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Difference in rein aids

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  • Difference in rein aids

    I didn't want to put this in my "up the ante" thread as I thought it would get buried...

    As far as rein aids go, what do people prefer? I understand horses are individuals and riders adopt different ways that work for each horse. It seems as though, at the moment, my trainer and I are having either a mis-communication or difference of opinion in regards to applying rein aids, specifically during course work. I plan on having a non-confrontational chat about it to try and understand each other.

    I have ridden a handful of upper level horses in the past in lessons(never shown), both eventing and dressage. The one thing that has stuck out to me the most is that when asking specifically for a half halt, the rider does not simply pull back on the rein while sitting deep, but the rider must "dance" the rein lightly in the horse's mouth, while also asking from the seat/core. Pulling usually turns into a contest of strengths, of which I am the weakling. I distinctly remember being hauled around the ring by a former 3* horse because I was to shorten his stride and fit 5 canter strides with ground poles set for 4 because I only knew "pull=slow down" at that point...

    This was close to 10yrs ago. It came back to me while starting to canter my new OTTB in the ring a while back. He became very quick (good thing he's nicely balanced), I instinctively "pulled" for a half halt, he responded by essentially locking his jaw and going faster (as any race trained TB would do...). So I started just following his head and lightly "dancing" the reins and lo and behold we had a nice, even, rhythmic canter. And, by golly it works really wonders when asking for a downward transition because their isn't a hard, bracing hand to resist!

    My trainer is in the "pull harder" camp, or at least that's what I'm understanding at this point. If they resist, keep the leg on, but don't give in with the reins, the horse will eventually learn to stop resisting. It became really apparent how much my horse does NOT want to be yanked on (see aforementioned thread). The next day I jumped him over some lines and combinations and instead of just pulling (frankly my back just can't handle that type of riding), I just squeezed my fingers on the reins and he came right back, like I knew he was capable of. Don't get me wrong, I'm not above a one rein stop if the horse is not responding or an emergency situation.

    Then I rode her horse that I suspect is very similar to mine, again I've been dragged around the ring with this horse, his head flat to his chest and I'm throwing my back out trying to find a half halt this horse responds to. Rode him today with my "light dancing" fingers, fan-freaking-tastic ride! Even got in some trot lengthenings (which this horse loffs!) and he came right back, nice and easy in my hands, which is usually where we run into issues. Still have yet to jump the beast, but I think I'm onto something here... My trainer has struggled and admitted that this horse is a tough ride, you can't be so "handsy" with him or he backs off and curls, but then he also has his fire-breathing dragon moments. Dressage is definitely not his strongest phase!

  • #2
    I'm not an expert on this...but there is a difference between holding a consistent contact and position...and pulling.

    I know that I have a tendancy to get too "soft" and give too soon. While the effect is that my horses are happy and soft...they are not always through and connected.

    You never want to PULL really....but there are times where you shouldn't give either. What I focus on isn't the "rein" so much but making sure I'm holding in my core and in my seat while keeping my elbow soft. It's a damn lot of work....

    You also want to give them a consistent place to go...if you are constantly "dancing" the bit...you might be talking too much to them.

    ETA: oops....just realized you are talking about jumping mostly.

    There I use my rein aids last....and certainly do not yank or pull or even hold. I want the horse light and off my hand and responding mostly just to a shift in my body and have the fence hold them. And even my strong OTTBs will get royally pissed if you are in their face all the time.
    Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Feb. 14, 2013, 05:07 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? **


    • #3
      I'm not quire clear as to what you mean by "dancing" the rein. Usually a half halt involves stopping your body's forward movement for a heart beat, while engaging your core muscles. sometimes you may simply close your fingers for a fraction of a second as well, with some horses not even that is necessary.

      When approaching a fence some riders need merely lower their seat, and slow their body and the horse comes back. Getting into a tug o war on front of a fence is a recipe for disaster.

