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 Post subject: 8. Draw reins, how to use them and actually help the horse
PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2014 3:58 pm 
White Lady
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Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2005 4:18 pm
Posts: 13964
Location: Eriksbråten, Skotterud
The use of draw reins is one of the most misunderstood principles of riding. I think the reason why is that most people don't know how to ride the horse over the back and into the reins.

If the rider must do something actively with the reins to make the horse get into an outline, the horse is not over the back. If the horse is over the back, it will stretch naturally into the rein contact and seek the contact in a soft but steady way.

If this is not the case, it does not help to move your hands, give and take, or in other ways make the horse avoid the bit contact. The only thing that leads to, is a lack of contact and the horse aviding the bit. Many people prefer this, thinking that this lack of contact is a sign of trust. I think it is a sign of a lack of trust, because the constantly moving and jerking hand makes the horse afraid of the contact, and thus avoids it. But a constant, soft contact is the best way for a rider to feel the horse and to communicate softly. However, the horse must move over its back for this to happen. Else, the contact will be hard, forced, irregular or choppy. All of which are not pleasant for the horse, so he will either pull or let go.

If the rider has this kind of experience with the bit contact, he will use the draw rein to pull the horse's neck together and force the horse to give in, making the horse curl, and teach him to move with his nose behind the vertical. Especially if the rider does not know how to engage the hindquarters and let the horse's back swing. If the rider knows how to do this, he will have no problem riding with a draw rein, because he will know how to ride the horse up to the contact.

Riders who are at this level almost never need to use a draw rein, and they never need to use it to make the horse take the correct contact with the correct outline.

The only use it has, is to guide the horse, so that he understands how to set up his outline, if the coordination is completely lost, or the horse is fighting the rein in such a way that the work becomes inefficient. This means that the rider has ensured that there are no problems like the ones I have already described, and that he knows how to ride the horse forwards to the contact.

I once made a series of pictures of a horse with a troublesome ewe neck, where the problem was not suppleness, but coordination. Instead of working a long time struggling with all the coordination errors of the horse, the rider was able to help the horse into the correct outline in one round of a circle.

This is the horse as it moved without help. Movement pattern quad dominant and "stargazer". Many natural reflexes completely gone. No response to ordinary stretching exercises even after prolonged training. Not really a mobility problem, but a coordination problem.


Her reaction to the rein contact was like this:

The rider leads the horse to bend to the inside, using the draw rein as a guide. The constant length of the draw rein makes the horse to not wish to pull at it, but to accept it as a constant. This is very important. A horse wishes to pull against a flexible or variable rein, but yields to a constant one.

Since the rein here is constant, and we wish to only stretch the shoulder, the outside drawrein is completely loose. The horse then is allowed to stretch its outside shoulder.



Round and deep, stretches the back and stabilizes the midsection:

Stretching long and low:

As you may see, the horse is now able to coordinate better, and to train her whole body in a better way. If we had the time and body size to train this pony more like this, her severe back troubles could have been helped. But one must be aware that severe coordination problems will take a long time, and are NEVER fixed just by adding a draw rein.

I agree mostly with the warnings that are issued when it comes to this tool, but I also wish to explain why it actually MAY be a useful tool in the hands of a rider who knows how to ride well.

In the next chapter, I will discuss all the pitfalls of riding with a curled up neck and a blocked back. I will also try to find time to discuss stretching methods for the rider as well.

Stay tuned.

Paradox is a pointer telling you to look beyond it. If paradoxes bother you, that betrays your deep desire for absolutes. The relativist treats a paradox merely as interesting, perhaps amusing or even, dreadful thought, educational.

Frank Herbert.

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