View Full Version : That whole inside leg to outside rein thing

Jan. 13, 2010, 09:35 PM
I'm working with a dressage/eventer this winter who is helping my flatwork a ton. She's had me work on using the outside rein to control speed, keep contact, etc. that makes sense to me. However, I don't seem to be able to get a consistent feel for it -- I think I have strongly ingrained habit to give with my outside hand to "encourage" the inside bend on circles. Anyone have a way that they thought/were taught about this that clicked for them?

Jan. 13, 2010, 10:02 PM
Outside rein holds the bend/contact, opening inside rein encourages the horse to bend, and while your inside leg pushes to outside rein, the horse will bend through it's entire body.

So that outside rein is super super important to hold connection through the horse's body. Giving it away to "help" bend will just encourage the horse to bend its neck and disconnect through their body.

I don't know if that helps or not. It helps me to think about what my actions are doing to my horses movements :)

Jan. 13, 2010, 10:21 PM
How to work on this?

Practice...Practice...Practice :lol:

Does she have you working on spiraling in and out on a circle? It's been a great exercise for both my youngster and I...

Lieb Schon
Jan. 13, 2010, 10:28 PM
The outside rein is effectively your "brake" or "clutch." My horse has been trained withh the half halt on the outside rein. The bend request comes from the direct or indirect inside rein along with both inside and outside leg.

Jan. 14, 2010, 12:03 AM
Interesting question!

The hindlegs/hind-end is the motor of the horse that creates the energy to give the horse impulsion; your job as the rider is not to hinder it but channel it to different places throughout the horse's body to perform the correct movement you are trying to achieve.

Once both legs and seat have created that energy, it has to travel somewhere. :) By using your inside leg, you can push the energy to the outside rein, which controls the pace. The inside rein controls the flexion of the horse's head and neck.

(If you do an experiment and try to push the energy using your outside leg to inside rein, see what happens! It throws the horse out of balance, and can result in a hollow outline and flat gaits. :) )

Jan. 14, 2010, 06:22 AM
I think of it as closing the door. he outside rein blocks the horse from bulging or falling out of the bend. If you use inside leg to an open outside rein, you are pushing into nothing and you horse will fall out of a proper bend and just turn it's head. By closing the door and keeping a steady contact, you are pushing your horse into something (your rein) so that his shoulder doesn't fall out of the circle and he has to bend through th body

Jan. 14, 2010, 07:55 AM
All good advice so far. See if these ideas/suggestions help.

1) Think of your horse/his energy as a ball you throw from your inside leg and catch in your outside hand.

2) This means you must drop your inside rein first and perhaps also drop your outside rein first too. Why? Because what generates the pressure in your outside hand is the impulsion you created with your inside leg.

If you have taught your horse to go otherwise, you will tend to keep grabbing at the outside rein to create the pounds of pressure your instructor says you should find there. If you do this without the horse moving off your inside leg, the only choice you have left is to pick up the inside rein in order to create a bend. In effect, you dig your hole deeper. You ride with too much hand, which creates an even larger barrier to your horse using his hind end. You will need even more leg to overcome the hand.

3) So nothing changes until you get an official response to your inside leg. This is why it can be helpful to lighten both hands and ask for a couple of strides of leg yield on your circle. The quality doesn't matter, but the promptness and your ability to feel it does. When your horse is stepping forward and sideways, you have successfully thrown the ball from your inside leg. Now you can catch it however you want in your outside hand.

If your horse runs forward, straightens out, does nothing, even turns the other way, you know you haven't taught him what inside leg means. Start there. As you modify what you do with your outside hand (how many pounds of pressure, how many half halts, do you ever put a loop in that rein?), you'll realize that you do all of that only in response to what the horse has offered you when you close your inside leg.

Best of luck! It can be confusing if you and your horse are learning together, but it's so worth the effort.

Jan. 14, 2010, 08:20 AM
One thing one of my trainers said that helps me:

Bend them slightly to the inside so that you DO have something to hold onto on the outside. It should never be an either inside or outside kind of thing.

This will give you the feel for how much contact to keep and then you will eventually be able to do it straight.

You can also do lots of counter-bends to help get the feeling and make them straight.

But really, it is all about the leg :)

Hope that makes sense for you!

Jan. 14, 2010, 09:22 AM
I remember being nailed quite a bit for over-bending to the inside in my first few dressage lessons. They ride their corners much differently - much more square - and they drilled a much straighter horse into me.

