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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a question that I really should have asked a while ago but it didn't occur to me until now. My horse may be sold anyway, but I think for my own education I need to ask it.

Cinny like his reins more on the lengthy/loosie side. He seems to relax more, seek the bit more and use his back more. However, I've had a few trainers in the past few years that tell me to shorten my reins, my reins are too loose, my horse needs to start being "reined up" more. But when I do this even an inch or so Cinny will start bracing his back, throws his head up like a giraffe, grinds his teeth shortening his strides and becomes very ANGRY and acts out.

So I'm wondering if I should just keep him slightly longer because he works more correctly this way, or continue what we have been doing for over a year and MAKING him get used to shorter reins? The later seems to be a never ending pursuit that will NEVER happen.

To answer future questions, I have his teeth checked every 6 months as he can be a grinder when he's unhappy so I have to keep on top of them. They were floated in July. He is currently going in a loose ring Sprenger Duo Herm Sprenger Duo Loose Ring Snaffle Bit | Dover Saddlery with the tongue space facing his tongue and Which I occastionally alternate out with a loose ring happy mouth double joint Happy Mouth Double Jointed Loose Ring Snaffle Bit | Dover Saddlery because he seems to get "stale" on bits and performs better with them occasionally changed out or the bridle loosened/tightened by a hole to change the bit's position.
 

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There's a difference in shorting the reins and riding with short reins.

One the horse is nice and soft and can adapt to fit the length of rein easily, usually one with more education.

The second forces a horse that is not ready (or with too much pressure on the reins) or has not been taught to accept the bit to work with shorter reins.

It sounds like the latter is happening with the intent of the former.

Reins should be as long as is required to have the horse working properly, first and foremost. Remember, a horse needs to relax and to give.. not to brace and be stiff.

A lot of people go for the short reins to force their horses to be "on the bit" when really they are travelling hollow and tend to be irritable, like Cinny.

What I like to do is have moderately longer reins, so I can feel my horse on the other end, with about .5-1lb of pressure, then shorten little by little, working with my horse and staying soft, when we transition from walk to trot, and more so with canter. I will also lengthen the rein so my horse learns that short reins =/= faster or that he has an excuse to brace (he's still green)

So I say, short enough where you have the feel of the horse, but long enough that the horse is actually WORKING with the bit, instead of avoiding. When you shorten your rein, your leg/seat need to push him forward INTO the bridle. A lot of people forget that and they only shorten the rein, which causes even the best horse to not stay soft and likely brace.
 

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My trainer can ride Z with reins much shorter than me, and yet Z is much happier than when I take the reins that short. She has the educated hand, and is able to follow with the outside rein, even while asking for softening with the inside rein, whereas when I start tying to "do" things with the inside rein to get him to soften, or to leg yeild or whatnot, I freeze on the outside reinn Z trusts his mouth in her hands because her hands belong to him. As for me, well, he tolerates me, on a good day.

so, the long and the short of this post is that it isn't so much the actual shortness of the rein, but the hand and it's skill in holding the rein and the mouth in its' fingers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Wonderfully said, Tiny. This is how I feel with Cin. Last weekend I took Cin for a spin. I put his double link snaffle on his western headstall, grabbed my nice cotton gaming reins and hopped on bareback with the intent to laze around and play. We went around the arena on loose rein, a little neck reining, some leg yields and then out of habit I picked up my reins in both hands and started asking for him to go into the outside rein, tickled him with the inside but still on a loose rein and he just suppled right up for me. His butt rose high, he actually asked for a little more rein pressure (which I gently gave him) and then his ears began to rock back and forth and I could hear his lips flap. A friend in the arena said that she never saw Cinny so happy and relaxed before. In the mirror I could see his shoulders moving so free and his hind in really coming underneath him.

Maybe it was because there was no agenda....but I really wish he would do this at shows or when I try to video/take pictures. It does make me think that maybe my hands just aren't good enough to communicate through a shorter rein with him yet. He just doesn't trust them, but he trusted me with them a tad longer than usual.
 

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Wonderfully said, Tiny. This is how I feel with Cin. Last weekend I took Cin for a spin. I put his double link snaffle on his western headstall, grabbed my nice cotton gaming reins and hopped on bareback with the intent to laze around and play. We went around the arena on loose rein, a little neck reining, some leg yields and then out of habit I picked up my reins in both hands and started asking for him to go into the outside rein, tickled him with the inside but still on a loose rein and he just suppled right up for me. His butt rose high, he actually asked for a little more rein pressure (which I gently gave him) and then his ears began to rock back and forth and I could hear his lips flap. A friend in the arena said that she never saw Cinny so happy and relaxed before. In the mirror I could see his shoulders moving so free and his hind in really coming underneath him.

Maybe it was because there was no agenda....but I really wish he would do this at shows or when I try to video/take pictures. It does make me think that maybe my hands just aren't good enough to communicate through a shorter rein with him yet. He just doesn't trust them, but he trusted me with them a tad longer than usual.
It's all about intent. Horses can feel when you have high expectations of perfection or whatever, and likely you're tense. When you have the intent to play around, it's much more relaxed so the horse just gives you its all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I think I just put too much pressure on the guy. I KNOW what he can do and when I try to get him to show it off for others I expect him to do it, and he doesn't. I think that's why we do so well at play, and on our own but in a lesson we aren't so great and at shows we are just a hot mess!

I need to learn to make everything a game, relax, and just play. It's not the Olympics, it's dressage for fun for us. Sometimes I forget to not be so serious with him. He puts up with a lot.
 

