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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.
 

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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:
 

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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
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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 generally don't like to use "devices" but if it can influence my horse in a positive way (and is humane and gentle), why not?
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."
 

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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.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
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.
 

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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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Do not make the inside side rein shorter than the outside one. It creates false flexion. They should be the same length just as they'd be if you were riding.
 

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I use side reins on my horse when lunging just tight enough to feel a consistant pressure but loose enough to allow freedom of movement. In canter she used to throw her head up and run the transition due to previous bad training now shes able to make a more balanced transition due partly to the use of side reins.

mechanical device that that MAKES the horse carry himself in a way that he doesn't/can't do willingly....it's a shortcut
if used properly it cannot 'MAKE' the horse carry himself but encourage better self carriage.
 

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I have a pair of side reins and a surcingle, but I don't generally use them since my TB has a very sensitive mouth so we're still on the search for a good bit, and he is an OTTB--he leans in to constant pressure. However, used correctly, I think they can be a useful training tool.
 

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I'll use side reins on Rocky occasionally, but only when lunging. Because we're still working on him using his hind end at the trot and canter, i find that side reins really help him. That constant pressure encourages him to stretch down and engage his muscles correctly. And it's easier for him because ill admit that i dont yet have perfect hands. it eliminates my error. however, I dont keep the side reins on for long periods of time and we always work on the same stretching down under saddle. I'm hoping pretty soon that he won't even need them and we can do all of our work under saddle.
 

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I use side reins all the time on my horses. Moderation and gradual conditioning are the keys. They're really useful for building muscle and teaching balance. My TB's trot has gotten much more controlled and rhythmic since I started using them. I don't think they restrict movement at all, in fact, they've had the opposite effect on my horses. I was always taught that side reins are only a lunging tool, never for riding. Although I have seen people ride with them. :-|
 

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I don't use the side reins as a 'gadget' to build muscle. The muscle building on a horse in light work is only a positive side effect of their use. For me, as stated in my original post, is to give the horse a steady contact onto which they can come onto, using their back to reach into the rein.

So for those who boo side reins or any other lunging 'gadgets'... do you care to explain the way that you lunge which apparently does a better job of getting your horse to reach for the rein, swing their back, stay straight on their line and remain in self carriage without dropping the shoulders or swinging the hind quarters?
Because without an outside rein at least, where does the energy from the hind end go???? Straight out the shoulders, that's where. How is this benificial????
 

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I love side reins! (Actually, this thread just made me realize that I should really use some on Jazz...) I find that lunging a horse two or three times a week in them for about ten minutes in each direction has great effects. For the horses that I have worked with at least, they have encouraged them to stretch over their back, and therefore allows them to work through their back from the hind end.

I wouldn't ride with side reins. However, I've sometimes wondered if they might be beneficial for trainers to use with their beginner riders - particuarly for lunge line lessons, as it wold keep the horse working correctly (instead of hollowing through the back, becoming tense, raising their head, and poking their nose out). For the horse, it would sort of be like that beginner rider had perfect hands, wouldn't it? If they were going to be used off the lunge, I can only think that they would have to be very loose (I know that loose side reins aren't all that effective, but it would still be useful for keeping the horse from becoming inverted when it is subjected to a beginner rider (LOL), wouldn't it?)
 

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I don't think they should be used undersaddle at all. Just on the lunge. I can see my horse becoming confused with "two hands" asking him different things. But perhaps for a lunge line lesson, for which the rider would drop their reins and work solely on their seat and leg aids, it could be beneficial for the horse to still have that steady rein and work correctly.
 

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lol I'm not ignorant of them at all. I used to lunge horses in side reins, draw reins, etc. before I found a better way and quit using devices to get what I want.

If the horse has confidence issues going into the bit, I do it from his back, stroking the reins to get him to reach for the contact and to achieve longitudinal flexion at w/t/c...also working on finding that 'sweet spot' where he feels completely balaned so that he feels comfortable stretching....then when I pick up contact and he reaches for it, to get him to come up into a more uphill posture I simply change my position and start doing exercises to help lift him up...."snakey" bends, pushing him sideways while on a circle, etc. Soon I have a horse who is very confident in the contact because I've taken care to show him that I will always use a soft hand on him, and he feels physically able to go into the contact because he's balanced.

Also, if a horse needs to learn to use his body better, I use trot poles and hill therapy.
 

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Yes under saddle it all comes from driving the hind legs up towards to hand to create a swinging back and a contact in the bridle.
However, this is about side reins on the lunge.

So, if you are anti-all gadgets, how does your horse lunge and 'reach for the bit' with no outside rein contact???? And don't use the excuse 'horses shouldn't be lunged if they are trained correctly' as that is a load of crud sorry. Lunging is very usefull when you don't have the time or cannot ride, bringing them back into work, working on forwardness and balance in a young/green horse without having the added pressure of an un balanced rider on its back- and unless you are some top GP rider i highly doubt that you are in absolute perfect balance so as not to interfere with the horses balance in the slightest.
 
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