View Full Version : Draw reins and side reins- help needed

Crown Royal
Jan. 6, 2010, 06:17 PM
I have an Arab x Quarter Horse cross large pony that I mainly do jumpers on. He has had a ewe neck ever since we rescued him and constantly holds his head up, which only makes it worse. I plan on getting both draw reins and side reins for him and using each a couple times a week in hopes of encouraging him to bring him head down. I would love some advice on which type of side reins you prefer- elastic or leather- and why, and also if you prefer cotton webbed draw reins or leather. I would think the elastic would encourage my pony to stretch into it a little better, but I've heard leather is preferred since it isn't as bulky and will hold up longer. I plan on using them often, so which would be a better choice? I cannot spend very much on either, I don't want to spend over $50 for each. Thanks, and links to products are ALWAYS appreicated!

ETA: Also, what is your opinion on using a neck stretcher vs. draw reins when riding, and vienna reins vs. side reins when lunging?

Jan. 6, 2010, 06:50 PM
I like elastic side reins, since they give to pressure and I NEVER use draw reins. Sorry, don't believe in them.

Jan. 6, 2010, 07:18 PM
I recommend using leather side reins with the rubber doughnut insert. The elastic reins are to "stretchy" and encourage your horse to pull and fuss, where the leather/rubber doughnut reins have just enough give to stop your horse from feeling "trapped" but a strong enough feel to get your horse to "give" to the pressure.

Hope this helps :)


Jan. 6, 2010, 07:31 PM
I have the Perry's leather side reins with the donut and they are in your price range. I got them here: http://www.legacytack.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=LT&Product_Code=10552&Category_Code=

I have had them for about two years, and am pleased with their quality.

Jan. 6, 2010, 07:34 PM
Can you post a video of your pony going around? I might be able to offer some better suggestions regarding the use of drawreins/sidereins.

Sidereins/drawreins are only useful IF you know what you're aiming for and how to get there. I'd peruse some other COTH forum threads for details if I were you. Both can be absolutely wonderful tools if used correctly. Both can be incredibly dangerous if used incorrectly.

I only use the sidereins with the rubber donut. It offers a bit of give with some substance to teach the horse to accept the contact. What you're really aiming to do is to teach your horse to come up in his back and accept the contact without inverting. I've never used a neck stretcher - they seem sort of gimmicky to me. Unfortunately there's no shortcuts to creating the correct contact in a horse. I also use leather draw reins because they last and are easier to clean and maintain.

Make sure his back isn't sore and that his conformation will actually allow him to be able to do what you want. Also, start slowly with the sidereins so as to avoid making him sore. Don't let him run around like an idiot - it should all be very controlled.

I could write volumes but I'll stop here. Look at some other threads for some advice on the matter.

Jan. 6, 2010, 08:00 PM
ETA: Also, what is your opinion on using a neck stretcher vs. draw reins when riding

I think that they both have there purpose in riding. Just it depends on what you want to get done.

I use a neck stretcher quite a bit on my pony, especially around horse show season. They are great for helping a horse to lower his head and stretch there backs. If adjusted **correctly** There should only be pressure applied on the pole when they lift there head.

Now draw reins, in my opinion, are usually used to teach a horse to carry itself in a more collected frame, and only with a knowledgeable person on the ground. Unlike a neck stretcher will still allow for that poke the nose out hunter-y look. In no way, shape, or form should a horse have their face pulled in with draw reins. That achieves nothing. They need to learn how to drop their head and lift through their back before they can collect themselves.

If you are un-educated in the use of draw reins, i would recommend using the neck stretcher. Just keep it loose. When your horse is standing with its head in a normal position, it should be adjusted to that length. Draw reins, in the wrong/uneducated can do much more harm then good.

And dont forget, forward motion is the key to success. If your horse isnt moving forward (different from fast! puching from behind, not just running off his feet) you will never get a true frame. Your horses neck will build up, but the muscles in his back wont strengthen, meaning that once you take off the draw reins/neck stretcher/whatever you choose, it will be much harder to achieve that same "frame" that you had with the gear.

Jan. 6, 2010, 08:36 PM
I would never use either.

How about taking some lessons to learn how to get your horse to drop his head naturally without the gimmicks?

