Horse Training Tools - Draw Reins
What Are Draw Reins
Draw reins are an extra set of reins. They run through the rings of the bit and then to the girth either at the sides or at the bottom between the horse's legs.
Draw reins may be made of either leather or a synthetic material. They are also sometimes called 'running reins'.
Why Are Draw Reins Used?
Draw reins are used to lower the horse's head and encourage correct head carriage. Experienced trainers may also use them to help the horse develop the correct muscling in the neck and shoulders.
A market harborough, a kind of martingale, is sometimes used for the same purpose. Draw reins are generally not, however, used to increase control over the horse.
The Problem of Draw Reins
Draw reins are probably one of the most over-used gadgets around. Correctly, they should be used only by an experienced rider or trainer, and for short periods.
However, many people use them every time they warm up or even every time they train. This creates significant problems.
First of all, not everyone who uses draw reins knows how to use them correctly. The draw rein should never be used to stop the horse - all cues should be given with the regular rein alone. Not everyone has the skill to correctly use two reins and separate the action of the two.
Second of all, draw reins do not create a correct frame from the back of the horse. They only correct the head. Therefore, they should not be (but often are) used as a substitute for correct schooling and teaching self-carriage.
Third of all, the excessive use of draw reins can actually cause the horse to carry its head higher and hollow its back when the draw reins are removed.
Finally, if you must use draw reins, leather ones are preferable to the cheap synthetic or nylon ones. Nylon draw reins will not break if they get caught on something and can easily pull the horse down. Never jump or ride through thick brush when using draw reins.
Never ride with just draw reins. People do do this, and it is absolutely guaranteed to cause the horse to overbend.
Draw reins, used incorrectly, can stiffen the horse's back and end with a trip to the chiropractor.
Remember that any training gadget is a short cut - and if you are not entirely sure how to use it, leave it to the experts.
Personally, I learned my lesson with draw reins - I am guilty of using them until the horse learned to lean on them and actually making is frame and carriage worse. I now am against their use except for very short periods of time, by an expert, to correct a specific problem. However, many others disagree with me and draw reins remain a common training tool.