rein length

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rein length

This is a discussion on rein length within the Western Riding forums, part of the Riding Horses category

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    04-02-2011, 02:06 AM
rein length

So today I was helping out a girl at my ranch who has a new horse. She hasn't ridden many horses, so she is a little nervous around her horse. To help calm her nerves and show her that her horse isn't a spooky crazy horse, I hopped on her. Now I ride back and fourth between western and english, but lately I've been more dominantly english. The rein lengths between both disciplines are pretty different, but I definitely know a short rein from a long.

Anyways. When riding this horse, my boss came over and started yelling at me about how my reins were too tight and had me loosen them to a ridiculous amount. He said everytime I moved I was pulling on the horses mouth. I was being careful and very quiet with my hands so I know that's not true. His rein length was to the point where even with the quietest hands, the reins were slapping all over the place in the canter. I felt like the flapping alone was pulling on the bit (defeating the purpose of the loose reins). Oh, and I was direct reining btw.

Sorry about the crappy drawing, but here's the difference between my length and the one he wanted (p.s.: I'm not even exaggerating):
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File Type: jpg rein length one.jpg (8.1 KB, 450 views)
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    04-02-2011, 02:09 AM
Oh, haha, so I guess my question for everyone is just what your opinion is. Were mine too tight? Or his too loose? Or it should be somewhere in between? Also opinions on the flapping of the reins pulling on the horse's mouth.
    04-02-2011, 02:15 AM
Super Moderator
What kind of bit were you using? If you were using a curb/shanked bit, imo, the second, longer, rein length is appropriate and just fine. In my opinion, if the horse was wearing a curb bit, the shorter reins would be too short. However, if you were riding in a snaffle (no shanks), I don't think that longer length is necessary. I don't think it's ridiculously excessive, just because most horses, in my experience, can differentiate between flapping reins and rein signals.
But, I can see where you're coming from. Personally I like to ride my mare with super long reins just because she's calmer like that (bitless), and therefore, she understands what is a cue and what is the rein. But, that's just me and I do a lot of "strange" things with my mare because they make her more comfortable. Haha Most of the horses I ride get ridden with a rein length between those two. For me it depends on how well the horse neckreins (or doesn't) and what kind of bit they're in.
    04-02-2011, 02:22 AM
REally hard to tell without seeing it. It is true that sometimes an inbetween length of rein will end up being harsher on the horse's mouth, as it snaps tight, then loose, tight, loose with each bob of the horse's head with gait. One must have a tight enough rein to be able to follow the horse's head. I know that I sometimes have the rein in that inbetween lenght and I can feel the uneven contact. Maybe that is what the man saw.
However, it may be that he is just not used to seeing contact on the mouth and overreacted.
If the reins are really loose, there can be some flopping action , rythmic contact to the mouth, if the rider doesn't kind of absorb the movement through their hands. Hard to explain, but one can really feel it if they have heavy mecate reins and do not hold their hands correctly to absorb the swinging motion of the reins.
Can't really say who is right in this case, But if he's your boss, , . .he's right, right?
    04-02-2011, 02:43 AM
The bridle used a snaffle, and the reins were thicker, with knots in them (kind of heavy reins). I don't know, the horse seemed to respond a lot better with the tighter reins than with the looser ones my boss told me to use. It's funny, because in English I struggle the most with keeping tight reins, and here I am being told mine are too tight in Western haha.

And yes he is my boss, but that doesn't mean he's always right. Don't get me wrong, he has a ton of knowlege and experience. But not everyone can be right all the time..
    04-04-2011, 11:39 AM
I use split reins and a snaffle. If I ever had that much of a drape in my reins I would be reaching to my ears to do anything. I always hold my reins about the length you had them in the first place. Different story if the horse were in a curb and neck reining.
    04-04-2011, 01:02 PM
You need a mentor whom you KNOW is an excellent horseman, so that when he directs you, you KNOW that he's right.

I'm concerned for you that you don't know whether or not to trust your boss! It'd be strange if this scenario never happens again, as well. Have you thought of future times of uncertainty about him, & how difficult this'll be? Pretty much an impossible situation.

Since you don't have a mentor whom you know that you can trust, you need time & space to experiment with your individual horse (in this case, on rein length), but that's impossible, because boss demands compliance.

What if everyone on your thread said that your boss is wrong? Would your boss listen to the feedback? I doubt it.

It seems to me, therefore, that you & your boss are not a match.
    04-04-2011, 03:55 PM
I think you were correct in how long the reins were. If you have to bring your reins up to your chin to get any contact, you have way too much slack lol. This guy wasn't your trainer or anything right? I think I would have just ignored him, or asked why he wanted so much slack in the reins.
    04-04-2011, 07:53 PM
Super Moderator
I'd like to point out that while it's highly likely that her boss is wrong, he may actually not be.
He may have more knowledge of this horse than the OP and while he obviously didn't go about correcting her in the most congenial way, he may have been trying to be helpful.
Personally, I have ridden a few very well trained horses that you never ever needed contact with their mouth to tell them anything. You could be riding in a snaffle or in a curb, it didn't matter, those horses would respond to the lightest touch without ever requiring contact.
Another thing I can think of is that some horses can be claustrophobic if they aren't used to rein contact. Perhaps the OP's boss saw the horse doing something that he felt worried about and, instead of doing what would have been best and explaining what was going on to the OP, he just made her change what she was doing.
As a rider, we don't always have a clear picture of what the horse is doing under us and perhaps her boss felt the horse's body language was saying he was uncomfortable with the current state of events.

I just want to point that out becuase I'd hate for us to jump all over someone who is actually trying to help, albeit in a less than helpful way. And if her boss is legitimately a terrible person, attack away, but I kinda doubt that he is. He probably has some reason for saying what he said.

OP- Maybe you could ask your boss to explain what he was thinking?

ETA- I guess this is more pointed towards Northern, I somehow had thought more people were harshly attacking the boss. Sorry!
    04-05-2011, 08:48 PM
I asked him about the situation yesterday, and he told me that in Western riding you need a lot of lag in the reins. He told me that you should see a you shaped loop in the reins from mouth to hands.

I think maybe it's a matter of disagreement. I do agree that in Western there is more lag in the reins than in English, but I don't know that it needs to be the amount that he said it should be.

My boss an I generally get along, but because we have different riding styles, sometimes we have different opinions maybe. I mix between English and Western, whereas he is strictly Western and won't even look at English without rolling his eyes.

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