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Draw-reins: Are they a "thing" or added for rhetorical flourish?

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  • #61
    Traditionally, the hindquarters should lower when the hindleg joints compress, the base of support shorten, and the neck lifts/arcs out to the hand. The horse should feel like a jet taking off with withers/chest lifted because of that. Half halts produce these reactions.
    I.D.E.A. yoda

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    • #62
      I was taught that it is Very Dangerous to ride in draw reins, and that the running martingale is the emergency-brake equipment of choice for the high-headed stargazing bolters. What does everybody else think?
      PA Hi-Ly Visible [PA Hi-Noon (by Magnum Psyche) x Takara Padrona (by *Padron)]

      Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique

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      • #63
        It is a piece of training tack. There are correct ways to use it, and incorrect ways of using it. Like everything from a snaffle on up, educate yourself on:

        1. What it is used for and why
        2. When to appropriately use it
        2. How to appropriately use it

        From there, you can make a decision on whether or not you want to use it. Not every trainer is going to like every training method, and that's ok. People can and do approach the same situation several different ways. The beauty of having options is that you can find the best fit for you and your individual horse. If a draw rein finds use on every single horse, every single ride, odds are you're using it wrong. Used properly and with discretion, however, it can be a very useful corrective tool.
        Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique

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        • #64
          Originally posted by DownYonder View Post
          Are running reins the same as draw reins? And did they go between the horse's front legs, or were they connected to the girth at the side?
          Sorry - running reins are what we in Australia call draw reins (between the front legs).

          Market Harbourough is what we call a German martingale.

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          • #65
            Originally posted by MyssMyst View Post
            It is a piece of training tack. There are correct ways to use it, and incorrect ways of using it. Like everything from a snaffle on up, educate yourself on:

            1. What it is used for and why
            2. When to appropriately use it
            2. How to appropriately use it

            From there, you can make a decision on whether or not you want to use it. Not every trainer is going to like every training method, and that's ok. People can and do approach the same situation several different ways. The beauty of having options is that you can find the best fit for you and your individual horse. If a draw rein finds use on every single horse, every single ride, odds are you're using it wrong. Used properly and with discretion, however, it can be a very useful corrective tool.
            But it's so hard to find the answers to those questions. The true, correct answers. Most of the time, if I have to look up a gadget (like a de Gouge, for instance), all I can find is the description of what it is typically used for, but there's never any useful "how to" or "why" included. If you want to know the how/when/why of a gadget, you have to find an instructor who can teach you those things. Problem is, I don't think those instructors are easy to find. I certainly don't have access to such a person, and so I rely on COTH/internet to learn. But then all I can find are arguments on why not to use it.

            I still don't know what type of horse you would use a de Gouge on.... For all the threads on draw reins, I still don't know the proper, true, correct way to use them because the information just never seems to make it to the board.

            I could ask my boss, sure, but I'm not under the impression that she often knows what she's talking about.

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            • #66
              Originally posted by MyssMyst View Post
              It is a piece of training tack. There are correct ways to use it, and incorrect ways of using it. Like everything from a snaffle on up, educate yourself on:

              1. What it is used for and why
              2. When to appropriately use it
              2. How to appropriately use it

              From there, you can make a decision on whether or not you want to use it. Not every trainer is going to like every training method, and that's ok. People can and do approach the same situation several different ways. The beauty of having options is that you can find the best fit for you and your individual horse. If a draw rein finds use on every single horse, every single ride, odds are you're using it wrong. Used properly and with discretion, however, it can be a very useful corrective tool.
              Can you supply a video of the correct way to use these? I've never used them (always went out of my way to avoid them) because I've never seen a horse that really benefited from them or a standing martingale. I'd love to know if they can save me time and effort without teaching my horses to either suck back or lean. I'll use a running martingale if necessary but usually just hours under saddle. TIA.
              Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"

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              • #67
                Originally posted by LarkspurCO View Post


                I guess I will have to settle for "crammed" as the best biomechanical explanation so far

                As part of my horse's spinal rehab I am riding him in a plain snaffle in a very low, deep and round posture and it has worked wonders for his topline. It is not easy to do this correctly and sometimes it takes awhile to get him supple enough to relax his neck and really come through.

