Do you REALLY know how to use your reins?

As humans, we’re programmed to do everything with our hands, in fact, our dexterity is one of the things that sets us apart as a species! But as riders, we’re expected to lead with our seat and legs, and this is a tough thing to condition to our hand-centric thinking! 

The ratio of aids being carried out by the seat & legs vs the hands should be about 75/25 (in favour of the seat and legs of course!)

However, what we DO do with our hands is incredibly important to master and execute delicately, as we’re dealing with the horse’s mouth and we want to be as effective and light with our touch as possible! 

This week’s video takes you through exactly what you should be doing with your hands in these three situations. 

  • Steering
  • Accepting contact
  • Supporting a half-halt
1. Turning Aids

The reins play a role in the turning of the horse, but not in the way that we initially think. Most people especially at the start, will just pull on the inside rein, but that will just cause the horse to overbend to the inside and fall out the shoulder. 

The inside rein INDICATES the turn by using the fingers or just opening the rein slightly. The outside rein is the one that executes the turn by being closed fully. Don’t let the outside rein cross over the neck as this is an indirect rein aid and will completely skew the horse’s position!

2. Establishing and accepting the contact.

There are three types of contact when we are riding our horses. 

  • We start with a neutral contact that just follows the horse. This goes with the horse’s natural head motion and we stay flexible through our elbows. 
  • From here we can take a “resisting” contact. This starts in the upper back, armpits, and elbows. This will cause your horse to slow down or stop. 
  • The third option is a “giving” contact. This will test your horse’s self-carriage. Or in another instance, you can have a giving contact that is asking for the horse to seek forward and stretch. 
3. The Half-Halt

It’s important to note that when you take a resisting contact to collect or do a half-halt you should always give the leg and seat aids first, or else they will just break the gait! The sequence is leg, seat THEN hand!

Watch the video where I demonstrate these concepts on Mercurio in all the gaits and let me know in the comments if you find them helpful!

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