How to Hold and Use Your Reins Properly

I don’t know about you, but I feel it’s such a privilege that our horses let us ride them by holding long straps of leather connected to their mouths. Yes, our reins are literal lines of communication with our horses, and given the sensitive nature of the horse’s mouth, every movement we make with our hands is felt by our horses. So to avoid any confusion or miscommunicating with our horses, it’s really important to learn how to use our reins properly. 

This week’s video is going to help you do just that. In it, I’ll go through how to hold them, how to shorten them, how to keep them from slipping, AND I’ll be sharing an awesome trick!

It’s really important to have a steady contact and a nice connection when we ride. We should be aware of our rein length at all times and be holding and using our reins correctly. So here are my top tips for really mastering the use of your reins:


  • You should be holding your reins fed between your pinky and ring finger and then looping out between your thumb and your pointing finger.
  • This holding frame allows a lot of sensitivity with your hand, more than if you were holding outside the pinky.
  • It’s also important to make a rooftop shape with your thumb. Push down on your pointer finger to keep the reins from slipping through your hands. 
  • It’s important to keep a straight line from your elbow to the horse’s mouth.

DON’T hold your reins with Hitchhiker’s thumbs as this will create tension in the hand and prevent you from making the subtle movements needed to supple your horse.

DONT hold your hands too high as this will break the straight line from elbow to mouth.


  • While at the walk, use your inside leg to push the horse to the outside rein
  • With the inside wrist, make the motion as if you were scrambling eggs. 


  • Shorten the inside rein first
  • Put both reins in the outside hand
  • Slide down the inside and take contact. 
  • Repeat on the other side
  • It’s very important to maintain your seat and position throughout the shortening


  • Hold a small pebble in each hand when you’re riding. 
  • This will encourage you to keep your hands closed properly so your reins don’t slide out of your hands. 
  • It will also bring awareness to your hands, bring a steadier contact and improve your communication with your horse.

Watch the video where I demonstrate this with Phargo (and try the rock trick yourself!). Let me know in the comments if you find it helpful. 

Thanks for watching, and happy riding!


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