Reining in the Romal

Learn the proper way to use romal reins with AQHA Professional Horseman Jay McLaughlin.

Learn the proper way to use romal reins with AQHA Professional Horseman Jay McLaughlin.

romal reins
Jay demonstrates how to properly hold the romal reins.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Romal reins are an extension of braided material attached to closed reins and can be found in many western events from reining and working cow horse to western pleasure and trail.

AQHA Professional Horseman Jay McLaughlin regularly uses romal reins with his reining and reined cow horses.

“The biggest thing about romals is people pick the wrong ones,” the Gainesville, Texas, trainer said. “I like a soft, pliable romal that is a little smaller. There are a few men out there with ginormous hands, and they prefer the bigger romals. But if you have smaller hands, you should pick a smaller romal.”

Do you want to get more reining tips? Check out or Reining Basics with Craig Johnson DVD and learn all you can about this western event.

Jay also discourages riders from using snaps to attach the romal to the bit.
“I don’t like the snap. Snaps will rattle and send a message up to that mouth. That spade is such an attuned tool that when you jingle with that snap, it will go clear up to the roof of their mouth because the spade is right there. When I see someone doing that, I can’t even look at it. I know what it’s doing to that horse. It’s making him numb-er and numb-er, and you want the horse to be as light as he can be.”

Although Jay makes leather keepers to attach his romal reins to the bit, he said if a rider wants to use snaps, he should attach the reins to a chain and then to a snap.

“That’s fine because the chain takes all the snap’s ring away.”

Riders who are not accustomed to using a romal are sometimes not aware of the penalties awaiting them if they don’t hold it properly.

  • The romal should go across the palm and around the thumb.
  • The hand should be closed into a fist over both reins with no fingers in between, and the thumb must be on top.
  • The rein hand should always be in front of the romal’s knot, where the two reins meet.
  • The free hand must always be to the side (whether left of right), 16 inches from the rein hand. The rein can be adjusted with the free hand in all classes but reining and the dry work of working cow horse.

Get more tips and advice about reining from an AQHA World Champion reining exhibitor with our Reining Basics with Craig Johnson DVD.

4 thoughts on “Reining in the Romal”

  1. Is all this kind of stuff in the Quarterhorse Journal now? When I was getting it it was all mostly pleasure. I can use these kinds of articals now so I would be more apt to subscribe. Please let me know. Thank You Cheryl

  2. Unfortunately, this is not the correct way to hold the reins. The thumbs are not supposed to be up, but more closed around the reins. The elbow is supposed to be in, and the romal hand lower down on the leg, with the thumb also closed.

    Either hand can be in either position, but to adjust the reins properly as shown in the photo, the right hand would slide up the reins to just behind the left hand. The left hand would loosen slightly and the right hand would adjust the length of the reins. When the adjustment was completed, the right hand would slide back down the reins to its position on the right leg.

    Ask anyone who used to ride in the stock seat medal classes and they will tell you the proper way to hold the reins, adjust the reins, and take care of the reins. Also, almost all the reins were attached with small snaps, and rein chains were rarely used.

    We love Jay but he did not grow up on the West Coast.

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