When to put the kabosh on the side reins?
Hey all! So my pretty green mare has made huge (figurative) strides. She now lunges calmly and even walks, trots, and canters under saddle calmly and pretty rhythmically. My trainer told me to begin lunging her in side reins for short periods a few days a week. My mare is NOT a fan. I've used them about five or six times now very loosely, and she still seems pretty terrified. I drive her forward when she freaks out and starts going backward, but it breaks my heart that she doesn't seem to be getting used to them. She will eventually get to the point where she stays going forward in a circle, though quickly, but never begins to relax.
Do I just need to keep working with her until she gets used to them? Do I need to make my sessions longer (I don't use them for more than five or ten minutes at a time, always after she's warmed up a bit)? Do I even NEED side reins to help her learn to accept contact?
I am not a huge fan of side reins as I think a rider properly using their hands and legs is a better way to teach a horse to give to the bit. There are times they work petty well to get one started giving to the bit with a rider that is not able yet to do it with hands and legs.
For these riders I always teach them to use a rubber link in the side-rein attachment. It does not scare the horse nearly as much as side-reins with little or no 'give' in them. Without this give, it is not unusual for a horse to stop itself, run backward, rear or even flip over backwards before they learn to go forward while they give to the bit.
I keep an old rubber inner-tube around. Whenever I want to get a horse used to side-reins, I just cut across the inner-tube and make a couple of big 'rubber-bands'. If the horse is real sensitive and new to side-reins, I may only make the rubber-band about 1 - 1 1/2 inches wide. Other times, I will make them 2 inches or wider. I Hook them onto the bit or the girth ring on a stock saddle and snap the side reins into them. It works like a charm. It makes them have enough 'stretch' and 'give' in them that the horse learns to tolerate them instead of fighting them. Within a few minutes, most horse are just trucking right around with them.
I know I have some old photos of them if I can find them. If you want to see what they look like, I'll try to find them. [They could be on an old computer that crashed.]
What is the purpose of the side reins? If she was along enough to use them, she wouldn't fight them.
I use side reins with a few of the horses in training, and they are useful and purposeful at the correct times, but I love what Palogal said. Your horse may not be ready. I am so sick of watching horses flip themselves over, or stop and shake because the owner/rider/"trainer" put side reins on too early, and put them on too tight.
Maybe consider taking a step back and allowing her head, and instead, when you are on her, try to stretch her into the bridle, long and low. We want contact with the bit to be positive, not negative.
I use side reins more to put a little weight on the bit than anything. So the horse remembers its there and to encourage a quiet mouth.. Tying the head down does nothing
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The PURPOSE of sr is to get a horse to work evenly into a connection, NOT for 'giving to the bit'. Ideally first the horse is in a lunge caveson, and the first contact with side reins are to the caveson. The horse works into a light connection (usually the inside is one or two wholes shorter). The purpose is very light lateral flexibility, and steady connection (ideally in trot because thehorse needs to be able to telescope/bascule with the w or c). They should be attached at the height of the rider's knee or there abouts.
IF there are too loose or esp when they are too low they act on the bars, give pain, etc. The handler first puts the horse on a small(isH) circle, puts the horse between the hand (pointed at the mouth) and the leg (whip pointed at point of hip). The horse must go forward/stay in front of the leg (aka whip touches). The fact that she backs away would say they are too low, or there is no lateral flexion. The handler SHOULD know how to properly start the horse, or have help. IF the horse rushes, go back to walk, as many times as necessary.
Do they help the horse understand a steady connection? Yes, if they are PROGRESSIVELY applied. Another good way is driving (in hand work).
The leather side reins with a donut have a small amount of give, they are certainly better than the elastic ones (because of their huge recoil action). But the handler should progressively lead the horse with them, have a helper walk on the outside while the handler lunges the horse. But any person lunging HAS to know how to drive the horse forward clearly, and that comes from other methodical work in hand first.
I used a set of crummy reins that might have been side reins at one time--they were missing the ends. I lunged "Buster" my 6yo QH in them at the length that would be loose, direct rein "English" contact. I tied the reins to the pommel. He started dropping his head and listening better.
Perhaps the reins you are using are too short and you cannot do this. I used to own a pair of side reins with the elastic and the donut holes. (They wore out, unfortunately.) I remember that they were pretty short. However, I finished my QH "Ro Go Bar" (1982-2009, RIP) with them and he would always flex when halted after this. It helped him a LOT since he was racing QH and built downhill, not wanting to engage behind, and this taught him some value in that.
When I use side reins, I start out with ONE side only. I start very loose, no contact, let them get used to carrying the bit/rein and then after a few minutes I tighten the rein a little bit until they have steady light contact. I don't do it all in one session, depending on the horse it can take only a few or maybe several before they relax and start to accept, then think about dropping their head to seek relief. Once I see them starting to drop their head for relief, I go around a couple more times and then bring them to the center and take the one rein off and put it on the other side (always to the inside of the lunge circle) and we start over on the other side. I don't add the 2nd rein until they are equally seeking relief on both sides, automatically and without fighting the rein. When I add the 2nd rein I keep the inside rein with contact and the outside rein just rides. Do it both directions, and then tighten the outside rein just a tiny bit, and basically follow the same steps as for the inside rein but always stop and go back if they get panicky or start to fight the rein. I prefer to free lunge in a round pen for all this, not on a line which could add pressure. If the horse backs up the reins are too tightly set, she feels she can't go forward.
Side reins help babies get used to little movements of the bit.
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