You can slap him in side reins, but unless you know how to follow through undersaddle (without the use of draw reins), I don't really see the point.

Jan. 6, 2010, 08:47 PM
What would you other posters say about a german martingale?

I tried side-reins with my 20ish arab/quarter cross pony with a ewe neck. I was not successful. (I had used them before with another horse with great success.) I tried a german martingale on the pony and was able to get a very good response. I was able to do this for 3 times a week for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, I would then start the ride with the martingale and then take it off and ride. After 1 month he was going fine without the use of the martingale.

Jan. 6, 2010, 08:51 PM
How about taking some lessons to learn how to get your horse to drop his head naturally without the gimmicks?

If the horse is ewe-necked and carries his head up always, he is not going to "learn to drop his head naturally." He will go as he has always gone, with his head up, and it will probably not occur to him that he can go any other way. A neck stretcher or properly used draw rein, used by someone competent, can be good training wheels to teach that horse that he in fact can go with his head and neck lower and stretchier. I personally prefer a neck stretcher for this because if the horse fusses at it and fights it a bit, he is fighting himself, not the rider, so I think he gets over it a little faster. 20 minutes a day two or three times a week for a few weeks in a neck stretcher may do wonders for this horse and teach him that there is another way to carry himself. The rider can then teach the rest herself, riding him leg to hand and encouraging him to follow through into the bridle.

A draw rein, side rein, or neck stretcher is a tool. Like any other tool it can be used to help, or it can be misused. But calling every single tool a gimmick or implying that it has no place in a good rider's tool kit is doing a disservice. Or perhaps you would disagree with Bert de Nemethy on the use of draw reins.

Jan. 6, 2010, 09:04 PM
If the horse is ewe-necked and carries his head up always, he is not going to "learn to drop his head naturally." He will go as he has always gone, with his head up, and it will probably not occur to him that he can go any other way.

This isn't necessarily true. One of my horses had a ewe neck when I bought him. It was a result of having been ridden incorrectly for awhile. Today he has a very nice top line. The problem was corrected without the use of martingales, side reins, or draw reins. Really, truly, just about everything can be fixed without the use of gadgets. Not saying they don't have their place, because they do, I own them too, just saying that they are very rarely required to fix a problem.

"Getting a horse's head down" should not be a goal in riding. Ever. The only reason it is even desired is because it is a by-product of a correctly engaged hind-end. Horse steps under himself, causing his back to lift, causing his head and neck to drop. Hence the term "coming round". Roundness refers to the entire top line - poll to tail. If the horse is working properly behind, his top line will eventually correct itself. Muscle development takes time and the use of draw reins or side reins won't change that fact.

BTW - not directed at you, Renn/aissance. Just a general comment. ;)

Crown Royal
Jan. 6, 2010, 10:00 PM
Thanks guys for the great input. I have used both draw reins and side reins before on other horses with sucess, as a guide more than anything (not dependent), so I do know how to use them properly.

I may try out the neck stretcher on him. We bought him barely broke and severely mistreated, so he is generally just a nervous and tense type and he always ends up with his head up. He actually has a pretty nice canter, it's just his trot that needs work. He can bring it down, he just doesn't understand the concept of keeping it lowered since he is so accustomed to it being up which is why I'd like to use something as a guide that will help him figure it out. I think the neck stretcher should do the job, if I'm understanding it correct. Maybe eventually I can use draw reins once in a while after he figures it out by himself to lower and stretch himself with the neck stretcher. I'd like him to learn to go "long and low" and stretch some before I worry about collection with him.

Also, I may look into the german martingale for him. Thanks for the suggestion.

I do understand how to get a horse to lower it's head, and both stretch out and collect nicely without any sort of gadgets whatsoever- just a plain snaffle and patience. I've taught my Thoroughbred how to do this and he has a nice topline now, with the proper muscling and so far he carries himself well 90% of the time now. I've tried working without any sort of gadgets on this pony for a while now, but I think he needs some other help before that lightbulb goes off for him. ;)

Jan. 7, 2010, 12:45 AM
This isn't necessarily true. One of my horses had a ewe neck when I bought him. It was a result of having been ridden incorrectly for awhile. Today he has a very nice top line. The problem was corrected without the use of martingales, side reins, or draw reins.

