View Full Version : Reins...can explain to me

Sep. 10, 2009, 03:17 PM
Direct rein- we pull straight back, give straight forward. Opening- we open to the side. Indirect- we "neck rein".

I overdo opening rein. In fact, recently I noticed that well, that is all I use. It is a bad habit, very ingrained. My horse is very crooked as a rule with her head. Gee, wonder why. I seldom use direct rein, and often "give" by opening the rein- not giving at all.

Can you explain to me the purpose of each type of rein aid? I feel like I if I better understood the purpose of the opening rein, I might stop riding around with my hand on my knee.

Eclectic Horseman
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:27 PM
This website has a rather good explanation of the influences of the 5 rein aids.


Sep. 11, 2009, 12:21 AM
A handy trick to keep the hands from straying too far or moving too much is to unbuckle the reins, thread them through the rings of an extra bit, and rebuckle them.

Hold the reins just below the bit and ride on.

Sep. 11, 2009, 12:38 AM
you are opening and dropping your hand in attempt to soften your horses poll when you need a stronger leg. when you see your hand drifting down, lengthen your leg on that same side and left your horses rib cage.

now, opening and dropping your hand will not accomplish what you desire, but the leg will and hopefully once you have retrained your body the correct aid, the bad habit will disappear.

Sep. 11, 2009, 12:53 AM
Find a pony length dressage whip or a short jumping bat floating around (or get a dowel, ruler, long spoon, etc.) Hold your hands on the reins 4-6" apart, thumbs facing up. Lift your thumbs, place the item across the tops of your hands, and place your thumbs down on top of it. You will find almost immediately that you want to let go with one hand/thumb to use your rein. Try to ride like that for 10 minutes or so at the beginning of each ride until you retrain your hands.

Sep. 11, 2009, 01:01 AM
Yep, what joiedevie99 said works. A 10" stick works fine also ... and use it for the whole ride. Use your legs to ask your horse for bending, staying outside on the track, etc. Your legs are supposed to do the turning ... through practice, and teaching your horse what it means to move away from your leg .. ie: to move over, to move to the outside (out to the rail).

ETA: the direct rein effects the inside back leg of the horse, as soon as it crosses over the withers it effects the opposite back leg of the horse (called the "indirect rein of opposition").

Sep. 11, 2009, 07:17 AM
--There isn't anything wrong with using an actual opening rein appropriately - I don't think this is about not knowing the different rein effects.

--Trouble is, parting the hands often used just to get the horse to put his head in and down, with one or both hands 'opened' and lowered to act like side reins, and then tweaking from one rein and the next in quick succession, or one rein held on the knee - it's not actually an 'opening' rein at all but a 'wide direct rein'. There isn't anything wrong with suppling a stiff horse, but this widened hand(s) with or without the tweaktweak becomes not a correction for a problem but actually a 'signal' for the horse to drop the bit and go behind the bit, with his head tucked in.

--As too the formal 'rein effects', there are half a dozen or so, but these are rarely taught specifically any more as all six separate 'rein effects'; if they are taught they are taught more as a feel or response, without a separate name. While many 'classicists' complain about that, what was originally a 'German School' eons ago, and has become a 'general school', has actually simplified these. There is a lot in favor of simplifying them to produce more supple, straighter horses and less confusion during learning.
Direct rein- we pull straight back, give straight forward. Opening- we open to the side. Indirect- we "neck rein".

--I don't think neck reining and indirect rein are the same thing. The hand should not cross the line of the mane in dressage. Indirect rein tends to stiffen the horse and cause problems; it is often over used.

I overdo opening rein. In fact, recently I noticed that well, that is all I use. It is a bad habit, very ingrained. My horse is very crooked as a rule with her head. Gee, wonder why. I seldom use direct rein, and often "give" by opening the rein- not giving at all.

--Generally, the hands need to stay in a 'direct line' to the mouth/bit and not widen or drop the contact or move out of the zone except for the occasional correction. When a trainer is working a puller or a very stiff horse intensively, it may SEEM like he keeps his hand wide 'during the whole ride' but he is actually just looking for a response he isn't getting, he isn't 'just keeping his hand there' as a habit.