If you have too much inside bend you will have to constantly give on the outside to prevent coming to a standstill.

If too much inside bend is not the problem one thing I've found with my students is they are focusing too much on the hand and not enough on the core and whole arm muscles. Assuming your arm is held properly for a straight line from elbow to bit start paying attention to where your elbow is going- is it drifting in front of your hip? or maybe elevating out to the side like a chicken wing?? This will disconnect your arm from the strength of your core and create a huge hole through which energy can escape (much like the door Island mentioned). First make sure your shoulder is relaxed, rolled back and down (yoga!) and that there's a nice, obvious bend in the elbow. Then anchor your outside elbow to that spot right above your hip bone. Whenever you need that extra halfhalt on the outside strengthen up through your core and mentally imagine attaching your elbow to your hip/side and holding it there so it receives this strength. Soften the "attachment" to keep the feel while relieving some pressure, then suck that elbow back in and glue it to your hip (while stretching and strengthening core) whenever you need more feel.

Jan. 14, 2010, 09:45 AM
A mental image that helps me remember to keep my outisde contact is to think of my outside rein as the rail/fence/wall. If the rail/fence/wall were to suddenly disappear would my horse drift out over that line? Keeping the contact with the outside rein gives the horse an outer boundary. A good exercise to practice this is to ride the quarter lines, if you drift towards the outside you don't have enough outside rein. Likewise, spiral-in and -out helps to practice half halting the outside shoulder to move that rail/fence/wall closer to the center of the circle as you spiral-in. To spiral-out you still need to maintain contact so his shoulder doesn't fall out, but you want a softer contact as you leg yield out on the spiral.

I learned the hard way that the outside rein is truly crucial. First dressage test with a 16.2hh Friesian gelding who I always schooled in an indoor arena: I didn't have enough outside rein to steady his shoulder and we popped right over the little chain on our 20 meter canter circle when we came back to the long side. I was soooo embarassed and vowed to always tell my horses where that "wall" is with my aids rather than relying on their generosity.

Jan. 14, 2010, 10:36 AM
It helps to remember that the horse is supposed to bend at the poll, and through the neck, but NOT at the base of the neck where it meets the withers.

Your outside hand should ALLOW the proper bend, but NOT ALLOW the horse to cheat by bending at the base of the neck.

Jan. 14, 2010, 02:41 PM
You've got some great advice above, and I definitely don't disagree with what folks have posted. I warm up my horses with almost exclusively outside rein. As we circle on a loose (ish) rein, I repeatedly drop the inside rein and just think about keeping the horse straight through the body as they make a nice big stretchy circle. Enough leg and rein and you have a beautiful circle whether you hold the inside rein or drop the inside rein. Not enough leg or not enough outside rein and your circle will be compromised as you drop the inside contact.

If you're looking for a visualization to help you think about the importance of the outside rein, just think about riding a bicycle in a circle. If you remove your hand from the inside handlebar you can still steer around the circle no problem. Remove your hand from the outside handlebar and try to steer with only the inside handlebar and you'll have a much more difficult time.

Jan. 14, 2010, 02:55 PM
Here is an exercise I learned in a clinic years ago and I repeat it now and then when I need to get off my inside rein. Have someone on the ground take your reins over your horses head the hand them back to you so both reins are on one side of the horses neck. You still hold the reins as if they are on either side of the neck, that is, one rein in each hand, thumbs on top etc. Ride a large circle with the side the reins are on being to the outside. Once you get the feel for riding the circle this way you can straighten up, ride around the ring and even jump. Really forces you to ride 80% plus off your legs instead of your reins. It feels kind of freaky at first but it is an excellent exercise. Then have the reins moved to the other side of the neck and repeat.

Jan. 14, 2010, 03:11 PM
Don't think of your outside rein as either in the 'on' position or 'off' position. You want your horse to seek contact every step of the way. If you lengthen your arm, your horse should stretch. Shorten your arm, horse should come up to you. You shouldn't 'drop' the outside rein because you have to teach the horse to feel in the gap when you give your hand. The bicycle analogy is pretty good...

Your inside leg keeps the bend and keeps the inside hind engaged. Ultimately, you should be able to give the inside rein and have the horse maintain the correct bend. The horse can come around on a tiny tiny circle and still have contact in the outside rein (in fact the smaller the circle, the more you need that outside rein). If you just take with the inside and give with your outside, you'll need lots and lots of supporting outside leg (and rein) to keep the horse from making a great escape out of the circle.

