Side Reins: Your general opinions appreciated
Today was Frida's first day wearing side reins. Previously I have lunged her in an HO Kavalkade to encourage her to engage her hindquarters, as well as a chambon to suggest that it might be a good idea to drop her head but I don't swear by them or use them religiously. I haven't worked her in canter with any of these aids yet. I purchased all of these aids at the request of my trainer, and with the chambon, she did tell me it was a shortcut, and designed only to be used for a short period of time. I vary how I lunge her, sometimes she is naked with just a lunge cavesson, sometimes she wears a surcingle, sometimes her bridle, sometimes her saddle. I try to mix it up.
So she did very well with the side reins today, (they are leather with elastic inserts) they were loose and connected to a French Link snaffle with a lunge caveson placed over the bridle. The inside rein was 2 holes shorter than the outside rein. We varied the lesson so that sometimes they were connected, sometimes they were not, and then we'd connect them again so she could get a feel for the new pressure.
Anyway, I've read that sometimes they can do damage, some people swear by them, and some people say they are ineffective. So I just was curious to hear some of your opinions as well as your experiences with using them. I don't plan on being the type of rider that has 10 pieces of restraining tack on their horse. I'd like to be able to ride her in anything, lunge her in anything as long as it's introduced in a fair way and used correctly. I do like the idea of being able to get her accustomed to all sorts of new things for a short while.
Well, im a fence sitter on this one. I am guilty of using them to lunge with, esp for some off the track Thoroughbreds (to gain balance, and to build muscel in the neck) although iv heard from great trainers that side reins are useless as they restrict the movement, and the horse learns to keep its head down it must look for that constant level of pressure (given by the side reins), therefore giving a horse a hard mouth. I do however, disagree strongly on riding a horse with side reins. I see no sense, and by what you think you can gain by that, you can get the same results in better ways.
Please DO NOT take shortcuts. If you take the long road, u'll get much better CONSISTANT results in the future..
Rome wasnt built in a Day :wink:
I use side reins on the lunge. Ten minutes in each direction at the trot. I use them to help my horse start to build up a topline and muscling in his neck. I don't do it very often, for a few weeks I did it maybe twice or three times a week, but don't really do it anymore. My trainer told me that having the inside rein shorter doesn't really do anything, so I keep both even, and they're not tight at all. They are just tight enough to give a constant light pressure, but not any more.
I have heard that for a green or inexperienced horse, it's not a good method. I have no personal experience with that though, because my horse is neither. I have seen results in my horse's way of going. They didn't force him into any kind of "frame", but encouraged him to carry his own head and seek contact when we're under saddle. He no longer leans on me like he used to either, although that could be from improvements in my riding.
Basically, I think that they have their use but are not for every horse.
Here's some pictures of Zeus being lunged in side reins.
Sorry for all the pictures. :P
I love my sidereins. But you need to be using them for the right reason. People that verbalise that they are using them to 'get my horse's head down' are what gives side reins a bad rep. They are not designed to be used as shortcuts. They are designed to assist in giving the horse a steady contact to work onto on the lunge, to help establish the idea of working into a steady contact from the hind quarters, which in turn engages the hind legs and back.
Lunging with nothing in my opinion, does nothing more than allow the horse to burn off some energy and maybe listen to voice aids.
I know when I lunge, my aim is always to have my horse working through from his hind legs, over his back and into the contact, not backing off and not lugging. Without an outside rein at least, the energy you create at the hind legs travels up over the back but then straight out the outside or inside shoulder, generating a horse that ducks out or drops in on the circle, and after a long period of time, you will simply be building up incorrect and uneven muscling, making work under saddle a challenge.
Side reins are the ideal 'hands'. You want your hands to have some give, but keep still and quiet to encourage the horse to take the contact. Side reins to just that, hence why I like the elasticised ones. They have that slight give in them, but remain steady and constant, which, if you are doing your job on the hind end well enough, will give the horse comfort if they take the contact.
The use of side reins should be controlled by a horse person who knows exactly what they want to achieve with them, how they work and why they are using them. Having side reins attached so they are loose and swinging around is 100% pointless. They are there to give the horse a contact, so use them for that purpose.
Then there is the opposite dilema of adjusting them too tightly (most often done by the folk who follow the rule of using gadgets to jam the horse's head in because it 'looks pretty'). This will simply create either a horse that backs off the contact to escape the excess pressure, or a horse that leans heavily onto the bit.
You must find a happy medium, and this can be longer or shorted depending on the length of neck, the level of work at which the horse is peforming, and it's experience in side reins previously.
Obviously the younger less experience horse will need the reins longer than an older horse working in collection. The most important aspect of successful use of side reins is that you work the hind end effectively. The hind legs MUST be swinging under the horse taking it's weight, and the back must begin to loosen and swing in accordance to the hind legs.
I always keep my side reins at the same length. Shortening the inside rein only encourages over flexing to the inside, and gives the perfect oppertunity for the horse to duck out with the outside shoulder.
When you ride, you want your reins to be even, so it is the same with sidereins. The inside bend will come once the hind legs are working, the back is swinging and the horse is taking the contact. It does NOT need to be encouraged by shortening the inside rein to pull the head to the inside.
I think what side reins accomplish is a way of providing consistent contact in cases where the rider might not have a completely independent seat and not be able to provide the same consistency. If used properly, I find them useful.
I'll never use side reins. IMO it's a mechanical device that that MAKES the horse carry himself in a way that he doesn't/can't do willingly....it's a shortcut IMO. If the horse needs muscle, there are much better ways to go about it than strapping some device on.
I'm not forcing him and i'm not making him. He can still put his head up in the side reins, but when he does he meets resistance, so instead he happily obliges by lifting his back, stretching down and forward, and moving in a beneficial way. JUST like when I ask him to do the same under saddle. I see no difference when used correctly. As Kayty said, "Side reins are the ideal 'hands'. You want your hands to have some give, but keep still and quiet to encourage the horse to take the contact. Side reins to just that."
in response to spirithorse
your post tells me you are ignorant about the correct use of side reins & are basing your opinion purely off of how you have seen them be misused.
the point of side reins is to teach the horse how to move up into the contact [& trust the contact-b/c it is consistent], like they would if a rider was holding the reins, NOT to force the horse in a frame.
Thank you for all this very informative commentary, keep it coming, i enjoyed reading what everyone has to say, and will talk it over with my trainer, especially the bit about shortening the inside rein. I know that you can't just put a piece of equipment on your horse and force it to change strictly based on its presence, so we do quite a bit of strengthening, stretching, and suppling exercises in conjunction. Today, obviously, the side reins were just introduced, so there was only slight contact and we did notice some positive results. I think it's easy for all types of equipment to be improperly used. Even a halter and lead rope. I can see how easily the side reins can be misused, which is why I am generally very cautious about using them correctly.
My trainer uses them on my horse when needed to help him learn to reach into the contact and balance( I would use them myself, but I am a big believer in only those that are experienced enough should use tools like this). They are quite loose, and that allows him to find and hold the contact by himself without being forced into a frame. It will also help for when I will take lunge lessons on him without reins, so I can focus on my seat while he still has rein contact. They should not be used for the purpose of 'keeping his head down' or 'keeping his pace slow'.
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