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Opinions on draw reins?

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  • Opinions on draw reins?

    I'm just now legging my horse up from a suspensory injury, and currently doing 10min trot sets a few times a week.
    Currently she is veryyy stiff over her top line and will barely even lift her back, etc. I would lounge her with side reins but i can't do circles yet...
    What do you think about Draw Reins? Do you like them? Effective? A good choice?
    (of course i wouldn't "crank" her in them, but it would help me to help her slowly start to regain top line muscles and engage the hind end better)


    Why walk when you can ride?

  • #2
    Like anything else, in the right hands with the right use they are a very effective training tool . . .



    • #3
      Not a fan of them, but have used them in some cases. I think in your case you just need to focus on getting your horse fit, then if she is still stiff they can help loosen them up and remind them to listen. My horse can be stiff and I have used them every once in awhile when he decides he really doesn't have to give and use his back, usually 1 ride was enough and he was very good for months after. So in your case I wouldn't use them yet, and wait until she is fitter and can hold herself better then if she is still having trouble then use them. I am not a fan of using them on green horses or very consistently, just as needed for horses that know their job but need a reminder.


      • #4
        I only ride as a hobby so take my opinion for what it is worth... My instructor has told me that she uses them as rarely as possible as in she as only recommended them a handful of times out of the getting to be a thousand horses she trained. But lucky me the horse I acquired was one in this handful. The specific problem we were addressing was that to evade work, to spook or to "SpooK" (make up stuff to spook at) she would stick her nose in the air and take off. I had to ride her in draw reins every ride for ~6 months and there were still rides where she was being bad so I had to put them back on. I haven't had to use them in several months now... This kind of situation was when she would recommend them, horse is going above the bit to evade work.

        In your case, I am not sure they would be the best idea. They might be useful at the start of your ride to help her stretch a bit while you are warming up, but forcing her into a frame when she is not fit enough and recovering from an injury probably will cause more problems than anything.

        I do not like using draw reins and try not to use them, but like any other training tool they have their use.


        • #5
          99% of the time, they do more harm than good. The only thing they teach the horse is to "give" to your hand by bringing their nose closer to their chests. Which is not what we want for a correct foundation in dressage. You want your horse to seek the connection, not tuck his nose in response to your hand. Draw reins only shorten the neck and do absolutely nothing to make the horse work correctly through it's back. Only correct training does that.



          • #6
            If she were my horse, I'd focus on getting her a little fitter first before you think about draw reins or side reins. Also, with a suspensory injury, I would be veryyy slow in bringing her back- from my own bad experience.
            RIP Charlie and Toby


            • #7
              Same as my opinion on hammers, screwdrivers, and nuclear weapons: tools with specific uses that can be really effective or deadly in the wrong hands.

              In this situation I would probably just keep encouraging the horse to stretch into a long rein, little by little, and not be in too much of a hurry. Down and out stretching is what you want, and draw reins tend to make them go down and IN.

              Plenty of time for suppling and strengthening later when the horse is stronger and working more steadily.
              Click here before you buy.


              • #8
                Originally posted by TheHotSensitiveType View Post
                But lucky me the horse I acquired was one in this handful. The specific problem we were addressing was that to evade work, to spook or to "SpooK" (make up stuff to spook at) she would stick her nose in the air and take off. I had to ride her in draw reins every ride for ~6 months and there were still rides where she was being bad so I had to put them back on. I haven't had to use them in several months now... This kind of situation was when she would recommend them, horse is going above the bit to evade work.
                This is what running martingales are for .
                Against My Better Judgement: A blog about my new FLF OTTB
                Do not buy a Volkswagen. I did and I regret it.
                VW sucks.


                • #9
                  Personally, we have had too many horses come to us that have been royally screwed up by draw reins. I'm sure they are an effective training tool in the right hands, but they worry me bc i see them in the wrong hand more often than the right ones...I cannot think of a situation where they would be a suitable replacement for quality riding and training... Why not give the horse a little while to gain some basic strength back before worrying about 'collection'...
                  Last edited by sarah88; Jan. 25, 2011, 08:54 PM.


                  • #10
                    I agree with some of the others- this sounds like a fitness issue. Can you get her to stretch at all (even at the walk)? I might try to get some long and low going at walk and trot before thinking about putting her together. She's going to have trouble lifting the back since she's lost the muscle, and putting draw reins on isn't going to get the back up, its going to get the head in (especially if she doesn't have the strength to push from behind and lift the back, she'll be much more likely to evade by dropping behind the bit).

                    Try to get a longer frame, like a hunter. I'd insist that she not go around like a giraffe, but don't worry so much about impulsion or getting her really round. When she has more strength you can start asking for more.


                    • #11
                      From what you described, I don't think draw reins will help. To get her to lift her back you need her to engage her abdominal muscles. That has nothing to do with where her head is.

                      First I'd get her fitter (slowly).

                      Then I'd add some hill work and some trot poles to get her to lift her back.

                      I'd also do some lateral work to get her to engage her inside hind leg. That can be as simple as leg yields or also spiraling in on a circle and then leg yielding back.

                      I once bought a horse that had been improperly trained using draw reins. It was a bear to get him to stop floating behind the bit and accept contact. I did use them on a mare that I bought who would constantly invert and move like a giraffe. My trainer had me ride her in draw reins a few times. If you do use them it is so important to ride into your hand and always to release!

