, absolutely not direct pulling.. The hand not in use to hold the reins should be rest elsewhere. The current trend for holding the nondominant hand when riding Western is to let it hang down loosely, and rest just behind the thigh.
These descriptions describe the proper hand position for horse shows, any hand position is acceptable for trail riding, but try not to hold on to the saddle horse. The correct position for your hands is not just for looks- but also for safety, so try to keep your hands as correct as you can.