How To Keep Your Reins Short Without Pulling Too Much On Your Horse’s Mouth

  • User AvatarJulie Winkel
  • 06 Dec, 2017
  • 3 Mins Read

How To Keep Your Reins Short Without Pulling Too Much On Your Horse’s Mouth

Featured Image Credit (CC): Jean on Flickr

Submitted by member: Halle

I am a hunter and equitation rider and I have a problem with always pulling on my reins. My trainer wants me to hold my reins short without pulling on my horse’s mouth, but I find this difficult while using a pelham bit. Do you have any tips on keeping my hands and arms soft while still holding my reins?

Answer by Julie Winkel

It is human nature to want to control everything with our hands, so it is natural to feel the need to pull on the reins anytime we feel insecure or out of control.

There are phrases to help train your brain to isolate muscle groups so the hands and fingers stay closed and the arms stay soft, such as: “longer arms-shorter reins,” “stay loose,” and “FEEL the mouth, don’t HOLD the mouth.”

driving rein
Driving Rein

One of my favorite exercises to get this feeling is to practice riding with driving reins. This is done by holding the reins so the top of the rein sits between your thumb and first finger with the rein heading directly towards your horse’s mouth. It gives you the true feel of direct, elastic connection. This is a softer rein but not as strong.

bridged reins
Bridged Rein

Another exercise to get this feeling is to ride with bridged reins. With both hands on both reins, this teaches the rider to use hands together and softer, as it encourages more riding and guiding of the horse from the rider’s leg. It is important to understand that riding with loose or inconsistent contact confuses a horse when connection is lost or erratic, minimizes smooth communication, and delays signals to the horse.

Another thing to watch out for is the habit of riding with open fingers. Not only is this dangerous in case the horse trips (you risk losing the reins), but open fingers promote stiff arms.

Hope these thoughts and exercises help!

More Info

We also recommend Bernie’s post where he discusses the driving rein: Exercise to Stop Pulling On Your Horse’s Mouth 1-3 Strides Before the Jump

Video Recommendations:

Fundamentals of Flatwork - Part 2 - Intermediate - Bernie Traurig

Fundamentals of Flatwork – Part 2 – Intermediate (See Chapter 3A “Following Arms” for the Driving Rein)
Bernie Traurig
If you have the Basic level down, you and your horse are ready for more of Bernie’s proven supplemental training techniques. In the Intermediate level, you’ll learn how to put the polish on your performance by blending these potent methods into your everyday training program. You will learn how to build on the fluency with which you and your horse have come to communicate. For most horses, mastering this level will be sufficient to perform well in any show ring.
Running Time:  59 minutes and 6 seconds

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Developing Good Hands
Bernie Traurig
In this topic Bernie discusses the vital role good hands play in the communication between rider and horse. Tactful, sensitive hands that are used with feeling can be developed using the exercises Bernie presents here.
Running Time:  11 minutes and 10 seconds

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driving rein

Steering the Horse with a Driving Rein
Susan Deal
In this topic the young student has progressed to the point that she is beginning to ride on contact. It is important that the rider has tactful arms and hands when riding with contact as not to abuse the horse’s mouth. Susan finds that teaching her students to steer with a driving rein really encourages them to follow the balancing gestures of the horse’s head and neck with sensitivity.
Running Time:  8 minutes and 9 seconds

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