                When this happens, even though the neck is deep, his back fills in behind the withers and lifts me up in the saddle and all of a sudden his trot becomes easy to sit with better rhythm, reach and suspension. From there I can half halt, ride off my seat and easily ride all of lateral movements (even the left half pass, which is the most difficult for him).

                No, this is not an "uphill" way of going, but it is building his core strength so that when I do ask him come uphill it is easier for him to get there and keep the engagement.

                Anyway, getting back to the mechanics of the draw reins (which I am not using) I will have to concede that they can be problematic in the wrong hands, but I still don't see how when correctly used they prevent the horse developing the topline.

                Agreed. Drawreins aren't evil in the right hands, especially if you only engage them occasionally during the ride and are using two sets of reins. A horse can be uphill in draw reins, too...I've used draw reins very sparingly, hooking them up at the girth rather than between the front legs, to work on a specific sticky training issue. Within a week, the horse understood and they've been in the tackroom ever since.

                I don't see how draw reins, in that formation, would necessarily make the horse downhill or "cram" him. Lots of longlinging and lunging is done with a similar set up (running side reins,double lunging etc), and uphill, engaged work is produced. The key is not to hang on the drawreins and let up when the horse gives the right answer.
                2007 Welsh Cob C X TB GG Eragon
                Our training journal.
                1989-2008 French TB Shamus Fancy
                I owned him for fifteen years, but he was his own horse.

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                • Original Poster

                  #68
                  I'm trying to open my mind to good uses of draw reins. What I note is that the people who do use them underscore that they are a short-lived help.

                  I'm restarting a little mare for someone and I wonder if draw reins would speed up the very early phase of training. Here, I want her to follow the bit around when I pull on one side or the other. Also, I want her to learn that the Automatic, Always Right Answer, is to soften her jaw and flex her poll. (I want some stuff from the hind end, too, but that's lesson #1.5).

                  I could do this without draw reins and probably any bit. But for a ride or two, I think draw reins might speed up her realization that "when you turn your head and lower it, the rein lets go... you win!" The draw reins might help me explain that "head turned and up, nose poking out" doesn't work because she'll run into the draw rein. It would just shorten this step in her kindergarten education.

                  What do you guys think?
                  The armchair saddler
                  Politically Pro-Cat

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                  • #69
                    Originally posted by mvp View Post
                    I'm trying to open my mind to good uses of draw reins. What I note is that the people who do use them underscore that they are a short-lived help.

                    I'm restarting a little mare for someone and I wonder if draw reins would speed up the very early phase of training. Here, I want her to follow the bit around when I pull on one side or the other. Also, I want her to learn that the Automatic, Always Right Answer, is to soften her jaw and flex her poll. (I want some stuff from the hind end, too, but that's lesson #1.5).

                    I could do this without draw reins and probably any bit. But for a ride or two, I think draw reins might speed up her realization that "when you turn your head and lower it, the rein lets go... you win!" The draw reins might help me explain that "head turned and up, nose poking out" doesn't work because she'll run into the draw rein. It would just shorten this step in her kindergarten education.

                    What do you guys think?
                    I think that you have made a good plan and have determined how you would like to try to use draw reins to support your training. If it doesn't work, do what I do, try something else.
                    I hope you are successful.
                    I , and i'm sure many others, would be interested in hearing what your results were.

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                    • #70
                      Originally posted by mvp View Post
                      I'm trying to open my mind to good uses of draw reins. What I note is that the people who do use them underscore that they are a short-lived help.

                      I'm restarting a little mare for someone and I wonder if draw reins would speed up the very early phase of training. Here, I want her to follow the bit around when I pull on one side or the other. Also, I want her to learn that the Automatic, Always Right Answer, is to soften her jaw and flex her poll. (I want some stuff from the hind end, too, but that's lesson #1.5).

