Draw Reins and How to
is only one reason that this page, which I haven't used in yrs, would
generate this much traffic. Somebody is having a flame fest.
Are y'all having fun? Wanna let me in on it? Email me... Julia@slaterhorsetraining.com
Oh... and btw... here is another link to how I use drawreins. Might as well stir the sparks a little.
posted an explanation on how to use Drawreins on a Bulletin Board I
regularly visit, the training
board on Horse City. Be sure to read the whole thing, there
is some really good instruction from several good trainers.
Draw Reins are a tool that is misused by 90% of the people that are
using them. Consequently, they do not work like they should, horse AND
riders become dependant on them, and trainers all over cuss them.
I use drawreins on a regular basis. They have helped me develop some
nice horses. Horses that are as easy to ride for me as their owners,
even younger or novice owners.
So maybe I can dispell some of the myth about how to correctly use
Horses I use drawreins on have an obedience issue with the following:
with their back engaged
their heads as soon as they feel the bit
are others, but that would take oodles of explaining and examples.
turning, moving laterally with their head in the air
I have found DReins a great tool to demonstrate to a resistant horse
just exactly what I am asking for. The way I use them also gives the
horse the chance to see that using his back, tucking his nose is an
easier way of coping with the manuevers the rider is asking from him.
The pulley type action not only puts pressure on the bit, but also at
the poll, making it very clear what is asked of the little guy. The
reason DReins are so rejected, is because people won't quit pulling on
them. That is why you must have a regular rein in
hand, to where you can be perfectly light when you get the response you
Bluey is a little reiner colt. Because of conformation and very bad
front foot care as a baby has a terrible time engaging his back and
traveling over his back. Lots of zip and pizzas for the tricks, but no
ability to do the tricks after a couple of circles, cause he won't
travel over his back.
1. Bluey first step loping after the trannie
2. He does a nice job balancing, but then
3. Immediately resist and bumps the DReins.
4. He feels the DReins and gives to the bit, but
5,6,7. Would rather travel w/ his head in the air. So I engage the
DRein, till he drops his head.
8,9,10. He drops his head, but falls on his front. I use the regular
rein in a gentle tugs to get him to carry himself, and
11,12. He starts traveling engaged and in balance. Both sets of reins
are loose, and he is traveling truly engaged and over his back on the
western idea of contact.
The rest of the circle work was much more in balance from then on, till
I did another downward transition.
Using this method, I have had great luck using DReins. I have 2 sets of
reins in my hand, the Dreins and the regular reins. Whenever he is
engaged and traveling correctly, you will see that the DRein is
completely loose. Whenever he resists, the DReins engage.
Just a side note..
Bluey won the reining class in his County fair with a girl riding him
that had exactly 4 months of lessons.
|Posted by Greenhaven
You finally posted this, GreyHorse-awesome! This is a fabby piece, and
really helped ME personally when I needed to visualize some of the
things I was being told regarding engagement and collection.
P.S., if I ever get that colt going, maybe we will make a road trip to
Kansas for a little TLC GreyHorse style!
|Posted by Bob "Horseguy@equineequip.com"
Great post on draw reins. Also I see sombody is a computer graphics
jock. Nice picture/graphic.
My favorite part:
Whenever he is engaged and traveling correctly,
you will see that the DRein is completely loose... The reason DReins
are so rejected, is because people won't quit pulling on them.
Triple Creek Farm
|Posted by Merry
Very nice set of pictures and great explanation.
In Europe, only the more accomplished riders were permitted to use draw
They were considered "like a razor on a monkey's hand", a very sharp,
dangerous tool that could do more damage than good if not used with
total knowledge of what you were trying to accomplish and very
Why? Because they can overbend a horse that is not really engaged and
so cause even more trouble once the horse learns yet one more way to
Generally, we used them, always, as you say, with a regular rein but we
tied to the girth, right below the skirts on an english saddle.
Very rarely we used them between the horse's legs,
because we wanted to achieve not only a give to the bit but also a
little lateral control of the shoulders in the turns, something that
with the reins between the legs was harder as it pulled the head even
lower if the rider was not careful not to use them then but only the
reins, feeling for the rise of the back, to lighten that shoulder.
With the horse's head too low and behind the bit, the shoulder could
not come up to hold the horse in the turns and they would even drift
off the outside shoulder.
