"Lopes on a loose rein" - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 44 Old 06-15-2020, 10:48 PM
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I don't think it's a huge deal @ACinATX , certainly nothing to be concerned about. In my experience, there are two general groups of riders who strive for a canter on a loose rein:

A) people who want to demonstrate in a show ring or just to themselves that they and their horses are skilled and very in tune with one another. My trainer strives for this with her own horses because she's into dressage and working equitation, and she has varying degrees of it with her horses. Some she can ride bridleless, others require a bit of contact, but she's always working to get there eventually with them.

B) And then there are people like me who want it because it makes us feel safe. The fact that Cash will stay in a lope without rein contributes to my overall feeling that he's with me and I don't have anything to worry about because he doesn't take any of the opportunities I give him to do his own thing. Along with other things in his personality, his willingness to chill at an easy lope gives me the confidence to ride him on the beach, in the woods, in new places, etc., and not be afraid that his mind is going to leave me.

So while I think it's a cool thing to have and ultimately shows off a great connection, it's more important to some of us than others. Many of my friends don't worry about it either way because if their horses do need contact, they still don't feel unsafe. It's not a big deal to them. Unless you're part of group A or B, I don't really see any reason to make it a priority.
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post #12 of 44 Old 06-15-2020, 10:55 PM
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"Loping on a loose rein" comes from the US West Coast tradition of horsemanship where a horse would eventually be "straight up in the bridle", meaning they use a Spade bit. The spade bit is a signal bit, it is not designed for or meant to be used with constant contact, or really much of any contact at all and is traditionally used with Romel Reins and connecting chains which are fairly delicate (and expensive).

Other than that the idea is that a horse is low headed, willingly guided and listening to the subtle cues of the rider. It is a demonstration of how good the horse is. How little it takes and how well they can do it. Modern horses will typically show in a snaffle or shank bit because there just isn't enough time in limited age events like futurities to properly train a spade bit horse.

In the old days riders would pull stunts like using light string or fishing line to attach the reins to the bit to sort of show off on how light the horse is. Sheila Varian is rumored to have actually done that the year she became the first female Cow Horse champion. Along with big sliding stops the low headed relaxed movement of the horse is a signature of these sports.

This is the tradition where Western sports like Reining and Reined Cow Horse came from. Because these are basically the highest level of western horsemanship all others followed their lead in some form.

As for modern competition, this is what loping on a loose rein is supposed to look like in Reining.
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post #13 of 44 Old 06-15-2020, 11:03 PM
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@jgnmoose - I had a boss that made me ride bridle horses with nothing but tail hair between reins and bit, in corrals, for a couple sessions, before he let me do real work outside with them.

Sure made me think about my cues.
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post #14 of 44 Old 06-15-2020, 11:17 PM
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Double post, please delete.
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post #15 of 44 Old 06-16-2020, 12:13 AM
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Is the horse supposed to go with its head way down like that? It looks a bit like a scolded dog.
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post #16 of 44 Old 06-16-2020, 04:37 AM
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Since I train my horses to be ridden on a loose rein, this means teaching them that they must control their own speed at any gait. Here's what I mean by that: I will ask a horse for a gait (let's use the lope for example). Once he's loping, I take my legs off. They don't come back on unless I want him to speed up or collect. My reins, of course, were off to begin with, so they won't come into effect unless the horse starts getting too fast and doesn't slow when I ask him with my seat. It's my horse's job to rate himself once I tell him what speed I want. This means I want him to rock back and use his butt going downhill, without building speed until he's steamrolling down the hill at maximum warp. Of course, no horse knows this in the beginning, so when I'm breaking colts or retraining older horses there's a lot of rein work going on in any given ride. But a finished horse or close to finished horse will do this by himself, without me having to ask.