      Considering that the horse your trainer rides does not understand a half halt, and requires a yank and pull approach, I would consider seeking out another instructor. The path to competent and safe over fence work, and stadium is flat work a.k.a. dressage.
      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


      • #4
        Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
        Considering that the horse your trainer rides does not understand a half halt, and requires a yank and pull approach, I would consider seeking out another instructor. The path to competent and safe over fence work, and stadium is flat work a.k.a. dressage.
        Between this thread and the other, assuming OP is referring to the same trainer in both... I'm inclined to agree. She's bitting your green horse way up and then telling you to "pull harder"? Points for consistency, I guess. I prefer not to haul and yank on my horse's mouth, he would be most offended.


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
          I'm not quire clear as to what you mean by "dancing" the rein. Usually a half halt involves stopping your body's forward movement for a heart beat, while engaging your core muscles. sometimes you may simply close your fingers for a fraction of a second as well, with some horses not even that is necessary.
          I don't "dance" my fingers all day. I strive for a consistent, even contact and if the horse needs a half halt due to a change in rhythm, gait or connection, I lightly squeeze my outside rein while engaging my core. When they respond, I stop. Some require just one "tickle," other times a few nudges/squeezes. More of a "hey, pay attention please" instead of "YO, stop that!" If the light contact doesn't work, I "upgrade" to a stronger aid (not quite pulling, but more "serious") and go from there.

          My trainer's horse I referred to isn't her only one, he's just the most difficult on to ride, especially for dressage. He's a very anxious horse in all means of life. By riding him more, I'm hoping to be able to communicate better with her and relate it to my horse.

          And I could totally be the one not understanding what she actually means by "pull"...


          • #6
            I've never been taught to pull on the reins for a half-halt.
            "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


            • #7
              If this is your green horse that rushes I'd say do everything in your power not to touch his mouth once you're locked on to a fence. He sounds hot, athletic and sensitive from your other posts and these types of horses are world beaters if they don't get ruined by insensitive riding first. Most get ruined because it is so damn hard not to over manage them. I would bet he would stop speeding up in front of the fence if he trusted you to stay out of his mouth. One of you needs to be adult enough to stop pulling first and it's not going to be him.

              Also there is no "pull" no "taking back" in the reins in a correct half halt. All you are doing is containing the energy you are creating with your legs. Containment is hugely different than not going forward.


              • #8
                Zipping up flame suit.

                IMHO you need a new "trainer."


                • #9
                  Helio- I'm not totally sure I understand what your talking about, but I think you are talking about a horse that gets crappy (hard) in the jaw and rushes the fence. Is that correct?

                  Crappy in the jaw is often because they are stuck in their shoulders. To unstick the shoulders they must be laterally supple and be pushing from behind. Lateral suppleness comes before, and leads to longitudinal suppleness. Hard in the jaw (resisting) rarely has anything to do with the jaw/mouth, but is a symptom of the horse not using its body properly somewhere else.

                  One thing I like to do when horses "lock up" when jumping is bend them. Put them on a circle and bend them. When laterally supple, go back to the jump. Jump the jump, land and go back on the circle, rinse, repeat.

                  Have you read the long and useful thread on the "French School" on the Dressage Forum?
                  Last edited by Judysmom; Feb. 14, 2013, 09:59 PM. Reason: Stupid spell check screwed up my post!
                  Unrepentant carb eater


                  • Original Poster

                    Originally posted by subk View Post
                    He sounds hot, athletic and sensitive from your other posts and these types of horses are world beaters if they don't get ruined by insensitive riding first.
                    Pretty much my biggest fear is to somehow curtail this horse from attaining his true potential by being ignorant and leaving a mess behind...

                    Just to show how sensitive he can be, I took him out for a nice hack out along the roads and trails yesterday. The footing only allowed for mostly walking, some trotting which was fine. All I need to do to get this horse to half halt is to engage my core, that's it. I kept a nice, even light contact with both reins and just asked using my seat, he was more than happy to lift his back. I was able to go from trot to halt without using the reins while on the road...