Join Date: May 2012
Location: Utrecht, the Netherlands
As far as I know, with draw reins you create another attachment for you to use between the horse and the horse's girth. This way, you cannot just control the length of the reins, but also the space you give your horse to lift his head. It gives you the opportunity to tell your horse exactly where to put his head. What you have to watch for while using these is that the horse will eventually tire, especially if you are using the draw reins to train the upper neck muscles that the horse uses for a 'correct' headset (in quotation marks because there is no one correct headset). When a horse tires, just like your own muscles, it will start hurting and protesting. Most people do not realise this and only start using their draw reins more - this is how you ruin a horse both physically and mentally. So if you use draw reins to do something with your horse it isn't used to - start with them as long as possible to get the horse used to it and only ride with it for 15 minutes at a time, then give your horse a break.
One thing I am definitely against is to use the draw reins without a normal set of reins. The idea of draw reins is that you can ask your horse to flex down, when the horse does, the draw reins should be SLACK (if you see anyone using tight draw reins for more than a few minutes to get the horse to see the point, they are using them wrong). Now if you happen to be using just draw reins, every single cue you will give with the reins will not only end up in the mouth, but it will also pull the horse's head down like it's on a pulley. Often I see people lunging their horses with double sliding lunge lines, where the horse has the chin almost on the chest. Is there any good or any point in this? Absolutely not. IF you were to use a draw rein like that, whether riding or lunging, your horse needs to be absolutely responsive to the bit and give on the lightest touch, so you won't need more than a light touch (and won't keep pulling the horse down). The thing is, if your horse is that responsive, why use a draw rein at all?
While lunging, the thing is imo completely useless, as you do not have the defined control you have with draw reins while riding. You can just as easy use fastened sliding side reins, the rope Joidigm talked about, which I have used a lot and with great success. They are great, as long as you don't pull them too tight. The point of them is that the horse can control its own headset in an area you will set out for him with the tightness of the rope. This way, they can lift their head (to the bounds of the rope) when asked to collect or extend, and drop it when you allow them to relax. It's much of an approvement over single sidereins with the rubber ring in the middle - with those the horse can only assume one comfortable head-neck position without overbending its neck.
Hope this helps you (:
Listen to your horse and he might just return the favour!