Remember that this was a serious concern with the big, less naturally
collected horses we rode, that were not as light and quick and athletic
as the little QH types are.
Still, I think that they belong only in experienced hands.
We also never used them more than three or four times because by then a
horse would have learned what we wanted and they tended to become a
clutch for the rider, that may depend on them being there, rather than
work to achieve the same results without them.
Anything that could not be used at shows was used as few times as was
Most training was done with show approved equipment, as much as
Looks like you attained what you were looking for, the horse moving
well thru from behind, lightly and so could be ridden to a win and with
your new student, no less.
A well trained, light horse is a joy to ride.
The best way to learn that feel is to have the chance to do so on a
very well trained horse and under good instruction.
Lucky student of yours!
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Greenhaven and Bob.
Merry, I agree. DReins are for knowledgable hands, seats, legs and
But I do use them a whole lot more than 3-4 times. I just get along
really well w/ them. I have no problems w/ a horse crutching on them or
anything like that. To me they are a great training tool.
BUT... I been trying to teach my daughter how to use them, and she has
a really hard time. I have made her pack them and talked her thru using
them for about a yr now, and she is just now getting to where she is
getting a little more comfy w/ them. Using 2 sets of reins
independantly from each other is a little tricky.
|Posted by Merry
---"Using 2 sets of reins independantlly from each other is a little
I assume she is using the double rein as a dressage double bridle, with
the draw reins below the others and of different width and/or texture
than the other set of reins?
---"But I do use them a whole lot more than 3-4 times. I just get along
really well w/ them. I have no problems w/ a horse crutching on them or
anything like that."---
Well, I think that it was more like the rider using them as a crutch,
as you said in your first sentence, to keep the horse collected,
helping them too much once they should have been in selfcarriage on
their own off the aids.
I tend to be a trainer that helps horses too much, if I forget to avoid
That is great with colts or teaching new stuff, but not so good on more
experienced horses or when someone else may use the horse later and
expect it to go on their own.
Yes, we chafed under the many restrictions we had to train under.
It would seems that it would have been easier if those trainers
sufficiently advanced could have used them almost like we did running
martingales, as an aid always there, but because of the power to do
wrong with them, we were not.
Once a horse is behind the bit, that is very, very hard to correct and
I guess that over the years, they decided to trow the baby out with the
bathwater and greatly restricted their use.
I think that better instruction may have worked as well.
I was really surprised to find people in the US using all kinds of
gadgets, several that I had not seen before or no seen used like that
and some people not really knowing what they were doing with them, just
that it worked for their immediate problems, not realizing that at
times it was causing others.
In the US, due to lack of instruction, people are learning by trial and
error, reinventing the wheel as it were.
With so much more information getting around today, like your post
above, that is changing rapidly.
Posted by Bob
particularly with people new to draw reins, use different types of
reins. I use smooth leather draw reins looped through the ring of a
large ring loose ring snaffle, and laced English reins attached to the
ring in the normal way. That way I can feel the smooth draw reins and
let them slide through my hands for relief, when the horse is
responding well. I can maintain contact with the laced bit reins more
Originally posted by
I assume she is using the double rein as a
dressage double bridle, with the draw reins below the others and of
different width and/or texture than the other set of reins?
I always recommend that when learning to use two sets of reins in your
hands that you start with a totally trained, preferably older horse. A
young untrained horse can get pretty upset at draw reins in the hands
of someone just learning to use them.
"In the US, due to lack of instruction, people are
learning by trial and error, reinventing the wheel as it were."
Isn't that the truth. It is better if you have someone teach you how to
train your horse. Self teaching by trial and error ends up with the
horse paying the price of the errors. It is far better when possible
find a competent trainer to work with you in training your horse.
I like it best when an owner will participate in their horse's
training. Many trainers feel this way because for a trainer there are
few things worse than having an owner bring back a horse for
re-training after an owner has undone all the training they have
|Posted by Cutter
What a great post. I especially like your graphics. It's about time
someone dispelled all the rumours about draw reins, I use them, but I
was taught how to use them properly. There are many people who should
not be using them at all, there are just too many people that become
dependant on not just draw reins, but just about any training aid.
No, actually I put the
regular rein on the bottom, cause that is the one I want to use the
most. Like I said before, I only use the drawrein when I have to.
she is using the double rein as a dressage double bridle, with the draw
reins below the others and of different width and/or texture than the
other set of reins?