It just takes practice. If you can find a schooled dressage horse, try taking a lesson on him. It might be easier if the buttons are pre-installed. :) Fun though, isn't it?!

Jan. 14, 2010, 03:19 PM
You have gotten lots of good tips and tricks. The only thing I really have to add is to think of the outside rein as a constant rein...meaning that it is steady, stable, and soft. Something the horse can rely on. The image of a wall has been used before and that is a really good one for me. The inside rein is variable. It can assist with bend but it isn't really for turning, stopping, or or tugging on, more often it assists by giving forward in my experience.

Jan. 14, 2010, 04:30 PM
I think of it as closing the door.

As always, critiques welcome on my $.02

The "doors" analogy is what was used with me when I was a younger, and worked well.
I think most people were probably taught at first to steer like a bike, and that the horse follows their nose or something else like that, so the transition to a more subtle steering can be tricky. I'm not so sure its about ONLY using one rein for contact, but others might feel differently, and I'm not a pro.

You should remember you aren't just controlling his head for direction, you are generating energy with the hind and catching it, which shapes the body, and body shape helps determine direction.

It's not a matter of only using one or the other, its a matter of finding a sweet spot for each, with each having a different purpose to control the body shape.
The inside rein is a guiding and encouraging rein, the outside rein is more of a control, limiting how far his head can go in the direction you are encouraging, keeping the energy from falling out. "I want you to arc and stretch this way; until you hit this." The 'until you hit this" is the outside rein.

Its a long shot, but any chance you know about motorcycles, maybe bicycles are similar?
It's sort of like riding a motorcycle fast, you can't pull left to go left. You use indirect turning, where you use the wheel shape not the bars--if you cranked the handlebars to make a turn at 65, you'd have a front wheel (head) going left and the motor (hind end) pushing you at 65 straight ahead and you'd wreck off the right. Same with the horse, his momentum would go out that same hole. So you want to use outside rein to catch it.

Jan. 14, 2010, 09:12 PM
Thanks everyone for all the great feedback

Jan. 14, 2010, 11:50 PM
Jane Savoie had a great video on using the outside rein.

You need the outside support on a circle to hold the shoulder and keep the horse from swinging to the outside. The outside rein is really important for turning.

As in experiment, try walking along, and then pull on your inside rein to turn. The horse will actually bulge out while turning, because you are moving the neck but the body goes the other way. Then try moving both reins over to turn, keeping the support in your outside rein. This moves the shoulders and the body will follow.

I think this is the video I'm thinking of- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4QnhV8cH4M

Jan. 15, 2010, 10:16 AM
Does your eventing trainer have a horse that already understands outside rein available for you to ride? Even if just at the walk?

The reason I ask is that sometimes my riders are balanced, understand how to use leg, and are quiet with their bodies, but they (and sometimes their horses) just can't figure out the whole outside rein thing. So I let them hop on my mare (pictured here) (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2342390&l=25ea33ff3a&id=511831540) who is uber sensitive and very responsive...and has NO idea how to turn off the inside hand.

Very quickly they can see and feel the benefits of a horse that turns through the body and not the head/neck, as well as the ill-effects of using the inside rein to turn on one that is clueless to it. It's a nice light bulb moment they can transfer to their own horses.

My exercise is to have them walk on the rail and apply inside leg to outside rein. Mind you, this horse likes ounces of hand, not pounds, so even a minor closing of the hand (with leg, of course) is good enough for them to get a lovely, round walk. Then I have them do a change of direction up the inside diagonal. If tracking right, the instructions are to:

-look right with your eyes, seat bones, and shoulders.
-send left by using inside R leg to outside L rein.
-alternate a closing of outside leg, if needed (sometimes they add too much leg and get a kind of side pass response; this is also usually a result of them not looking right enough, so my girl isn't hearing "turn" but forward and left)
-through the diagonal, straighten up and begin to look left.
-Look left with your eyes, seat bones, and shoulders.
-Send right using inside L leg to outside R rein
-Continue on the rail

The first turn (right) is usually easy because they've already established outside rein on the rail. The straight diagonal is usually non-eventful. Once the rider is ready for the left turn is when things get interesting. If they use their inside left rein for the final turn, which is usually accompanied by bringing the inside left seat bone slightly forward, my mare will simply continue to track right.

Why? Because the rider, in an attempt to turn off inside rein, actually told my horse "My seatbones are looking right and I've taken more contact in my left rein"...and to her that means "keep tracking right".