--The zone is directly in front of the rider and in front of the saddle. The more you can give your horse a 'steady hand to move into', a hand that stays in that zone, the better things tend to go. If a correction is needed for a very stiff horse, the hand then goes back to 'the zone' and asks the horse again, 'can I just stay here, can you stay supple'. And the rider keeps his hand there however long he can. The hand only makes a correction when there is something going wrong, and only with the leg. In other words as I've heard said, 'Have a conversation that fixes things, not just a habit'.

--With lower level horses, acceptance of the bit and moving into the contact, so an honest connection develops, is very important - it's important at all the rest of the levels too, but at the lower levels is really where the understanding of what acceptance of the bit and contact is, are established.

Can you explain to me the purpose of each type of rein aid? I feel like I if I better understood the purpose of the opening rein, I might stop riding around with my hand on my knee.

--Maybe you would, but the stuff we do while sitting on that saddle, especially the 'bad habits' we find so hard to control, the things we do constantly, as a habit, aren't usually governed so much by intellectual information and theories, as what we feel and react to almost automatically, and the motion of the horse.

--You have a reason for putting your hand on your knee. Your body is reacting to something you feel that makes you uncomfortable. If you figure out what that is, and correct it through the right means, you can move forward past this.

--Perhaps you're stiffening up in the saddle to try and maintain your position as the motion of the horse is 'transmitted' to you. Perhaps the horse is stiff or falling to one side, or simply braces against the reins when you ask him to bend. Or you may have 'head-itis', where the horse's head position is maintained behind the bit with action of the rein.

Jeannette, formerly ponygyrl
Sep. 11, 2009, 08:53 AM
Mags - you should own a copy of Chamberlain's "Training Hunters Jumpers and Hacks" anyway. :) And the you will be able to look at his diagrams and explanations of rein effects, which are very clear.

One of the other old dead guys - Littauer, maybe, but I don't think so - has a fabulous 5 or 10 paragraph summary of the whole shebang - Maybe someone else will remember offhand, or I can look after this weekend.

In the meantime, it is a pretty fun exercise (for the nerdly among us, at least) to go out on a straight line with nothing to crash into, and try using the various rein aids and feel how our horses react and see where we end up.

Sep. 11, 2009, 09:37 AM
Will look for the book Jeannette. Maybe Jeannette should make a trip to Charlotte to reset me on the right path. LOL, I still have a happy pony when I kick when I feel compelled to tug a rein.

I am probably a typical cornucopia of issues. Niki is prone to falling in and ignoring leg. She is a lazy beast and sometimes leg simply means fall on the forehand. Somedays she is brilliant and leg means lift my rib cage and carry herself.

Everything is better at the canter. She is much more happy to step off my leg and I don''t have my hand on my knee as much, and I can ride with much more contact. Leg yields at the canter are simple. Half Halts are easier. Notably, when I got her, cantering was a train wreck until I learned to sit up.

She is very stiff laterally at the trot. Leg yields do not come easy, and leg gets ignored, and I think that opening that inside rein helps somehow (perhaps she steps over to get away?). She is also hard to get forward, and it often goes from lazy to over the cliff running around on the forehand. I hate making things ugly, so- rein opens and I ask her to step over, which generally gets me a few steps of nicer, then back to lazy.

I have broken myself of crossing the hand over the withers. I think it was replaced with the opening rein. I seem to like to avoid steady contact- I get what you are saying SLC- steady contact- it makes sense, it is fair.... but it goes against a lot of years of "stay out of his face" and "it takes two to pull".

It's funny- Niki is really fine on the flat for Hunters. She is obedient enough to jump courses, get easy lead changes, you can adjust her stride easily, nice corners, steady pace. If we never progressed from here, she could do that job fine, and honestly, I'm a fine enough rider. I can use my leg and seat and a long rein and get that job done. But the most basic dressage concepts still feel like a foreign language. I just feel like reins are the one aid that make me feel inept. And I KNOW Niki needs some sharpening off the leg. And I get a little scared to play with the reins and contact and experiment.