It's not just speed though. I also like a horse to travel in a straight line, unless I am actively asking him to turn. If he turns when I look hard (I don't know how else to describe this Ö I look very intently in the direction I want to turn and something in my body language must cue the horse because after a while I can turn a horse without ever even using leg pressure, if I train them to turn when I look hard) or if I follow up with leg, I'll never touch the reins. For collection, again in the beginning I will use reins and leg to ask the horse to collect, but after a while I can ask with legs only. I don't ask my horse to travel collected all the time though, or even most of the time - collection for us is something I ask for for a few strides or once around the arena or until we finish this circle or whatever, and then turn the horse loose again. On a trail I will generally collect a horse going downhill, to get them to rock back on their hind end, and maybe I'll collect them for a few strides to 'check in' while we're strolling down the trail, but otherwise I let the horse travel how he wants. I don't care where his head is, or what he's doing with himself - as long as he does what I ask, he can move however is most comfortable for him.

On an ideal ride, I'll never touch my horse's mouth. To me, constantly having to maintain contact is irritating. I don't like constantly having to mollycoddle my horse and tell him how to trot a straight line, or incessantly keep slowing him down, or have to keep pulling his head up from the grass. My horses are responsible for their bodies while we ride. I'm not going to hold his head up, I'm not going to nag at him to slow down, and I'm not going to tell him where to put each individual step. I will ask him to trot over there - if he goes too fast or too slow, or meanders, I'll correct him. But otherwise, you're on your own, guy. But this is something I have trained into my horses from Day 1 - I'll handle the Big Stuff. You do the rest. I want my horse to eventually be my partner, and that means he'll have to pick up some slack every now and then on our rides.

So for me, being able to do anything on a loose rein is a convenience thing. I can take pictures or videos while I'm riding, or have a snack or a drink, or scratch an itch, or mime the YMCA if I want - and I can trust my horse to keep doing what I ask, with no issues. I want my horse to wait for me, to want to work with me, and nothing proves that more than riding anywhere, at any speed, on a completely loose rein. Or riding with no reins at all. Bridleless riding isn't for everyone, but there's nothing like having a good gallop in the wide open spaces with nothing on your horse's face, and having him come back to you when you ask. Best feeling in the world. But while I really think riding on a loose rein is a prerequisite for western riding, especially while working, for English folks it's not really necessary.

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post #17 of 44 Old 06-16-2020, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
Is the horse supposed to go with its head way down like that? It looks a bit like a scolded dog.
But sure why it's like that, either. The video does show that contact through reins isn't always necessary in order to affect direction.
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post #18 of 44 Old 06-16-2020, 07:01 AM
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My mare used to stop dead when I released contact so I worked on that a little. She is mainly English trained. I donít particularly need her to canter on a loose rein, it was just something fun to work on. Now she can trot and canter on loose reins. But I am still working on her not stopping dead if I suddenly drop the reins, I still have to release them slowly. Mind you, maybe I should leave it as is - it a rather handy emergency break.
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post #19 of 44 Old 06-16-2020, 07:30 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Horsef View Post
My mare used to stop dead when I released contact so I worked on that a little. She is mainly English trained. I donít particularly need her to canter on a loose rein, it was just something fun to work on. Now she can trot and canter on loose reins. But I am still working on her not stopping dead if I suddenly drop the reins, I still have to release them slowly. Mind you, maybe I should leave it as is - it a rather handy emergency break.
My Pony is generally the same way. If something strange happens, or if you give him strongly conflicting signals, or change your weight distribution significantly, he just stops. Sometimes it's annoying, like when I'm trying to move my legs or seat around to find the best position, but on the other hand it does seem like a nice safety feature. I let a fairly inexperienced child ride him a few weeks ago, and I was really happy that he did that with her.
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post #20 of 44 Old 06-16-2020, 07:43 AM
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To understand the idea of working on a loose rein, we might think of people in a work situation.

After initial training some people are able to work quite well on their own with little supervision. Others require closer supervision and communication to keep them working productively. Of course, different means of communication may be employed. Speaking directly to a working (i.e. using reins) is one method. A supervisor may also use his hands, facial expression, or other means to convey a message to his worker.

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