When they start going the wrong way, the riders figure out that the left rein isn't gonna work. And after a moment of, "um, what now", they begin to look left, release the left rein, and ride inside L leg to outside R rein. My mare polietly says, "ok, guess we are going left instead...sheesh, make up your mind, mister". And all is well once again.

I also use this to show someone in denial they really do turn off the inside rein. :D

Jan. 16, 2010, 08:07 AM
Wow Engishivy - I want your mare - she sounds wonderful!

Jan. 16, 2010, 06:48 PM
I actually had a great lesson on this today! My horse is softer tracking right so I naturally have a better feel of my left rein and I have a stronger right leg, tracking left is a totally different animal. LOL I pull on my left rein and give too much with the right rein and don't use my inside leg nearly enough resulting in a very stiff horse tracking left. The FIX-steady left rein, give and take with inside rein(very hard for me to give) and lots of inside(left)leg! It really worked! It just does not feel natural yet. When I do it correctly, he responds beautifully.

Jan. 16, 2010, 07:18 PM
Wow Engishivy - I want your mare - she sounds wonderful!

I've ridden her mare. She is wonderful, and made me realize how much more I need to work. I couldn't ride that mare worth a crap (you're talking about someone that has ridden for years and years and isn't just some backyard rider), and then Englishivy gets on the mare without using her reins at all, and mare goes around the ring perfectly like in that photo. I think my jaw hit the ground.

Jan. 17, 2010, 08:07 AM
Wow Engishivy - I want your mare - she sounds wonderful!

Aw, shucks, thanks! :D I've worked really hard with her. She is great....but that sensitivity means she is a very difficult ride if you don't know what you are doing. Gotta keep her brain thinking! Which is why my kids do the exercise at the walk...at the trot, they really flub up and she's less than agreeable. :winkgrin:

I've ridden her mare. She is wonderful, and made me realize how much more I need to work. I couldn't ride that mare worth a crap (you're talking about someone that has ridden for years and years and isn't just some backyard rider), and then Englishivy gets on the mare without using her reins at all, and mare goes around the ring perfectly like in that photo. I think my jaw hit the ground.

Well, gee, two compliments in a row...I feel the love!
How are you doing horseforthecourse? Hope you and you guy are doing really well. If you wanna do some more riding, let me know! In a bit I won't be able to ride anything as my belly is gonna get in the way; I'm 18 weeks pregnant! :cool:

Jan. 26, 2010, 10:21 PM
Well, gee, two compliments in a row...I feel the love!
How are you doing horseforthecourse? Hope you and you guy are doing really well. If you wanna do some more riding, let me know! In a bit I won't be able to ride anything as my belly is gonna get in the way; I'm 18 weeks pregnant! :cool:

Congradulations! I am doing very well thank you and so is my boy. I'm really bad about going back and reading past posts so sorry that it took me so long to respond to you. I would love to do some more riding with you, but, unfortunately, I broke up with the only reason I had for going to school down there. If I am down there again or do move down there in the future, I will definitely come ride with you again. I want to be able to ride that mare of yours like you do. I still have yet to find a trainer that utilizes your techniques so effectively on hunters and I would love to be able to train horses like that one day. The former Olympic rider that I train with is absolutely fantastic and has me riding to outside rein, but she is more EQ and jumper than hunter.

Jan. 27, 2010, 07:09 AM
It helps to remember that the horse is supposed to bend at the poll, and through the neck, but NOT at the base of the neck where it meets the withers.

Your outside hand should ALLOW the proper bend, but NOT ALLOW the horse to cheat by bending at the base of the neck.

The horse should be evenly bent along the whole spine.
When you round a corner do you just bend the first 1/3 of the horse and then stop before the base of the neck and let the haunches fishtail or do you bend the whole horse?

There is overbending at the base of the neck, but getting the base of the neck is the most essential part of getting a horse through.

The rider should be able to 'switch' the base of the neck from the inside of one thigh to the other when changing direction.
Actually OP, if you work on that feeling: legyielding out from the quarterline, doing a half turnand legyielding back out, and really focus on getting the base of the neck to snug up to one thigh and then the other, that is inside leg to outside rein.
The inside leg snugs the base of the neck to the outside rein.

If you are just bending at the poll but not anywhere else along the neck and spine it is an incomplete, 'handsy' bend derived from just pulling the horse's nose in.

Correct bend and suppleness starts under the rider at the base of the neck and works its way UP the neck. That is riding back to front, not starting at the poll and pulling the bend and softness back to yourself.