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Young Horse Training: Side Reins? Running Reins? No rein aids? Opinions!

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  • Young Horse Training: Side Reins? Running Reins? No rein aids? Opinions!

    On my current new young horse starting journey I am back to the intersection with signs pointing in several directions. One says "Use Side Reins while lunging to teach horse how to accept contact". One says "Don't use side reins as they just teach a 'headset'. Use running reins as they encourage stretch and downward contact". The other sign says "Use none! Work on contact later when you are under saddle". I've had lots of trainers...all with different opinions and none agree.

    My mare is 3, lunging nicely, backed 5 times and quiet under saddle. Do I add them to her lunging routine or just skip it and go all natural. I've honestly ended up skipping with every young horse as the few times we tried in the past, with reins set VERY loosely, my horses all were inclined to curl and break well behind the poll. I yanked them off immediately for fear of creating a problem. The 4 new books I got ALL say you must use them to properly prepare the horse, develop the contact and build the muscles. It's got me concerned because I
    usually skip this step! So...which school of thought are you and why? Not wanting to start fights but just get honest opinions so I can make an educated decision!
    Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

  • #2
    I rarely lunge without side reins (the rubber donut kind), as it is too hard on their legs to be circling while crooked and not moving correctly through their bodies. And most horses are invariably crooked when being lunged without side reins - either counterbent and falling in, or with their heads turned too much to the inside, and the hind legs falling to the outside.

    Side reins help to keep the horse straight, and can be very helpful in teaching the horse how to seek the connection. In order for that to happen however, the person doing the lunging needs to really send the horse forward into the side reins when they see that the horse is not reaching into the connection.



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    • #3
      I really think you can do it any which way and still come out with a perfectly fine horse. Ultimately how you ride will determine how the horse goes undersaddle, not whether you longed it in side reins or not three weeks ago doing your groundwork.

      I am generally a rider, not a ground work person at all, and I say this with full disclosure that when groundwork needs to be done I call my best friend who is great at it and have HER do it, but as the person ultimately going to swing a leg over, I do like to know the horse has worn side reins and accepted them.

      The last thing I want to do is introduce "Look, horse. Here's reins!" for the first time when I am on top and risk the horse overreacting in surprise and possibly flipping over. (And I have been flipped on by a green horse who "stepped away from the block" up and backwards instead of forwards, so I am pretty diligent about taking steps not to repeat that experience.)

      But as long as with mine own eyes I have seen the horse longe politely and accept sidereins at least once before I swing a leg over, I don't care whether they are a regular part of his program or not. He'll ride how I ride him, not how he was longed two weeks prior.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Keg-A-Bacchus View Post
        On my current new young horse starting journey I am back to the intersection with signs pointing in several directions. One says "Use Side Reins while lunging to teach horse how to accept contact". One says "Don't use side reins as they just teach a 'headset'. Use running reins as they encourage stretch and downward contact". The other sign says "Use none! Work on contact later when you are under saddle". I've had lots of trainers...all with different opinions and none agree.

        My mare is 3, lunging nicely, backed 5 times and quiet under saddle. Do I add them to her lunging routine or just skip it and go all natural. I've honestly ended up skipping with every young horse as the few times we tried in the past, with reins set VERY loosely, my horses all were inclined to curl and break well behind the poll. I yanked them off immediately for fear of creating a problem. The 4 new books I got ALL say you must use them to properly prepare the horse, develop the contact and build the muscles. It's got me concerned because I
        usually skip this step! So...which school of thought are you and why? Not wanting to start fights but just get honest opinions so I can make an educated decision!

        She's three...I wouldn't be doing anything about contact. I would be limiting my lunging as much as possible...maybe ground drive her if I have to do something on the ground.

        My 3 year old this year is going out and being a horse. I'll put her back in work in the early spring.

        If I feel I need to ride her, I would be trying to get out of the ring...go for walks. In the ring, only lunge if I have to get out the bucks before getting on (but I limit it because it is hard on their legs on circles)...but otherwise just work on basic steering, transitions...maybe walk/trot over some poles on the ground to keep things interesting.

