Proper rein length in horsemanship class is individualized and depends on a multitude of factors.
Communication is essential for a successful horsemanship pattern, and it’s not possible if your reins are too short or too long. Illustration by Jean Abernethy
I’m new to the horsemanship class, and I want to make sure my reins aren’t too short or too long. What is the proper rein length for horsemanship?
For an answer, we consulted AQHA Professional Horseman Jackie Krshka of Yukon, Oklahoma. For more detailed advice, check out the November issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.
Proper rein length depends on a lot of things: your horse’s conformation, how well he steers, how sensitive he is in the bridle, his quality of movement and how much he needs your help to be balanced.
You have to know, on your horse, how much contact and feel you need in your hand, and how much support you need with your leg to maintain forward motion.
If your reins are too long, you have no connection with your hand to leg, and you can’t frame your horse or balance him.
When a rider’s communication works from the leg to the hand and the hand to the leg, it’s different from riding a horse off the spur with no feel in the bridle. When you ride a horse off the spur, you can ride a pattern on a full drape, and you can steer side to side with your hand, but you can’t pick up and engage the horse with your hand. If you can’t pick up and have an immediate, soft feel to the bridle, when you ride a pattern, your horse must do it perfectly, because if he makes a mistake, you don’t have the feel to correct him. You can get through a pattern until something happens. When something goes awry, the horse looks for your guidance or support, but he doesn’t get any balancing or assuring from your hand.
If you do have a feel with your hand, you can correct or balance your horse and go on.
– Jackie Krshka, AQHA Professional Horseman
Learn more in this month’s “Borrow a Trainer” installment about how to individualize your horse’s rein length based on a multitude of factors. Pick up a copy of the November American Quarter Horse Journal, or read the digital edition instantly.