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Could this have anything to do with the combination of bit and roughness of hands? I'm not sure, just toss'n that idea out there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Could this have anything to do with the combination of bit and roughness of hands? I'm not sure, just toss'n that idea out there.
I know I don't have the best hands in the world, and I don't know if there is any bit milder than the ones I am using. I'm actually thinking of trying to come up with the money to get a Micklem Multibridle and use the bit clip feature to help even more.

I think it's 75% MY attitude when I ride though. Why else would he be fine when I have no agenda and just want to play versus when I want to work and have expectations?
 

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It isn't about the length of rein - its about how educated the rider's hands are.

I like my students to ride with a length of rein where they have a consistent feel on the horse's mouth. Otherwise, if the rein is loose, and then they go to flex or turn or whatever, all of a sudden WHAM there is a big aid from nothing and it surprises the horse - leading to an overall poor reaction to any rein aids when done repeatedly. That being said - it is not the HAND that creates the connection. The length of rein and the rider riding up to the bit - and subsequently the horse seeking the bit - is what creates the nice elastic connection everyone strives for. This is why lunging with appropriately adjusted side reins and going FORWARD is so important. That is what the function of the hand in the connection is - to behave like a side rein (in the most rudimentary stage of learning). The action of flexion, give, take, etc.. is a finesse that is gradually learned. But until the rider can ride with hands absolutely steady above the wither with no deviation regardless of circumstance - all other rein aids are moot. This is where the emergence of riding with a bucking strap and holding onto it comes from.
 

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Well, based on what you've said, it sounds as though you don't have much contact when you are neck reining/"playing".
It could be that he is just avoiding work? Is there any way you could post a vid?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
It isn't about the length of rein - its about how educated the rider's hands are.

I like my students to ride with a length of rein where they have a consistent feel on the horse's mouth. Otherwise, if the rein is loose, and then they go to flex or turn or whatever, all of a sudden WHAM there is a big aid from nothing and it surprises the horse - leading to an overall poor reaction to any rein aids when done repeatedly. That being said - it is not the HAND that creates the connection. The length of rein and the rider riding up to the bit - and subsequently the horse seeking the bit - is what creates the nice elastic connection everyone strives for. This is why lunging with appropriately adjusted side reins and going FORWARD is so important. That is what the function of the hand in the connection is - to behave like a side rein (in the most rudimentary stage of learning). The action of flexion, give, take, etc.. is a finesse that is gradually learned. But until the rider can ride with hands absolutely steady above the wither with no deviation regardless of circumstance - all other rein aids are moot. This is where the emergence of riding with a bucking strap and holding onto it comes from.
I don't go completely loose, unless I'm neckreining. Lets see if I can explain what it feels like to me when I am on a longer rein and we are both relaxed with it and he's working well.

I can close my eyes while riding this way and I feel a soft connection. no part of my arm is separate from any other part (hands etc). and my arms are not separate from the reins or Cinny's bit. It's like everything is one flowing part. And the energy I feel in the reins isn't a hard pull, but a light pull as if Cinny were gently leading me somewhere by the hand. Not tugging or forcing me, just leading and I am just following where he wants to go. When it changes and he braces I slightly flick my inside rein finger just enough to tickle and he goes back and keep the outside rein just being led. If I want hiim to bend or flex, I ask with my legs first and then slightly move my rein finger and he does it, usually lowering his head a bit more and flopping his ears back in wait for the next thing I ask of him. I feel like most times I only have to think of what I want to do next and he does it.

If I continue this but gently shorten the reins even slightly (not even halfway between grips), it's all lost. He braces his back, tugs angrily at the bridle, chops up his steps and it's like being abruptly waken from a dream by an argument. And then all he has on the brain is CANTER CANTER CANTER. I swear if I didn't know any better I'd think I was riding an OTTB!
 

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This is my guess (from my own experience):

When you shorten the reins, even a tiny bit, your seat changes. Perhaps you brace a bit; or your elbows come forward, changing the balance, perhaps putting pressure where he just doesn't like it.

When you are bareback, you can stay closer to the horse's balance, and I believe the bareback seat is less "adjustable" than in the saddle. You stay more in one place.

So the problem might not be rooted in rein length.
 

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He just doesn't trust them, but he trusted me with them a tad longer than usual.
As someone who is guilty of having noisy hands, I can say with no exceptions that you should not take the contact until you can provide your horse both quiet hands and soft following elbows. Having played with this a lot, I think the elbows are more important than the hands. If you lock those things up, you will instantly have an unhappy horse. Once you have proper contact, your hands are no longer isolated in terms of following the horse's head. It becomes more an extension of elbows and shoulders. Maybe next time you ride, keep your hands as still as possible, but think of your elbow as the following body part instead of the hands. It seems to help me. Worth a try I guess.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Had my first REAL lesson today since having surgery back in July. My trainer said that I ride completely different now, and it's good. Amazing was having abdominal surgery to fix something wrong with you will do for your riding.I talked to her about the longer reins so we worked on everything from bit to shoulder. Tweaked a few things to accommodate Cin and fix some things with me and it was great.

My lesson ended early, but for a good reason. For the last 15 minutes Cinny IN FRONT OF ANOTHER PERSON FOR ONCE, went around the arena yielding properly to legs, head in bridle, floppy ears and lips, and completely relaxed and happy. We were both supple and yielding to each other. I've never had him trot like that for so long before...and now I know what he feels like when he is correct because my trainer confirmed that he was correct. It was the most amazing feeling to have somebody confirm.

As for reins, she said cin does like them a little looser, but that's because he needs to build trust in my hands. She agrees that a Micklem with the bit clips will help until I get my seat back from being off so much. I am so so happy.
 
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