Of course, and that's a good point about it taking time, especially when the horse's carriage is a result of training. However, I stand by my statement that the horse who habitually carries himself inverted (not head up--inverted, with his back hollowed) both under saddle and at liberty, and who does not respond to proper riding and engagement from the hind end, can be vastly improved with a draw rein or neck stretcher. It is possible to be well engaged but still inverted. The type of horse who causes himself back soreness because of his carriage is the sort who should be helped to learn to use himself, in my opinion. Fortunately for their backs, this type of horse is pretty uncommon.

I think CrownRoyal's pony could benefit from a neck stretcher-assisted lightbulb moment. But different strokes, after all. :)

M. O'Connor
Jan. 7, 2010, 08:25 AM
A lot of harm can be inflicted with training aids, particularly with draw reins.

It's really all a question of how these aids are used; it takes an educated trainer to use any of them properly. They aren't a substitute for either flatwork or lessons.

I agree that a video or photo would help those who might be able to offer suggestions.

Jan. 7, 2010, 12:06 PM
I prefer the neck stretcher myself as it gives the horse the chance to "learn" on his own without fighting the rider. It does not restrict them but does teach them to give to the poll pressure. Properly adjusted they should be just snug enough to put a small amount of pressure on the poll, the minute pony puts his head up he will increase the pressure, when he relaxes and drops, he "rewards" himself. I find it truly works quite well for encouraging the horse to work from behind. I cant say I've had the same results even with sidereins.. it think its possible for the horse to still "lean" on the reins and get on the forehand.

Jan. 7, 2010, 01:11 PM
I rode my old hunter in draw reins to help him build his topline back and to stretch after time off from a suspensory injury. They basically helped and encouraged him to use himself correctly while he was getting back into shape. It definitely helped, and once he built up those muscles I was able to take them off and just use them as a "tune-up" when necessary.

Crown Royal
Jan. 7, 2010, 04:47 PM
As I've said before to anyone that is wondering, I DO know how the draw reins and side reins are used. I have never used a neck stretcher, vienna reins, or a german martingale before, and would not carefully attempt them before doing a lot of research first. I understand how much damage can be done if not used properly, but I do know how to use them. ;) I do agree that every possible option without the use of any of these training tools should be tried before using them, and I have with this horse. Again, I've successfully worked with other horses (including mine) to achieve what I'm trying to with this pony, but he's a different case. But thank you for all of the opinions- I really appreciate them!

I'm trying to find a video or good picture of him (moving I'm assuming?) on this computer, and will post one if I locate one.

Jan. 7, 2010, 04:52 PM
[QUOTE=Renn/aissance;4602497]If the horse is ewe-necked and carries his head up always, he is not going to "learn to drop his head naturally.[QUOTE]

Yes, he will. One of my horses has a really bad ewe-neck and boy does it look horrible! However, with time and of no assistants to side or draw reins, he now carries his head low and collected. Of course, I have to always be on his case about it or he goes back to his old ways, but at least he does it. Never give up!

Jan. 8, 2010, 01:00 AM
Another fact... If you get draw reins, get leather. They are better because of the reasons you mentioned before as well as the fact that they are smoother and create less friction and have a certain amount of give than web draw reins, too.

I have found that draws and other aids *thoughtfully used* are very helpful in the beginning when teaching some horses to carry themselves. Your goal is not to need them in the long run, but while the horse is learning and developing the correct muscles to carry itself in a frame, it helps to have a little extra help. Use of them depends on lots of factors, I agree.

Jan. 8, 2010, 01:28 AM
he must learn to seek it before he can find it and use it.
This is why short cuts do not work

Ignore your horse from the shoulder forward. IT DOES NOT MATTER, it is a side effect of the end product which is your horse stepping under himself and activating his abdominal muscles, thus lifting his topline. When ridden correctly, with proper muscling you wont even need to try to bring his head down, it will come down naturally.
Do some searches on how to get your horse engaging his hind end and you will find TONS of exercises to do.

Jan. 8, 2010, 08:45 PM
I would be careful with solid side reins unless you know your pony won't freak out if there isn't much give. I woulld go with elastic first to be on the safe side.