        Next year, if she is mature enough...then I decide what to do. Usually just take a contact while undersaddle. If they really want to go upside down or are really reactive...then I take the rider out of the question and use side reins or running reins...but you have to make sure you send them FWD into them.

        They are tools. And when you use such tools or which tool you use, totally depends on the individual horse. There isn't a correct or only answer. You have to know your particular horse, and know what you are trying to accomplish....AND know how to use the tools correctly.
        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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        • #5
          Do you own a longing cavesson? We use it under a snaffle bit but fasten the side reins to to extra rings on the noseband. That we the young horse learns to yield to pressure without interefering with young horse teeth, etc.
          Been starting youngsters for 50 years and haven't had an issue doing it this way...
          Anne
          -------
          "Where knowledge ends violence begins." B. Ljundquist

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          • #6
            The last thing I want to do is introduce "Look, horse. Here's reins!" for the first time when I am on top and risk the horse overreacting in surprise and possibly flipping over. (And I have been flipped on by a green horse who "stepped away from the block" up and backwards instead of forwards, so I am pretty diligent about taking steps not to repeat that experience.)

            But as long as with mine own eyes I have seen the horse longe politely and accept sidereins at least once before I swing a leg over, I don't care whether they are a regular part of his program or not. He'll ride how I ride him, not how he was longed two weeks prior.
            This. The first time you want them to hit the end of the rein is on the ground. In the process of starting my young pony she was and is being longed with side reins. Not from the very beginning, but it was gradually worked in, outside rein first, then when balanced, we added the second. She has also been ground driven near from the start so was well aware of the rein before I ever climbed on.

            Longing with side reins is not going to "teach a head set" if you do it correctly. The shortest my side reins have reached on this pony is the third to last hole, and that has only been relatively recently--still lots of slack in the rein. The vast majority of her side rein use has been on the last hole. All you want in those early stages is for them to know that something is there and they feel it, BEFORE you get on and even think about trying to steer-because you don't know how they will react the first couple of times they hit the end of it.
            __________________

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            • #7
              I vote for side reins with elastic too. I tried long lining my mare when I was starting her and she curled away from the contact way too much in them and evaded going forward. On the longe with sidereins I could push her forward into the reins. She accepted the contact much better without curling and has not curled since.

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              • #8
                I use side reins, but I agree with meupatdoes that probably any way you do it is fine as long as you're asking her to work correctly.

                I will say that if you're not entirely comfortable with side reins, which it sounds like might be the case, I would leave them off. If you've had problems with multiple horses curling under and getting behind the bit with them then there is probably some disconnect there in proper usage. I would rather train a horse without than use them to teach the horse how to get behind the bit.

                I don't think any of those type of aids are appropriate for every situation. I rarely use running reins but occasionally they are more appropriate than side reins. It should be taken on a case-by-case basis so it's hard to say without seeing you work your horse.
                exploring the relationship between horse and human

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by lstevenson View Post
                  I rarely lunge without side reins (the rubber donut kind), as it is too hard on their legs to be circling while crooked and not moving correctly through their bodies. And most horses are invariably crooked when being lunged without side reins - either counterbent and falling in, or with their heads turned too much to the inside, and the hind legs falling to the outside.

                  Side reins help to keep the horse straight, and can be very helpful in teaching the horse how to seek the connection. In order for that to happen however, the person doing the lunging needs to really send the horse forward into the side reins when they see that the horse is not reaching into the connection.



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                  • #10
                    My own trainer, who has schooled horses to GP, does not lunge much at all and prefers to do the work under saddle. But then he is skilled enough to know where every footfall is and can keep the horse straight because he is so balanced.
                    Just his personal preference.
                    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

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                    • #11
                      It largely depends on the horse. Some can cope with side reins etc. and some cannot. Your job is to find out what suits the individual and employ that method.
                      ... _. ._ .._. .._

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                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        All very informative answers! Thank you for explaining your reasonings so well. Willa is quite straight on the lunge but has a tendency to brace up with her neck to balance in transitions. She had an overdeveloped under neck muscle before anyone ever even started working with her. It's just how she chooses to move on her own. I would like to teach her to move forward through her back rather than bracing up with her neck. I just can't decide if this is better on the lunge or on her back.

