Tell me about draw reins

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Tell me about draw reins

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    08-18-2011, 03:24 AM
Question Tell me about draw reins

My 11 year old Irish warmblood gelding has very little formal training in an arena. He is very experienced in XC. Anyway, I am working with him to get his head down and vertical. "On the bit?". My coach suggested that I use draw reins which I have been using. But now my coach is no longer able to train me so I've been on my own. After an unfortunate incident a couple weeks ago to which I believe the draw reins contributed that ended up with my foot and knee badly bruised and me being unable to ride, I thought It would be a good time to research a bit about draw reins.

I have been using them once to twice per week, for maybe 15 minutes, tops. We started at walk, then moved on to trot, then only began to use them at a canter. I know not to use them over jumps.

I'd love to hear from some experienced riders on here what their thoughts are on draw reins and any tips for using them effectively and safely.
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    08-18-2011, 06:08 AM
If you're coach is suggesting that you get his head down and on the vertical and to just 'stick him in draw reins' to make her job easier... I'd be looking at another coach.
Draw reins should only EVER be used by very experienced riders, on very specific horses if all other CORRECT training methods have been exhausted.
I'd be concentrating on your own riding education, practical and theory, before jamming the horse up in side reins to take the easy route.

It's all good and well to have a horse that trots around with a 'pretty headset' but you'll never get very far in any precise discipline if the horse can't use its hind quarters or back.

Draw reins in the wrong hands on the wrong horse will simply teach a horse how to evade the bit by ducking behind it. Learn to ride efficiently, please don't rely on gadgets.
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    08-18-2011, 06:45 AM
I'm with Kayty.. I myself have never used them, but I don't class myself experienced enough to even touch them.
I got on a horse I was trialling to buy, and he threw me off from pain that I didn't know about(from a walk, all we did was turn left and he errupted). Turns out, I was told afterwards that the daughter "schools all her horses in draw reins." ... Well she had ruined his neck and it hurt him to turn the wrong way. He was actually put down because his neck couldn't be fixed by anybody. (I'm in no way trying to put her down or anything, I know accidents happen, but that incident scared me out of even thinking about using them, because when I was launched off his back, I was really, really launched and ended up in hospital after.)

-Not at all saying that you will ruin your horse by use of draw reins, and I'm not against draw reins.. Just sharing what can go wrong if used incorrectly is all :) don't want anybody getting hurt like I did!

I also know of a pony with an "upside down" neck because they schooled incorrectly in draw reins(I didn't even know that was possible O.O).

-Are you able to get your horse on the bit without them? If so I would opt for that, because chances are if you can get his head down with draw reins, without forcing him, that you should be able to get him down with normal reins too. I'm schooling my 7yo ottb with normal reins, but lucky for me he's a fast learner.
    08-18-2011, 07:04 AM
Yes, I can get his head down without draw reins. Most easily at walk. But I cannot maintain. I try to keep the position when transitioning from walk to trot but we lose it. This is why I though draw reins might help build the muscle required to support his head in that position. Or at least train him to realize that this is how he should keep his head so at least he knows what I'm asking for. I do reward him by loosening the pressure on the bit when he inches his head down. Then I resume the tension and ask him to drop his head more. Wash, rinse, repeat. :)

As I said I only school him in them max twice per week up to 15 minutes.

It is a bit frustrating, honestly, because I'm not seeing much progress.

And to be fair, my coach did warn me about over use and she prescribed a very cautious use of them when schooling in the arena. She is a fantastic coach and I assume she felt I was an advanced enough rider in my other cues to warrant the use of draw reins.

I appreciate the feedback and hoping to hear more!
    08-18-2011, 07:05 AM
BTW, I'm happy enough to school without draw reins at all but if I recall my coach and I just were not able to progress at all after weeks of our attempting to get him to drop his head at all.
    08-18-2011, 07:08 AM
How do you 'get his head down' without draw reins?
    08-18-2011, 07:43 AM
Originally Posted by Kayty    
How do you 'get his head down' without draw reins?
Leg on. Tighten fingers around reins to increase pressure. Hold steady pressure. As soon as he drops his head I give a little rein to reward him. Then increase steady pressure again to get him to drop his head more. As soon as he drops his head I reward him by giving a little rein. And keep repeating until his head is where I think it should be. Then I try to hold it there with a lgiht rein, making adjustments as necessary. Then it all falls apart and we start over.
    08-18-2011, 07:44 AM
Hmmmm.. I find with Mitch that when he starts to raise his head again, a few twitches on the outside rein usually brings him back down. He doesn't like the twitching so he figured out that if he keeps his head where its supposed to be then the twitching goes away. (I taught him that lunging means circle not "drag person on lead" that way too )

Is it possible to attatch both draw reins and normal reins at the same time? Just thinking maybe if you used draw reins to maintain his head during transitions and normal reins for during whatever gait your doing.
(Just an idea, as I said I've never used them)

I hope you get it sorted soon, my old 25yo mare was just mission impossible to get on the bit, I had to resort to actually lying on her so I could keep my hands to where she needed to go, eventually I was able to sit up and keep her head down but that's not a fun way to do it.
    08-18-2011, 07:49 AM
Do you do anything with the hind legs? The horse is inconsistent in the contact because it sounds as though you are fussing with his head and forgetting that the rest of his body is there too. Once his hind legs are working and he starts to come over the back, he will naturally want to come into the bridle and your contact will be far more steady, there will be no need to pull his head down
    08-18-2011, 07:52 AM
It is important to remember that 'self carriage' does not come from forcing a horse into a headset over and over until he 'remembers' that is where you want his head. Self carriage instead comes from riding the horse consistently from back to front, as Kayty said. Once the horse can carry himself in a frame, he will offer it himself if you are riding correctly.

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