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Thoughts on side reins?

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  • Thoughts on side reins?

    Working with my ottb... Short background: got him last spring and have gotten decent transitions and bending. He's quit leaning on the bit. He's learned his leads. Has some lateral walk trot and has a natural medium level head carriage. He moves naturally underneath himself well. Have shown him local flat classes and after the first show that he wasn't quit sure was another race, he's been calm and cool at shows. Showed him training level 3 at a dressage schooling show and scored 56% which I blame mostly on the hurricane strength winds and the bitter cold that had me shaking. Long story short he's come a heck of a long way and is building trust. Have schooled some jumps too. Work with a trainer when I can (1 to2x a month) and I plan to ask her this too but wanted some coth wisdom as well.

    ? Is what do you think of trying side reins on him both on the lunge ( he hates lunging but is getting better) and under saddle? Lateral and half halts do help him with collection but just moments. Not consistent. Would side reins help him find that balance or should I just keep encouraging him forward and into the contact? Give him more time and strength? My concern is that once a friend came and put him in draw reins and he was so far behind the verticle after that one ride for weeks! He does have a tendency to go behind verticle when he get nervous or anticipates my cues so I don't wanna make it worse. Thoughts?

  • #2
    Side reins & draw reins are completely different in their actions on the horse. Side reins provide support on the lunge similar to a riders rein while draw reins act on the poll and pull the head down. You can add the side reins and gradually shorten them, you'll see how your horse goes to determine the right length.

    What's your purpose for wanting to use them? To have your horse work better on the lunge or do you think it will help your under saddle work?

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Not sure where my reply went so if this double posts sorry. I want him to be more balanced and working toward collection under saddle. Are side reins not to be ridden in?

      Comment


      • #4
        Ruby2shoes: I've always been taught not to ride with side reins. When your riding in them, they are not adjustable. If your horse spooks, or even just hits the pressure, there is a possibility they could flip over. Which is why draw reins are much safer to use, because you control the pressure!

        Personally, I used side reins with my OTTB, and well, I always lunge my horses in them. I find they help at long in teaching young horses to give to the pressure.
        Goodluck!
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        • #5
          OP - speaking from a dressage perspective, side reins are regularly used when lunging, to encourage the horse to reach down, lift back, etc. Rarely used under saddle. If your horse is doing training level work, it is likely that he is not strong enough to do much collection- if you are getting "just moments" that is excellent response. Start to do a little shoulder in at the trot - that is a collecting exercise. At canter spiral in from larger to smaller circle - for now, say 20 mtrs down to 15 and back out - also a collecting exercise. At any gait ask for a stride or two or three of collection then back out. Many many transitions will build the strength to get you there. Side reins, not so much.
          Remember, now you don't want him to give to pressure, you want him to accept contact and move into it.
          We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........

          Comment


          • #6
            I love side reins for work on the longe line. I personally would NOT ride in side reins. I would also not ride in draw reins unless you are very skilled with them. You can quickly get a horse behind the bit and evading contact with draw reins if they are not used correctly. Since your horse already has a tendency to go behind the bit, I would stay away from draw reins.

            I would personally longe in side reins and do LOTS of CORRECT transitions. Walk/Trot and Trot/Walk. Correct transitions really help build strength and get the horse's hind end working. 10 meter circles can also really help. If ridden correctly (don't let the horse fall out or fall in) they help the horse naturally collect.

            One good exercise is to trot on a 20 meter circle. Then on the open side, do a 10 meter circle - you can either do it going the same direction or the opposite direction. If you do a 10 meter circle in the same direction, you can advance to doing a 10 meter circle at each of the 4 circle points.

            To truly collect, your horse has to be straight. One great exercise to improve straightness is to ride a diamond instead of a circle (learned this years ago in a clinic with Debbie Bowman and I use it a lot. Has helped every horse.) So, on your 20 meter circle, ride a straight line between each circle point. Go clear to the rail and then IMMEDIATELY switch to the straight line to the next circle point. Do not stay on the rail for more than 1 stride. This is harder than it sounds if you don't cheat - LOL It makes you use your outside aids and control your horse's outside shoulder. Start at the walk and when you master it, proceed to the trot and eventually the canter. This really helps develop the straightness you need for collection.

            If you are trying to achieve collection to move up the levels in dressage, you should also post this on the dressage board. (You mentioned showing in dressage so I wasn't sure if this horse is going to be a hunter or a dressage horse or both.) Sorry if I got into too much detail re: dressage exercises!

