Need suggestions for how to teach a kid direct reining - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 09-12-2013, 11:44 PM Thread Starter
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Need suggestions for how to teach a kid direct reining

I've taught many many people to ride. People of all ages. I've run into a problem I haven't run into before, and I'd like some suggestions from some instructors (or anyone, really) on some exercises I can do with a girl to help her get the reining down.

We've done very well with leg cues. I can put her on the horse with no stirrups, eyes closed, arms out to the side and stand in the arena and tell her "left, right, etc, and she controls the horse very nicely with her seat and legs.

Then I give her the reins. If she wants to turn right, she pulls hard to the right with both reins, visa versa for left. Both hands will be way off the side of the horse, which in turn brings her upper body way off the balance-point. The horse puts up with this a couple of times before just planting one leg in each corner and refusing to move.

I've tried to teach her to close one hand and open the other - no effect
I've tried telling her to pull gently on one rein and just release the other - no effect.
I've tried telling her that she's really hurting her horse;s mouth - this just upsets her because she loves her horse

I'm thinking that next lesson I'm going to place cones in a straight line down the arena, and have her weave in and out, while completely dropping one rein while initiating each turn. We can always work on picking up the outside rein and using it to support later. Right now I just need her to stop hard- yanking that outside rein all the way over to the inside.

Any ideas of anything else I can try to break her of this habit. I'd rather just each her the right way rather than try to break her of this, but I'm running out of ideas here. I haven't run into this one before.

Last edited by freia; 09-12-2013 at 11:47 PM.
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post #2 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 12:31 AM
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Don’t know how it will go, but a I had a thought but I’m only guessing here, I have never tried teaching a kid to ride a horse. Maybe give her split reins, hold one in each hand, fairly loose rein, and get the kid to keep her hands on the fork of the saddle and not move them till you tell her to point with only one hand at-a-time in the direction you tell her to go in. So scenario might be: hands on the fork, or pommel, riding straight ahead, you say something like “point to the left” and she raises her left hand and points to where she should go while keeping the right hand, and rein, completely still on the saddle fork. As she does that get her actually handling the horse through her seat/leg, since you say she has that under control, so even if the reins are, in actuality not doing much, lots of slack or something, you might get her to at least get the beginnings of it and build it up after that.
Once again, just a thought, I have never taught a kid to ride.
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post #3 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 12:44 AM
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^^I'm in the same boat as Anrew really. I've taught a few kids to ride but always on a neck-reining horse so it was as easy as putting their reins in one hand and telling them "Point to where you want to go".

What you might do is have her ride one handed and work on turning one direction at a time. For example, ride a square or octagonal shape where you have her turn to the left every few strides and just keep her right hand empty without a rein in it. Then, when she's got that down, go to the other side.

Again, I'm no instructor but just brainstorming ideas.
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post #4 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 10:32 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the ideas. I'm game for trying just about anything and seeing what works for her. She knows what she's doing, she just can't stop, so she's up for trying various things to find somethingnthat clicks for her as well. We'll experiment a bit the next lesson.
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post #5 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 10:43 AM
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It sounds like she is using the reins like a steering wheel. Does she do well with comparisons? Maybe explain that she's not steering the horse like driving a car but just pointing the horses head in a specific direction.

If she is able to understand how bits work, maybe explain how the outside rein is tugging the bit in a way that makes things confusing for the horse which is why she just needs to use the inside rein.

As for the tugging, she may simply not understand that she just has to move her hands and not yank. The horse already knows she's there.

Teach her how to get the horse to bend his neck on the ground from side to side. Show her how the bit works and the differences in tugging and then the tugging with two reins and how to do it right. Then let her ask for bend under saddle. Also try having her hold the reins while you stand next to the horse and give the cues so she can get a sense of the feel before letting her do it on her own. Maybe if she understands the how to use the reins and bit and how they work she can apply it to riiding.
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post #6 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 12:03 PM
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I agree with smrobs and dancingarabians. They have great suggestions. I had a girl do this once, the usual descriptions didn't work, I ended up getting up on a mounting block, holding her hands and guiding them to show her how the horse responded to the bend. Good luck! It's great that she gets leg pressure so well!
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post #7 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 12:42 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
It sounds like she is using the reins like a steering wheel.
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Yes! Exactly. She's using the reins as a steering wheel. I've tried to tell her that it's more like bicycle handlebars: one hand pulls in and the other has to move out/release. no difference.

I think you're right. Comparisons and explanations don't work. I may get on the horse behind her and move the reins with her until she sees what the movement really is.

I like the idea of explaining how the bit works. She's a smart cookie. I think if I show her how the bit moves with various movements, she might understand what effect the reins have on it.

(Freia scampers off and jots down lots of notes on cheatsheet for next lesson and rummages through collection of bits and gadgets to demonstrate physics of the bit). This is going to be fun, actually.
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post #8 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 12:58 PM
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If she has a bike then I'd put her on it and see if she can see a comparison in how pressure = turn
Sometimes the easiest thing is to let them figure it out for themselves. Put the pony in a sidepull (avoids the mouth yanking issue) and make a course of cones and poles laid on the floor that she's got to maneuver around and between giving points for how well she does it - simple trial and error on her part with some reward for getting it right as motivation will usually work.
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post #9 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 03:49 PM
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have her sit in a chair and put the bit on the bottom of her bare foot, with the reins coming up to her hands. have her pull the reins the way she does and ask her what side of her foot feels the bit - i bet she will say both. then you say 'well, the horse is feeling that too, and it confuses him'. then have her direct rein with the bit on her foot and ask her again. should help. let us know how this goes!
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post #10 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by freia View Post
I think you're right. Comparisons and explanations don't work. I may get on the horse behind her and move the reins with her until she sees what the movement really is.
This actually sounds like a really good idea if your horse will ride that way. That's how my brother and I both learned, with an experienced rider behind us so that they could grab an elbow or a leg if they had to to "show" us.
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