                      I could do this without draw reins and probably any bit. But for a ride or two, I think draw reins might speed up her realization that "when you turn your head and lower it, the rein lets go... you win!" The draw reins might help me explain that "head turned and up, nose poking out" doesn't work because she'll run into the draw rein. It would just shorten this step in her kindergarten education.

                      What do you guys think?
                      If she's truly green, I would be careful with them, just based off of some baby horse reactions to feeling "trapped" by something. The draws might be a bit too constrictive, even if used loosely, leading to a freakout. Same goes for a reactive or nervous horse. A bucking horse in draw reins is an ugly thing.

                      Maybe a bit more work on the ground for that? Flex her slightly side to side and get really playful with the reins, then give a big reward for any signs of give, even if it is half an inch. Sometimes, especially with some mares, a big hard wall of contact (let's say she gets bumped with the draw rein while pulling her head up) can be very intimidating and it will set you back some if they get nervous about it.

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                      • Original Poster

                        #71
                        Thanks very much for taking an interest in my little experiment.

                        The reminder that she might feel trapped and buck (and that that is very bad in draw reins) will be foremost in my mind. After all, the whole point of this was to make this phase of her training easier on my body, not the end of my body!

                        I have sat on the mare once and she didn't know jack diddly. She would follow the bit around-- one rein at a time and the other with a loop in it. But also didn't want to move. She's clueless and scared.

                        She does need some long-lining. It might be most fair to teach her to go and steer there before teaching her to give to the bit. After all, the long lines won't be as soft as my hand. No point in screwing her over there and getting her to put her chin on her chest because I "lied" to her and told her that if she gave with her jaw, the reins would get instantly and perfectly slack.
                        The armchair saddler
                        Politically Pro-Cat

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                        • #72
                          No problem, hopefully it goes well!

                          Like you said too, a draw rein won't teach a horse to work into elastic contact as it is pretty static. Very hard to be playful with them as it would just encourage more curling under, IMO. The horse should want to give in the poll and neck as well as reach out for the contact, which draws don't really help with. I would worry more about forward, moving off the leg, and accepting/working forward into a soft elastic contact (ie- not riding with loopy reins) before attempting to get a horse to give and work rounder.

                          The few times I've ever really used draw reins were on spoiled horses who knew better but would basically say f-you and fling their heads up and bolt off/rear and I didn't have the strength to hold them together and say no, you're going to stay here. And saddleseat horses, because, well the trainer wanted it that way. Not sure why, but yeah.

                          I'm sure you know all this though, which has also probably been discussed in previous pages (didn't read it all, too long, lol!), keep us posted on how it goes!

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                          • Original Poster

                            #73
                            Originally posted by r.j.246 View Post
                            Like you said too, a draw rein won't teach a horse to work into elastic contact as it is pretty static. Very hard to be playful with them as it would just encourage more curling under, IMO. The horse should want to give in the poll and neck as well as reach out for the contact, which draws don't really help with. I would worry more about forward, moving off the leg, and accepting/working forward into a soft elastic contact (ie- not riding with loopy reins) before attempting to get a horse to give and work rounder.
                            Yeah, she's not nearly to the "elastic" contact or using the hind end, yet. She's at the "WFT is the bit for?" stage.

                            FWIW, I do things that you true dresseurs might think is bad.

                            1. I teach the horse first that they should give to the bit. To me, that's so that I have a hope of stopping them in a calm way if they go ape-sh!t.

                            2. The hind end is part of the "give to the bit" equation almost from the beginning. When I pull on one rein, I have leg on that side, too. I'll accept the horse turning her head and dropping her nose at first. But once she has a clue, I'll add leg (or raise my hand) and look around to her tail until she has to step under with that hind leg.