                      Good luck.
                      Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                      EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                      • #12
                        The facts:
                        ~you are legging your horse up from a soft tissue injury, so you certainly don't want to take any chances that could set back recovery.
                        ~Longitudinal suppleness (over the topline) comes from/ is a result of/ cannot happen without: Lateral flexion
                        Lateral flexion has to do with the flexing action of the spine and rib cage to the side and the stepping under of a singular hind leg closer to, or over the center line of the horse's center of gravity
                        ~ Draw reins can be a missing link for the horse to have an "aha" to lateral flexion, when used properly after exhausting other options.

                        My conclusion... if it were my horse:
                        If you can't do circles, you can't use draw reins for the very same reason.
                        don't worry about a pretty outline, just pet the reins, or "tickle" them to encourage your horse to stretch down and seek contact and hack like that progressing in time until cleared for full work.
                        chaque pas est fait ensemble


                        • #13
                          Attached by the billet-straps they can be quite useful in aiding lateral flexion. Might be useful in this case, to gently encourage the idea. Count me in as one who appreciates them on a spooky horse in the dead of winter Like every tool, they have their use and unfortunate ease of misuse.


                          • #14
                            My opinion...it is really, really rare to have a circumstance where they would be the best choice to fix a specific problem. I can't think of one right now.

                            Draw reins train the horse to tuck it's nose... not round out, bring the back up and seek contact. And the place that they tend to bend their neck to tuck their nose, with draw reins, is not where they bend their neck to go on the bit properly.

                            Ask the horse to go like a hunter, as Eventer13 suggested. Ask her to stay soft to your requests for transitions and directional changes (understood that you're trying not to circle, so probably not trying to turn sharply either), but do NOT worry about where her face is, worry about her staying soft and forward. She'll muscle up and be able to go on the bit later.

                            As for running martingales, the best use I've seen for them is for horses that toss their heads so you end up with both reins on one side
                            Saw some poor horse this weekend, wearing a western shank bit with a running martingale. Ouch!


                            • #15
                              I don't know how emphatically I can express my absolute dislike of draw reins. In most cases they are not used properly, and what they teach is - just like lstevenson said - bit evasion by tucking the chin in. I have gotten to the point that I am very reluctant to throw a leg over, much less buy, any horse who has been ridden/trained in draw reins. They mess you are left with is mammoth. Trying to unravel it and teach the horse to reach for the bit and not evade the bridle - exhausting.

                              I've never seen them used correctly. I really resent it when I "take over" the ride on a horse formerly ridden to death in draw reins. It actually irks the you-know-what out of me b/c I am left with the aftermath - a horse that has been taught to be heavy in the hands and evade the proper connection. They have ZERO impact as an aid that would result in a horse giving his back. ZERO.


                              • #16
                                I am actually doing the same thing with my gelding, he is two months in to suspensory recovery. After a couple weeks, because I wanted him balanced, but not really collected in the beginning, I used a german martingale which really helped since he tends to be heavy. I used them very very loosely so when he tried to haul the reins out of my hands I had a bit more to say, "no.. this is where I want you" and could put my legs on and hold more. After a week or so of that, I didn't need them anymore.

                                However, another option if she holds the bit well, use a stronger bit which will help her be lighter and you can really put your leg on to lift her. I used a slow twist which worked for my guy, but sometimes a waterford, or even a more narrow french link can work. Again, not a long term fix, but I have had several like this (either off the track or otherwise) where a little change like this can help you get your leg on and lifting their back (whereas without it they would run through the bridle instead of lifting up), and you can build the back muscles, go back to the snaffle and voila, you can put your leg on and lift again.


                                • #17
                                  I have occasionally used draw reins while doing trot sets with my horse who could be a bit heavy and it helped to keep him round especially towards the end of our sets when we were both getting a little tired.
                                  For the suspensory and legging back up walking hills and out on the trails would be good for her to loosen up and to get fit. Instead of doing trot sets maybe an hour walk with some hills for a while would be better since she is stiff and coming back from an injury then once she gets a little stronger try to get her to lift her back and use herself. Hour walks are boring but thats what ipods are for and they really do help!


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                                    Same as my opinion on hammers, screwdrivers, and nuclear weapons: tools with specific uses that can be really effective or deadly in the wrong hands.

                                    Delta you are so cool.
                                    Draw reins, hammers, screwdrivers and nuclear weapons. Good list!
                                    Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                                    Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Thanks soooo much guys!!! This really helped me!!!
                                      So, i wont be getting those draw reins, lol.
                                      To all of you who said i should do hills, yeah i truly wish i could but the vet said no(the suspensory ligament splits and cups around the fetlock so when the fetlock stretches down up hills and down it pulls on that ligament...so he said not yet)
                                      I dont know WHY i didnt even THINK about long and low, god im retarded....
                                      So basically i should be thinking forward, soft, engaging?
                                      Got it. I guess i need to step back and relax, i was wanting her to be back to where she was like now but i guess that will be in a few months...
                                      Thanks so much again!!!
                                      Why walk when you can ride?


                                      • #20
                                        If she is stiff you need to look at why. Talk to a vet who does Acupuncture and chiropractic.

                                        There are a bunch of TTouches and gentle manipulations that are very helpful. Neck flexions back and wither lifts, tail work etc that will help loosen things up.

                                        You can't force them to bend--it is counter productive!