The Correct Use of Side Reins
Hi this is Will Faerber from Art2Ride and this is Kristen Balch with her horse Contigo demonstrating in our video here this morning. We had a question come in yesterday about the correct position or the correct length of the side reins.
The correct length of the side reins is so long that the horse simply can’t put it’s head all the way up (In the video, you can see how Kristen raises his head a little bit to show how free his head is), he has plenty of room to bring his head reasonably in front of the vertical but he can’t put his head up so far that he can turn completely upside down. So that is the correct length of side reins.
The side reins should never be so tight that they draw the horse’s head back (Kristen pulls his head down a little as if she was pulling on him on the bridle) or so tight that they pull his head down beyond the vertical or to try and force him into that frame that could eventually break the horse at the third vertebrae. The side reins also should always be exactly the same length, we are going to see the reason for that in just a second when she begins to lunge him, because if the horse is truly bending, the inside side rein should be loose right? He is bent to the inside, so the outside side rein would have contact but the inside side rein should have a little slack in it. That’s a correctly adjusted side rein.
Now some people will try and create bend (or what they think is bend), they will tighten the inside side rein till the horse pulls it’s head to the inside. That will pull his neck around, yes, but it will also make the horse hang on the inside rein. So once the horse is beginning to swing and swing through his back and reach and seek the contact with the bridle, you will see that the inside side rein will have more slack in it than the outside, proving now that the horse is now bending in the direction that he is going.
Kristen now demonstrates during the lunge. The main point here is that the side reins should never be used to affix the horse’s head and neck in any particular position. It is just there for the horse to begin to seek contact. As you can see in the video, Kristen takes him all the way to the end of the line. This horse knows how to lunge, so he is reaching into the contact already. Notice how the inside side rein is already looser than the outside side rein, this tells me that the horse is bending in the direction that it is going and that should be your test as well. We can already see that he is seeking the contact with the bridle.
Collection is not something that you create on a lunge line. The lunge line can help you get the horse swinging over the back and into the correct contact, from which you can then develop collection once you begin to ride or when your working directly in hand doing piaffe or some sort of thing like that where your working the horse in hand. The lunge line is not where we create collection, as we see people trying to do by forcing the horse’s head in or fixing it with an overcheck and then pulling the horse’s head in. None of those things work, they put short circuits in the horse’s wiring so to speak, because he can’t reach and use the whole length of his back in the same way. So once again, notice how the horse’s inside side rein is slightly slacker than the outside side rein. Lunging correctly is just like riding from the ground, the whip is your leg and your connected by the rein (except you have a fixed outside rein in this particular case).
Look how nice and relaxed the inside side rein is becoming in the video. That tells me the horse is bending on the circle and seeking the contact. He could have a little more swing in his trot there, but look how much looser the inside side rein is as he begins to swing over his back. Kristen makes him a little more active and she keeps a little more feel to the inside rein till he moves into that outside rein from her leg (which is the whip). There, then he begins to bend and you can begin to see the inside rein slightly slacker than the outside rein. This proves once again that the horse is bending and moving into the outside rein, very nice! Never try to affix the horse’s head!
So we hope that helps! Once again, never have tight side reins, just tight enough that the horse can’t pull it’s head way up and hollow his back. That is all we are looking for to happen. Just like that in the video, then he will swing and begin to reach into the contact with the bridle. All we are trying to do on the lunge line is warm up the horse’s top line and get him swinging and active before we get up. Hope that helps, we will see you next time at Art2Ride!