                        I keep lunge sessions short, under 15-20 minutes, and only 3-4 times a week. I've ground driven her and worked her in the bridle in hand so she understood rein pressure before I backed her. She understands what they mean and it was a non-issue when I got on. I was just so surprised by the number of books that essentially say it's a MUST do in order to develop contact and back muscles BEFORE you get on. And like I said, every trainer I've used has very strong opinions all contradicting each other! Ugh! I'm a "explain why and I'll make my own decision" kind of person so this has been helpful!
                        Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

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                        • #13
                          I like to get youngsters used to side reins. I use all leather ones and attach them first to the lunge cavesson until I can shorten them so they go in a nice outline. Then I start with them looser on the bit and gradually shorten. I use side reins when training piaffe in hand so I like the horse to know about side reins before we get that far in their training.

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                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Perhaps my previous problem with side reins is based on the fact I didn't drive the horse forward enough. In my early training I use the lunge to develop calm, quiet and prompt transitions and gaits that link to a verbal cue I can use when we go under saddle. They all know verbal cues that mean, walk, big walk, slow wall, trot, big trot, slow trot, canter, big canter, slow canter, relax (drop head long and low) and halt. Perhaps with side reins I just need to be working on the big trot as the regular and slow trot don't create enough impulsion to push them through. Does that make sense?
                            Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

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                            • #15
                              I really dislike side reins personally. They are OK for trot work, but horrible for lunging a young horse at the canter. They either flop all over, thus annoying the horse, or they don't allow enough freedom of movement for the neck.

                              But then I rarely lunge a young horse anyway. It's too hard on their joints, and I feel it teaches them very little. I will sometimes lunge them a bit to help establish a nice rhythm if they are having a bit of trouble balancing with a rider, but that's about it. They learn how to do it and then I leave it alone unless I really need it.

                              I also have 2 horses who won't give to side reins. They think they are fun stretchy toys to play with. All that does is teach them bad habits. If I use anything, it's a chambon. I put the halter on over the bridle and lunge off the side ring on the halter unless i need the control of lunging off the bit (only if the horse will pull away).

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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Keg-A-Bacchus View Post
                                Perhaps my previous problem with side reins is based on the fact I didn't drive the horse forward enough. In my early training I use the lunge to develop calm, quiet and prompt transitions and gaits that link to a verbal cue I can use when we go under saddle. They all know verbal cues that mean, walk, big walk, slow wall, trot, big trot, slow trot, canter, big canter, slow canter, relax (drop head long and low) and halt. Perhaps with side reins I just need to be working on the big trot as the regular and slow trot don't create enough impulsion to push them through. Does that make sense?
                                That does make sense to me. I would say, reading your OP and this post, that you are almost certainly not driving your horses forward enough. Especially until they get used to it (keeping in mind that you're introducing contact--a "natural" stop-or-brace response, to them) the reactions you describe are typical.

                                I hope you don't interpret this as picking on you. I was a pretty successful rider and trainer before I learned much about longe work, so I'm not criticizing your skills as you seem quite knowledgeable. But I think there is a problem in your usage which is inadvertently encouraging horses to lean on or get behind the bit, based on my experience with similar queries.

                                FWIW, I was competing at 3rd level and schooling higher before I lucked on a trainer who taught me groundwork like this. It isn't a dig at you at all. I doubt you are doing anything wrong. I also doubt I know all the answers.
                                exploring the relationship between horse and human

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                                • #17
                                  What about the option of a training chambon? Anyone use/them, like them?