            Comment


            • #7
              It is very easy for a horse to flip over while you are riding in side reins, I know.
              My horse was used to being lunged in them. I was young and stupid and decided to ride in them, horse spooked at unexpected noise and he flipped his head up to bolt, hit the side reins, got more scared and up and over he went. Unfortunately for me I did NOT fall off. I was still in the saddle when he landed. I could feel nothing below my waist for several minutes, very very scary. I got lucky and had no internal damage, but here, 23 years later, and my legs can get "stuck" in my hips and it hurts like hell! I can fix it quickly by moving a certain way. I guess my point is I could have been severely injured, or paralyzed! Just my .02 on riding in side reins.
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              Comment


              • #8
                Here is something to thing about and I am interested in everyones opinion. When riding the trot our hand are "fixed" however at the walk and canter we follow with are soft elbows, right? So even though side reins usually have elastics do you think they restrict the movement at the walk and canter in a negative way? I can see how they could work well for trot work on the lunge.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The hand is not "fixed" in any gait. At the rising trot the riders body moves up and forward so the hands and elbows remain quieter. At the sitting tot there must be a small give on each stride. In the walk and canter the nod of the horse's head is more active, therefore the hands and elbows must give more.

                  A very collected horse has less "nod" and there fore there is less movement.

                  Re: side reins. Collection comes from engagement behind, which takes more strength and coordination than a young or green horse has. By putting the horse round, people have the impression that the horse is collected, but they are not truly using themselves as they must to collect. The collected horse goes round. It is "there". As mentioned before correct lateral work will help the rider work toward it.
                  Last edited by merrygoround; May. 23, 2013, 08:07 AM. Reason: spelling
                  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.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    These are really great suggestions and I did not know that riding in side reins is a no no. I have a bunch of handed down tack which includes the side reins but have never used any of the "artificial aids". I think I will try lunging him in them real loose and see how that goes. I do agree that he just needs more strength and schooling. This horse will be used for both dressage and hunter/jumper if all goes well and a horse trial planned for September. I guess it all just depends on how he does. Thanks to all for possibly saving me from an accident.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Put him on your seat instead.

                      Trot-walk-trot.
                      Big steps-little steps-big steps.

                      Use less and less hand until it gets done from your seat and back.

                      If you are interested in developing collection, that is how it is done.
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                      • #12
                        I lunge in side reins. Do not ride in them, too dangerous. If your horse can learn to properly lunge with them on, as in coming forward from behind, not just tucking his nose in, it will help him build the muscles he needs, so that when you ride him, it is easier to do what you are asking and collect, when the time comes. But, be careful that you don't get them too tight, or he will duck behind the bit on the lunge. For a horse that has had that habit in the past, I would use the kind that do not have rubber inserts, they can encourage leaning if the horse is so inclined.
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                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
                          Put him on your seat instead.

                          Trot-walk-trot.
                          Big steps-little steps-big steps.

                          Use less and less hand until it gets done from your seat and back.

                          If you are interested in developing collection, that is how it is done.
                          New thought...

                          He's coming along really well. Can I ever expect him to be consistently collected? Yes I work transistions, yes I work lateral and hes even started some half pass at trot. After and during each of these excercises he will collect. I feel the beautiful floaty round hunter gaits that I'm after, the balanced forward round is what I want. Without an indoor and with awful winters here, will it always be one step forward and two steps back? Or will he get it and it will come easier every year? During the winter I'm lucky if I can get on once or twice a week and work in the snow. I only work on transitions mostly in the snow, as it can be slippery... Is it understanding what I want or strength and conditioning? I know the answer, its both. If anyone reads this, thoughts on reconditioning after winter? Does it get easier? Or is every year starting over? This is a horse that gets better every ride mentally. He can take a week or two off and be the same horse he was last time he was ridden... But the strength from schooling comes and goes with the weather... bummer... Just rambling, just thinking...

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by mpsbarnmanager View Post
                            I lunge in side reins. Do not ride in them, too dangerous. If your horse can learn to properly lunge with them on, as in coming forward from behind, not just tucking his nose in, it will help him build the muscles he needs, so that when you ride him, it is easier to do what you are asking and collect, when the time comes. But, be careful that you don't get them too tight, or he will duck behind the bit on the lunge. For a horse that has had that habit in the past, I would use the kind that do not have rubber inserts, they can encourage leaning if the horse is so inclined.
                            The ones I have do have the rubber donut looking things.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              No, you never get "consistent collection". You continually move with the horse and make minor changes using just your fingers on the reins and subtle changes in your seat-to an observer that might look like "consistent collection" but there is no such thing. There IS such a thing as dead hands set against the horse-don't go there.

                              Honestly, I would NOT put the side reins on just yet lunging as you state he still "hates lunging but is getting better"? Why not spend some time working on that before you put the side reins on him? I just fear until you get that "go" button installed, he may just stand and look at you or, worst case, start backing up or going up-even if they are loose...don't ask. Get the ground work solid first, then add the side reins.

                              Sounds like you are doing really well and are about where you should be with his balance and muscle for the amount of time you have been working with him. But neither of you are done yet, still a long way to go to master all of the things you asked about.