Sep. 11, 2009, 07:34 PM
Sounds like a dressage instructor could help you.

You have a very good way of describing things and I think this point, where you're trying to change, is always hard.

I don't know what you mean by 'lazy', if you mean you use your legs and eventually the horse slows down, well...ah....'he ain't the lazy one'. While one doesn't want to have a heart attack kicking and kicking with no response, the horse won't maintain a pace or rhythm on his own at this stage. A very cheery yeeha-ish attitude where you really want to maintain an energetic pace helps, and where you're vigilant and use a brief leg aid and then back it up with your whip will teach the horse eto go from a lighter aid.

If you're constantly slowing down and speeding up, you need to pick a faster target speed where your horse has momentum and can flow along with less effort. Otherwise he can't ever get into that more efficient, effortless gait. To go at a very moderate pace he has to use his muscles constantly without relief so that pace makes him tired - for a working gait, it needs to be more effortless, so he 'rolls along'.

The dressage contact doesn't mean pulling on the reins and getting into the horse's face. And to many people 'connection' means 'too much contact' because it feels so very different from being behind the bit, which is what is wanted in most riding disciplines. The horse in other sports is actually bumped off the bit and goes behind the bit, with just the weight of the reins, and I know that it feels divine and comfortable. And that's how it gets us convinced that it's better, LOL.

The dressage contact doesn't start out 'ideal' and 'perfect' and 'light'.

Horses learn to 'push' at training and first level. The goal there is to 'develop thrusting power', and it doesn't get dainty for a while! That 'thrusting power' thrusts energy right into the bit, and the poor rider is up there wondering 'what do I do with all this energy'. He is only just learning to coordinate his aids, and receive with his hand, so moments when the horse seems to plain old be pulling happen. As do moments when the connection feels like, 'hello...helllooooo horse, is your head still in the bridle?'

The contact should feel 'lubed'. I am sorry, but yes. It should feel springy, like your hand makes a barrier, but that barrier is like a thin little waterbed, not a brick wall. If you give too much, you just wind up being inconsistent and the horse starts putting his head up, down, up, down, trying to figure out where his head should be, he doesn't even KNOW where it should be when the rider is not consistent. If the hand is TOO steady, ie, fixed, he gets hard and stiff in his contact.

There's just a little spring, give to it..when he pulls hard, you bend him like a willow, when he gets too light you use your leg and meet what he sends you with a steady, quiet hand with just a little bit of give. That's what makes the horse's neck and jaw and mouth be just like that, 'lubed'. Springy, energetic.

His contact with your hand will be exactly how you make it. If it's inconsistent, it's because your hand is inconsistent. If it's hard, it's because your hand is TOO 'steady' - not enough bending, softening. If it's too light, there is some leg missing there. It's YOU that makes the quality of contact...and you know...you have to create some activity or there is nothing to send TO the bit and MAKE the contact with!

As you two go to the next level, it's not unusual to have imperfect moments. Don't let people make you believe this is about instant success. It's more like stringing pearls on a necklace, and sometimes you drop one, and sometimes you get one on the necklace, LOL.

When they get too strong you bend, when they get too 'nothing there' you use your legs and say good girl when you feel them push energy at the bit - don't reward by throwing the reins away, that just confuses the horse. 'I was so good to reach for the bit - hey! Where the hell did it go! I...I'm...faaalllling....help!' Be there with the pats and praise, and after the horse makes the connection, take a walk break, and pat and praise him. Be a steady, comfortable place the horse can push his energy to.

The horse will tell you how much contact he needs, but he won't be able to just take the right amount on his own without help - he's losing his balance, losing his focus, his muscles get tired - alot of things are happening to him all the time, and he's not determining how much contact you have any more than he is paying the barn bills - he can't help what he does. He really is much more of a hapless victem of physics than most riders realize. He needs help.

But when you get him in to a groove, he will all of a sudden start to flow along smoothly. You'll feel a difference, but don't expect him to know how to do this himself, he's a little bit like a teeter totter, he can't really fix himself, and he doesn't pull or get light to be annoying. He does it because he can't do anything else.