Horse Training Tools - Reins
What are reins?
The reins are the straps that run from the bit (or bitless bridle) to the rider's or driver's hands. This may seem to be a simple thing, but there are actually quite a few different kinds of reins, including different materials and styles.
Here are just a few of them.
Plain Leather Reins - English
The most common kind of reins seen are plain leather reins. When used by an English rider, these hook around the bit rings and form a loop, with the rider holding the other end of the loop.
There are some variations. Billeted reins have a hook on the inside, which a hole in the leather is pulled over, whilst buckled reins secure with a buckle on the outside. Billeted reins are more traditional and many riders feel they look neater.
English leather reins may be a single strap, two straps sewn together, or two straps secured with a buckle. Some people prefer to be able to separate the reins for cleaning.
Plain Leather Reins - Western
Western reins are again most commonly plain leather. However, they are longer than English reins.
Some western reins are sewn or buckled together. Others are 'split' reins, where each rein is completely separate (Some people consider this safer, as the horse cannot get its foot through the reins in an accident, which can cause it to trip or even flip).
Used by some western riders, romel reins join together to form a braided lash, which is sometimes used as a whip. These reins are most commonly seen in working cow horse and similar classes at western shows.
(I have also seen split reins which extend further than normal and have leather on the end, which are also sometimes used as a whip. However, I have only seen this once - on a mule).
Mecate reins are made out of horse hair or marine grade rope. They are heavier than normal reins and are normally used either with a bosal, or with a snaffle bit and slobber straps.
Many trainers prefer horse hair reins as they believe the horse responds better to them when neck reining.
Chain reins have about six to eight inches of chain between the bit and the leather part of the rein.
Chain reins have two uses. In advanced western riding, they are used to add a slight bit of weight to the bit, allowing a much lighter touch on the reins.
They are also used on equines that are prone to trying to bite through the reins. For this reason, they are commonly seen on mules, who tend to chew things more than horses do.
Many English riders swear by 'rubber' reins. These are simply leather reins with a rubber grip wrapped around them, usually starting about halfway up.
Rubber reins provide additional grip and some riders prefer the feel of them. Plastic grips are also sometimes found. They are very popular in the jumper ring.
Corded or Webbed Reins
Webbed or corded reins are cheap and offer good grip, especially when one's hands are sweaty. Some webbed reins, however, are harsh enough that the rider will need gloves to keep them from damaging their hands.
Webbed reins normally have leather or rubber 'stops' to prevent the rein from sliding through the rider's hands. They are often seen on eventers.
Most webbing reins have a leather segment near the horse's mouth. This is designed as a breakaway to prevent an accident if the horse gets its hoof through the reins.
Reins should be sized to both the horse and the rider.
English reins come in three sizes: 48" for ponies, 54" for smaller horses or horses with short necks and 60" for large horses.
Western reins are much longer, with split reins generally being 7'6" or even 8'. (There should be a lot of extra rein and a western horse is ridden in a longer frame).
The second element of rein sizing is width. Reins range from 1/2" to 3/4" width, in general. (Double bridle reins are thinner). To determine the width of rein you want, hold them as if riding and simply choose the one most comfortable in your hands. Rein width depends on hand size and also personal preference.