                              Patience, it'll come and you are asking good questions, don't be afraid to ask more.

                              Remember too, no one thing like side reins or draw reins is either good or evil on their own, they become good or evil through use/misuse. I think you learned that when somebody slapped draw reins on your horse that is not ready for collection yet and forced him to collect. Not pretty. If it looks wrong? It usually is...wrong...trust what you see and keep an open mind.
                              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Originally posted by findeight View Post
                                No, you never get "consistent collection". You continually move with the horse and make minor changes using just your fingers on the reins and subtle changes in your seat-to an observer that might look like "consistent collection" but there is no such thing. There IS such a thing as dead hands set against the horse-don't go there.

                                Honestly, I would NOT put the side reins on just yet lunging as you state he still "hates lunging but is getting better"? Why not spend some time working on that before you put the side reins on him? I just fear until you get that "go" button installed, he may just stand and look at you or, worst case, start backing up or going up-even if they are loose...don't ask. Get the ground work solid first, then add the side reins.

                                Sounds like you are doing really well and are about where you should be with his balance and muscle for the amount of time you have been working with him. But neither of you are done yet, still a long way to go to master all of the things you asked about.

                                Patience, it'll come and you are asking good questions, don't be afraid to ask more.

                                Remember too, no one thing like side reins or draw reins is either good or evil on their own, they become good or evil through use/misuse. I think you learned that when somebody slapped draw reins on your horse that is not ready for collection yet and forced him to collect. Not pretty. If it looks wrong? It usually is...wrong...trust what you see and keep an open mind.
                                Really nice post. Thanks for sandwiching the feedback with the positive encouragement.

                                Confession: I hate lunging too, he may get his bad attitude from me. Do I need to get over it and consistently lunge him? What are the benefits. it makes me dizzy, yes I have him on a big circle.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Well, you don't want to let lunging dominate your overall program but you do need do work at it daily for a few weeks. Just break it into short sessions with specific goals like you do when you ride. And it does not replace riding.

                                  I'll just come out and say it, so called "NH" can be very, very helpful in teaching the handler how to "present the lesson" to the horse without getting bored, frustrated or confused. It also lets you get a plan in place instead of randomly trying things. There should be a ton of stuff on YouTube, just pick thru the nonsense (like shakey ropes and games that really don't translate to good groundwork) and pick out things that will translate into what you need. I would suggest Buck Brannaman to start with but many, many others practice the same methods that have been around forever. Maybe search "lunging" to get started.

                                  Even if you don't have a round pen, you can use the line in the corner of an arena or any other fenced area to learn to position your body at or slightly behind the haunch to keep them forward and learn to use a few voice commands and your posture to keep the horses attention and produce the desired effect. It's just obedience to basic commands, body position/posture, voice and consistent application of the above.

                                  I HATE, hate, hate to see anybody "lunging" with no line in a big arena letting the horse do whatever it feels like whenever it feels like doing it. That teaches NOTHING, nothing, nothing. Any work you do from the ground should always be just as controlled and have just as much expectation of obedience as any work in the saddle.

                                  IMO that's why so many get frustrated with it...and some get hurt. No basic ground work in place and no plan or goal for the session at all.
                                  When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                  The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I know you'll get a lot of feed back, but I've had no outcome using side reins with my TB. He knows he can move his head up and down and is perfectly happy trotting around with his head held high. My trainer however suggested the Pessoa system and WOW what a difference. He goes long and low and really helps him learn to use himself and build that topline for balance. She taught me how to use it, as I didn't want to use is without help, and I do it about once a week and everyone has noticed a big difference. I really like it cause the cords have a LOT of give to them and so even if he pulls on it it gives. If you already have the surcingle in hand you can buy just the elastic part from Schneiders for around $40. I definitely would recommend having a knowledgeable person teach you how to use it at first, but I like it 10 times better than the side reins...
                                    Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
                                    Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
                                    Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
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                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by cswoodlandfairy View Post
                                      I know you'll get a lot of feed back, but I've had no outcome using side reins with my TB. He knows he can move his head up and down and is perfectly happy trotting around with his head held high. My trainer however suggested the Pessoa system and WOW what a difference. He goes long and low and really helps him learn to use himself and build that topline for balance. She taught me how to use it, as I didn't want to use is without help, and I do it about once a week and everyone has noticed a big difference. I really like it cause the cords have a LOT of give to them and so even if he pulls on it it gives. If you already have the surcingle in hand you can buy just the elastic part from Schneiders for around $40. I definitely would recommend having a knowledgeable person teach you how to use it at first, but I like it 10 times better than the side reins...
                                      This looks really neat. And complex. Like I need a degree to use it. Very interesting. Thanks.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I also recommend the Pessoa rig. The side reins tend to just set the head. The Pessoa system encourages the horse to use his top line and engage his rear end.

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