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                                  • #18
                                    I have a pair of side reins (with a rubber doughnut) that get used on a youngster probably twice . I use them solely to get the young horse to feel contact with his mouth while he is moving at different gaits without a rider, in case said contact freaks him out or causes some other ruckus. They are loose enough to in no way encourage a "headset", but short enough that he will at some point contact them and have a chance to react.

                                    The horse is usually taught to "turn" and halt in hand with the reins and bit while I walk alongside his shoulder. The first few rides, we will do a bit of this before I get on, with voice command reaffirming whoa, before I get on.

                                    I have no issues with a youngster understanding that rein contact and spoken whoa means whoa, that one rein means turn that way, and that light tug, tug means slow down in gait. I'll teach them contact and collection later. I want a greenie to understand the basics of control so we can focus on hacking out and keeping a good freewalk and enthusiasm for riding. Nit picking a greenie to teach them contact doesn't really encourage them to like riding, IMO. I prefer interest and enthusiasm create the forward rather than leg and hold.

                                    The only "gimmick" I ever use is vienna reins (homemade version), once the horse is going well walk, trot, canter and trail, and he seems to like the work. The first time will be on the lunge to make sure they won't wig out, then undersaddle. I like to have the viennas long (zero contact) at walk, so as not to ruin the walk. They will be used *maybe* once a week during the learning to maintain contact period, then only very periodically (3-5 times a year?) when I feel that the horse (or me!) is getting too heavy with contact.

                                    This is obviously not the fastest or professional's way. Some like to have the horse "round and engaged" from ride one. I prefer to really establish going forward and happy (and not worry about straight, crooked, etc.) before asking for "work", but it's only my preference. Many people like to have the horse correct through their body from the beginning. I can't accomplish that and keep them happy with riding at the same time.

                                    I work around my personal obstacles!
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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Keg-A-Bacchus View Post
                                      Perhaps my previous problem with side reins is based on the fact I didn't drive the horse forward enough. In my early training I use the lunge to develop calm, quiet and prompt transitions and gaits that link to a verbal cue I can use when we go under saddle. They all know verbal cues that mean, walk, big walk, slow wall, trot, big trot, slow trot, canter, big canter, slow canter, relax (drop head long and low) and halt. Perhaps with side reins I just need to be working on the big trot as the regular and slow trot don't create enough impulsion to push them through. Does that make sense?

                                      That makes total sense because I just experienced the difference between my method (similar to yours) and my coach's method when he stepped in. My version of forward wasn't quite forward enough and within a few minutes my coach had my horse looking like a completely different horse. He was reaching into contact when driven forward instead of resembling a wonky giraffe with my attempts to drive him forward. Not that this is what your horse is doing, but it really illustrated to me that it's so important to get them going properly otherwise it's a useless XX minutes spinning around in a circle.
                                      **Member of the Ocularly Challenged Equine Support Group**

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Countrywood View Post
                                        What about the option of a training chambon? Anyone use/them, like them?

                                        I use a de gogue on a horse that we are trying to build up his back/topline with out a rider (Kissing spine). I find it very useful and effective (moreso than side reins ) to getting him working over his back...but I wouldn't say it is something (nor a chambon) that would teach a horse about contact or connection. And I would NOT use it on a green horse.

                                        Again, it is important to know how use them...and you need someone who keeps the horse forward and pushing from behind without running them off their feet. I also move with them to keep them on a large circle and go straight sometimes.


                                        Again...not something I would put on a three year old. At most...you want them to learn long an low (not really on a contact)....but I really strongly dislike lounging young horses for long at all (more than 5-10 minutes) and not more than 1-2 times a week. If I want to build up their back...ride another horse and pony them out up and down some hills

                                        Good luck to the OP. These are good questions and it is hard to find the right answer...probably because there are several "right" answers.

                                        Just remember her age...and some times just give them time. It is very hard to do when they are nice!!!


                                        ETA: To be clear, I do use side reins and venna reins on young horses---just not 3 year olds. I possibly would on a late 4 year old--depending on the horse. And have used them OFTEN on OTTBs when restarting them.
                                        Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Oct. 28, 2011, 06:50 PM.
                                        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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