                            3. I don't expect the draw reins to teach much about contact or using the hind end. That has to come from the way I use my body and timing. Heck, I don't actually *care* if the head is down. I only care about the ultimate goal of riding the horse from my leg. When I put a leg on, the horse should curve around it and reach under with that hind foot. The stuff about my hand-- does the horse turn, soften her jaw, flex at the poll-- is just stuff I do along the way to get the horse to figure out that she has to reach under with her hind leg, or have her lips pulled on and someone poking her in the side.

                            The way I get to "elastic" contact and working from behind is softening all these signals. But they are separated and perhaps extreme looking in the very beginning.

                            This is a little Western and down-home, but it does work. The babies become rideable and symmetrical pretty fast.
                            The armchair saddler
                            Politically Pro-Cat

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                            • #74
                              Originally posted by mvp View Post
                              But for a ride or two, ...
                              Much as people can experience the temptation to be what I refer to as Dressage Terrorists, wherein they gleefully brandish the threat that any slight thing done wrong will ruin a horse permanently, I don't think that ANYTHING you do for two rides short of lighting the horse on fire or flat killing it will have lasting negative effects. If the horse is not actually dead, you can go back later and reassess and redirect, if necessary.

                              Perhaps it will shorten the path to an aha moment, perhaps it will have an unexpected negative result that you will have to spend some time fixing, perhaps it will be net neutral.

                              Either way, it is one or two rides. Rome wasn't built in a day, but it wasn't ruined in a day either.
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                              • #75
                                I had a trainer, my first dressage trainer want me to use draw reins on my horse. He was older and knew nothing about dressage. I did it one day just to appease her and felt very uncomfortable because i had never used them. I told her I wouldn't ride with them anymore and she could ride him instead. Well, she did, and my good boy started popping up and getting very spastic in them. He was a stressed out mess, so i paid close attention and truthfully they were not being used correctly. She used them to pull his head down and never mind actual forward and push from behind. After about two months I found a new trainer and have never out a set on any other horse. I believe they are a big shortcut for a lot of people to get a "frame" and are used wrong many of times. I didnt know at the time about dressage coming from hunters and jumpers but I thought she was good because she was a bronze medal rider. I learned real quick that doesn't mean they can teach.
                                Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole

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                                • Original Poster

                                  #76
                                  Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
                                  Much as people can experience the temptation to be what I refer to as Dressage Terrorists, wherein they gleefully brandish the threat that any slight thing done wrong will ruin a horse permanently, I don't think that ANYTHING you do for two rides short of lighting the horse on fire or flat killing it will have lasting negative effects. If the horse is not actually dead, you can go back later and reassess and redirect, if necessary.

                                  Perhaps it will shorten the path to an aha moment, perhaps it will have an unexpected negative result that you will have to spend some time fixing, perhaps it will be net neutral.

                                  Either way, it is one or two rides. Rome wasn't built in a day, but it wasn't ruined in a day either.
                                  Yeah. If no one dies, I have only dug a hole that is "2 rides deep."

                                  I feel compelled to try my little experiment now, in the name of science.

                                  I might long line mare first and then ride her again without draw reins (to see what sunk in from last time/the first time). But if I don't get "satisfaction," I'll try draw reins out for a ride or two and report back.
                                  The armchair saddler
                                  Politically Pro-Cat

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                                  • #77
                                    mvp--I'm not comfortable using draw reins, myself, so can't give you much insight there. That said, there are horses I can envision using them on, and horses I can't. My older mare is one of the former; my younger one of the latter.

                                    I haven't read the whole thread but am putting in my $0.02 because you mentioned that she "didn't want to move" and is "clueless and scared." That was my young one exactly. I had a good young-horse guy put the first 60 days on her, and at the end she was about where your subject sounds to be--could use one rein at a time for steering, but tended to get stuck and flipped out if I tried to take a contact with both reins, much less touch the reins within two strides of using leg. (I'll note she had chiro and saddle fit issues that slowed down her progress during those 60 days--given those, I was quite happy with the trainer's work.)

