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Horsemanship How-to: Hold Reins Correctly

Proper hand position provides more control and better communication between rider and horse.

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Hunter rider handsBoth English and western riders can sometimes be misguided as to how to hold the reins correctly. That diminishes their communication with their horse. When direct rein aids are used, a rein is held in each hand. In this manner, the rider increases contact with the right rein to turn right and the left rein to turn left. Unfortunately, some riders hold each rein as if they’re driving a horse in harness, with the rein held between the thumb and index finger. Holding the reins this way not only confuses the horse under saddle, but it undermines the rider’s control. Rein cues, including the command to halt, are weakened.

  • To hold a snaffle rein correctly (or anytime direct rein aids are employed), the rein should be inserted between the ring finger and little finger on each hand.

  • The rider then forms a loose fist around each rein, holding it flat against their palm.

  • With hand rotated slightly so the thumb is at the top of the fist, the rider then secures their grasp on the rein by pressing the slack or bight between their thumb and index finger.

  • Experienced riders may vary the manner in which they position their hands while schooling a horse with direct rein cues. Nonetheless, they will continue to hold the reins properly.

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Horsemanship How-to: Hold Reins Correctly

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Reader Comments

Dressage Diva    Horsetown, CO

1/30/2012 8:31:15 AM

Okay article but more pictures and descriptions would have been helpful.

fowehf    hoadshwf, HI

1/28/2012 1:03:15 PM


Shelby    *****, CA

1/21/2012 1:50:23 PM

always make sure you have a strong hand.. its no fun to have the reins pulled from them!!!

emma    woiehg, HI

1/7/2012 7:53:05 PM

Good artical

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