The first pic is of me putting on pressure with the draw rein. The
second one is the horse giving to the pressure and turning them
completely loose. You can see, how I then have a chance to transfer the
rein cues to the regular rein.
You can also see in the first pic how I got the DReins and the reg
reins separated by my little finger.
|Posted by bec
GreyHorse, please talk a little about HOW to use two reins
independently when they are held in the same hand.
I was never taught how to do this, whether it be a pelham, double
bridle, or draw rein. The closest I came to instruction was "here, hold
them like this and forget about it". That never seemed to work for me
so I, surely as many others, have ditched the double rein out of my
repitour (sp?), I don't use it (them). Me and my snaffle rein get along
fine for the most part, but I really enjoy reading about new and
different methods, especially when they come from someone who knows
|Posted by Merry
The traditional way is to hold two reins in each hand.
The snaffle one to come from the front, thru the space between the
little and next finger and into the hand, turning over to exit over the
Then the other rein, be it from draw reins, a curb on a double bridle
or the bottom of a pelham comes under that rein, along the outside of
the little finger to joint the other rein in the hand and exit with it
over the index finger.
The snaffle rein is always in the same position, the other is below it.
You can see that position if you look carefully at pictures of the
Spanish Riding School riders with double bridles.
That is one way, but I guess that any one way you get used to could
Both reins are working at the same time and you let them slide a very
little and gather them back up as you need.
Some times you will see a little slack on the outside rein, as it is
the less active one.
With draw reinws, it is important to use them independently.
If we use both together, we negate the effect.
Mostly we used them for horses that were stiff in the poll or jaws and
we expected to see immediate results or something was not working right.
As soon as a horse began to give, we let them strech over their back
and go forward as a reward and to keep them supple.
Once the horse was giving properly to them regularly, we quit them
because some horses tended to get irritated if used too long, as they
are very confining.
How do I use them... Hmmm, had to think about that for a little while.
When I've got a horse that is very resistent to giving the poll, I use
the draw reins first for a while. So I got them in my hands a little
tighter than the regular rein. Pretty soon the horse gets consistent
about giving his nose when I ask for it, and I start slipping the
DRein. At first a little, to where the regular rein is the first to
give the signal, but still comes in play pretty fast if he decides to
resist, then a lot, to where the regular rein is pretty much the only
thing that I'm holding.
But if Pony decides to pitch a fit, I can slip the regular rein pretty
fast and take up the draw rein. Course, my hands end up pretty much up
in my chest at that point, but at least I could deal w/ disobedience
swiftly and effectively.
I use a cord, about 1/2 inch diameter, whatever works. Run it thru the
snaffle, over the neck and thru the snaffle, down under the cinch. I
used to just tie some knots under there, but since I use them fairly
regular, I got a couple of snaps.
On my dressage type horses, I hold the DRein so that when Pony is
traveling over his back and engaged, they are loose, and I am
encouraging contact on the reg rein. I don't like to use them on
something that is past, say Training Level, cause when they start
learning collection, the downward pull of the DRein works against me.
But DReins are handy to develop obedience and acceptance of the bit.
When a horse resists and comes way above the bit, the DReins put him
back in frame and on the reg rein easily and w/out a fuss. Works great
for upwards transitions, which can be hard to learn for young horses.
Below is part of a PM I got and my answer to it.
toss out a couple of things here, maybe you can find something that
the draw reins come off, however, he loses his head position (he's
still engaging his hind end however, which is a good improvement!).
I've been trying to do what you suggested, slowly letting up on the
draw rein so that they learn to set their heads by pressure on the
regular rein, but as soon as I loosen up the draw rein he loses his
If you was to insist on him bringing his head back on contact, he will
either comply, or resist completely. If he resists completely, he will
bring his head up, and at that point you should have the DRein there to
catch it. Just use the DReins to bring him back down, then transfer
contact to the reg rein.
