Horse Riding Is More Than a Trend: Get a Handle on Your Horse Reins

Owning and looking after a horse is a big responsibility. It requires a great deal of effort, time and money to handle daily horse care properly. The basics of horse care include everything that affects the horse’s health and well-being such as suitable living conditions, feeding and grooming.

You also need a quality horse-riding tack as well as a room to store this equipment and keep it in good condition. And while many equestrians mostly focus on saddles and headgear, getting quality reins is equally important.

What Are Horse Reins?

Horse reins are part of horse bridles which are a vital piece of riding equipment as they help create the connection between the rider and the horse. A horse bridle is a headgear consisting of bit, headstall and reins. Those long, narrow straps or lines that the rider holds in his hands to control the horse are called horse riding reins. These are attached to either side of the bit which goes into the horse’s mouth. Together, they serve as a means to control and direct the horse. There is also headgear without a bit, called a bitless bridle, which uses a noseband to command the horse.

The reins are very important as the rider uses them to communicate with the horse while riding. By pulling on the reins, the rider applies pressure inside the horse’s mouth and signals in which direction the horse should go: forward, backward or to the side. For example, applying pressure and pulling on the right side of the reins signals the horse to move towards the right and vice versa, while applying pressure on the both sides at the same time signals the horse to slow down or stop, depending on the level of pressure.

Horses are trained to respond to their rider and by repetition of these strategic pulls the horse understands what the rider is requiring and obeys. Remember that these pulls should provide only pressure and not pain. Bridles, both bits and bitless, can hurt horses and as a horse owner you should be able to notice if they do. So, make sure the bit is comfortable and fitted properly. The reins should be safe, functional and comfortable.

Types of Horse Riding Reins

Horse reins

There are various different types of horse reins, brands and models on the market. Basically, there is everything from regular leather to cotton and horsehair reins. There are a bunch of different styles too: regular split reins, roping, romal, macate reins and many more. Which horse riding reins you will use depends mainly on your preferences and the style of your horse riding.

Split Reins

Split reins are a set of traditional western reins. These are the simplest and the easiest to find. Soft cotton split reins are one of the top choices of reins and favourite among horse riders. Leather split reins are long, heavyweight and versatile – they can be shorten when necessary. These reins are recommended for ground-tying and are great for trail riding. On the other hand, since they are heavy-weighted, can be easily dropped and some riders find them hard to use.

Barrel Racing/Roping Reins

Barrel racing/roping reins are another set of traditional western reins and are great for beginners. These are 8 foot continuous reins which are attached to the both ends of the bit. The main difference between these two sets of reins is that barrel reins have knots and usually they are braided nylon while roping reins are made of leather and are generally a little bit longer than barrel reins. Basically, these two are the same except the material.

Romal Reins

Romal reins are basically a split rein and a roping rein combined into one. These are usually made of either braided rawhide or leather. Such reins are seen among the folks who train or ride bridle horses in a spade bit.

Macate Reins

Macate reins are 20-25 feet log ropes, made traditionally of horsehair and are used for leading or tying or as a hackamore reins used to train young horses. In the past, such reins were made of the long hair of a horse’s tail and were hand braided. Nowadays, modern macate reins are made with horsehair and synthetic rope with horsehair tassel and leather poppers. Though, more and more frequently, these are made of yacht rope which is really heavy, causing the reins to flop all over the place. Basically, macate reins are a variety of a roping reins along with a lead rope.

Draw Reins

Draw reins are training reins which are used only while the horse is being ridden under saddle. These are 15 -17 long continuous straps and it’s recommended to be used periodically, not every day, for flatwork only. Draw reins are can be made of cotton webbing, leather or nylon.

Side Reins

Side reins are another training aid which are used with the horse under the saddle or on the longe line, or for in-hand work. Leather side reins are one of the top choices among the horse rides since they are inexpensive, or less expensive than the nylon side reins. Another advantage of these leather reins is that they break in case of an emergency while nylon reins doesn’t.

Regarding the length, the ideal rein should be long enough to give the horse a room to move and be able to reach down to drink from a pond or creek. Also, when you speed up, you will need to be able to shorten your reins. If the reins get too long, you will lose your leverage and your guide. In addition, the heavier the rein is, the easier it will be for the horse to understand the signals you give them. Meaning that the horse will be more responsive and obedient if the reins are well-weighted and made from quality leather or rope.

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