                                    Besides changing her bit (from french link to Happy Mouth mullen), which helped a lot and I think allowed the next step, the big breakthrough with her came when I taught her what my inside leg meant. She's naturally very tuned in to seat aids, and seems to get reassurance from a rider, so since I'm not great at long-lining, I opted to teach mostly from the saddle. I started at the halt, just asking for a little flexion in one direction and then using my inside leg (gently) to ask her to bend her ribcage. Lots of rewards for tiny amounts of progress--I think it started as shifting her weight from the inside to the outside shoulder. Seems minor at the halt, but was the big first step (that wasn't even a literal step )!

                                    Then we worked on the same exercise in walk, then in trot. Still working on it in canter. I also do a lot of bend/counterbend exercises, changing direction a lot. Using thigh and weight to move her shoulders around. Baby leg-yields, a couple of steps of TOH and TOF. This is spread out over several weeks, short sessions.

                                    Anyway, something about learning to bend through her ribcage and accept my inside leg along with the inside flexion made a neon lightbulb come on inside this mare's head. She now feels able to move forward, I can get her on the outside rein and stretching, and she doesn't freak out about contact on both reins. She does require precision and consistency (more than the average equine), but I think that's just who she is, and she's turning into a really fun little sports car type of ride!

                                    Just because I've gone through possibly similar issues lately, if your project is anything like my little mare, I would add one caution about using draw reins. If she gets stuck and plain doesn't understand contact, she may go up and over on you.
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                                    • #78
                                      Anyway, getting back to the mechanics of the draw reins (which I am not using) I will have to concede that they can be problematic in the wrong hands, but I still don't see how when correctly used they prevent the horse developing the topline.
                                      They prevent the horse from developing his topline because they mechanically prevent the horse from raising the base of his neck.

                                      and the neck lifts/arcs out to the hand. The horse should feel like a jet taking off with withers/chest lifted because of that.
                                      In draw reins, the horse CANNOT lift and arc out to the hand, his neck is restricted. He can instead raise his poll, and get his face vertical by flexing between C2 and C3 (rather than softening between atlas and axis), so he sort of looks like he's in the right 'frame'...but if he is mechanically restricted by the leverage of draw reins or a running martingale, he cannot gesture up and forward with the base of his neck. And that (along with an engaged hindquarter, which goes hand in glove, can't have one without the other, in a collected horse) is what develops the topline.

                                      The bigger picture, is the problem that a horse bent between C2 and C3 with a vertical face, is perceived as correct by many judges in many disciplines, and rewarded as such. So yeah, draw reins can be used to great effect if what you want is a horse that can't pull the reins out of your hand, that has a vertical (or behind the vertical) face.

                                      And MVP, yeah, you won't destroy a horse doing something wrong, unless you don't realize it's wrong. And you can't find out unless you try.
                                      But first, I would try teaching the horse to give and soften, one side at a time, from the ground. If the horse can flex the atlas/axis (poll) joint laterally/sideways, they will release the poll so it can flex longitudinally/vertically.
                                      Great stuff from Dr. Deb Bennett at the George Morris developing rider clinic:
                                      http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2013GeorgeMorris/
                                      These are long video streams, and I think what ideayoda and I are trying to describe with the poll joint is on day two, and shown with a horse skull, and neck vertebrae.

                                      Mike Schaffer also has a great description in his book "Riding in the Moment", of how to teach a horse to soften to the bit. I bought his ebook on my computer, and I have it on my kindle now, too. But it is a really nice description of how to teach the horse to soften to the hand, properly:
                                      http://mikeschaffer.com/ritm.html

                                      It isn't hard to teach a horse to soften as Mike Schaffer describes, you shouldn't need draw reins...and draw reins can make a mess that is pretty hard to undo.

                                      And mvp, I really admire your "I am going to go try it and see what happens" attitude. Nobody ever trained a horse that they never made a mistake with- 'oops, I shouldn't have done that!'. Trying something and seeing what happens, right OR wrong, is how we really internalize learning, rather than saying, Mr. Expert told me never to do x, so I never do x. You'll never learn exactly WHY you would never want to do x!

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