Are you just using your hands to try to get him to travel over his
back? It's a subtle dance between hands, legs and seat. Especially if
you are using DReins. Seeins "Frame" is easier to get w/ the DReins, it
is easy just to sit there and not work for it. But you gain nothing if
that is what you are doing. Use the DReins to get him traveling
correctly, but make sure he is getting used to the set of signals your
legs and seat are giving him too, so that he recognizes the request
when you are ready to transfer the contact to the DReins.
|Posted by Bob
I use draw reins in several ways. One is very passive. For example if a
horse flips his head up and I have draw reins attached to the girth
between the fore legs, when he flips his head the draw reins work
passively like a martingale of sorts. Likewise, if I have a horse that
swings his head left and right, like a polo horse that shys from the
mallet swing along the side of the head, I will attach the draw reins
(on an English saddle) up by the billets at the girth buckles. This
application uses the draw reins like side reins. When the horse’s head
moves sideways, the passive action of the draw reins limit the side
movement of the head.
Unlike a martingale or side reins, I can let the draw reins slip and
they “disappear” as far as the horse is concerned, and I can see if the
horse is improving. If the horse regresses then I can pick them up and
use them again. You cannot do this with martingales and side reins
without stopping what you are doing.
Merry writes: “Mostly we used them for horses that were stiff in the
poll or jaws”.
This is another use of draw reins, but a more active use than the
first. It requires more sophisticated use of the hands. Merry points
out how the reins are held and attached to the bit. In active use is
important to remember that the draw reins have the mechanical advantage
of a pulley. They in effect make your arms stronger. If used properly
they can be used softly and strongly at the same time. I find this the
best advantage of draw reins in work to improve the horse’s willingness
Merry also writes: ” With draw reins, it is important to use them
If we use both together, we negate the effect.”
This is true in an idealistic sense. Ideally there is a great deal of
independent use of the two reins, bit and draw. In reality if you are
working a difficult horse, the separation of the reins is not always
perfect. This is why I like smooth draw reins and textured (laced) bit
reins. When the horse ”pitches a fit”, I can easily let the draw reins
slip through my fingers and just ride the horse with the bit rein until
we smooth out. Using draw reins independently on a very resistant horse
in a fit is not a good idea, in my opinion for average riders. The draw
reins might make a rider feel more powerful with the pulley action, but
in the end the horse is stronger in a real strength contest, which
should be avoided. In other words, I don’t think draw reins should be
used as a power tool to break tough horses. On the contrary, they are
best used as a strong gentle tool for subtle issues.
GreyHorse comments: “ ...if Pony decides to pitch a fit, I can slip the
regular rein pretty fast and take up the draw rein. Course, my hands
end up pretty much up in my chest at that point, but at least I could
deal w/ disobedience swiftly and effectively.” This indicates that she
goes to the draw reins, over the bit reins, in a “fit” situation. My
sense is that she is a real pro and can do this gently but firmly. Most
riders should go the other way to the bit rein to get past fits,
especially when learning to use draw reins. This is because they could
get a contest going with the horse that could end in both horse and
rider on the ground, if they don’t know when to let up. A pro like
GreyHorse no doubt would let up way before things got dangerous, but an
amature might hang stubbornly on the draw reins and make a real mess.
As GreyHorse puts it,” The reason DReins are so rejected, is because
people won't quit pulling on them.”
Knowing when to quit makes all the difference.
If you are new to draw reins I suggest starting to experiment with them
on an older made horse. Get the feel of how they work on a forgiving
horse before you use them on a green or completely untrained horse.
Thank you for explaining it much better than me!!!
|Posted by Padruig
Wow. This is one of the best posts here. Please keep up the work. I've
learned more in a few pages than entire books.
|Posted by Bob
One thought on draw reins as equipment, I think it is best if they are
made of a material that can break like leather or cotton. This is
because sometimes when you let them slip, particularly when they are
attached between the front legs, they can drop down into a loop and the
horse can step in them and get tangled up. While this rarely happens,
it is then that the leather or cotton web or cotton rope ones are
safest. I see some places sell nylon web draw reins. I would not use
nylon for this reason. If you are just starting to use draw reins this
might be a safety issue to consider.
|Posted by bec
Wow, GreyHorse and Bob, you guys make draw reins sound so...
sophisticated. I'm actually tempted to retry using them. Never was I
taught the right method, now I am afraid! *cowering*
Where I come from, draw reins are used as torture devises, wrenching a
horse into a curled neck, never loose! This is how it's taught. It's
horrible to watch and leaves one with a bad taste in their mouth.
Thank you for showing me a glimmer of the light.
Heyyyyy!!! We're sophisticated, Bob!!!! Wooohooo!!
Wait a minute, does that mean "Redneck Woman" can't be my favorite song