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Doris Eraldi

Hold Your Western Reins Correctly


By Doris Eraldi

Riding out on the trail or schooling, riders often hold their reins in whatever way is most comfortable or useful. Riding casually, we might use two hands, or cross the reins, or switch frequently from hand to hand, but in the horse show ring, rules are very specific about how the reins are held, and mishandling them can be cause for disqualification. The United States Equestrian Federation Rule Book (http://www.usef.org/), states:

Article 3902. Instructions to Riders. Only one hand may be used on reins and hands must not be changed except to negotiate an obstacle in a Trail Horse Class. Hand to be around reins. When end of split reins fall on side of reining hand, one finger between reins is permitted. When using romal or when ends of split reins are held in hand not used for reining, no finger between reins is allowed. Rider may hold romal or end of split reins to keep them from swinging and to adjust the position of the reins provided it is held at least 16” from the reining hand.

Holding the reins incorrectly is one of the most common mistakes new show-riders make. It’s important to know the correct ways of holding the reins, and to practice the one that is right for you and your equipment, if you plan to compete.

There are two styles of reins allowed in Western Show events –here I am addressing Western Pleasure, Trail and Equitation/Horsemanship in particular. Romal reins are usually braided leather, and are closed with an attached extension (the romal) which is held in the free hand. Split reins are generally plain leather, and are two separate reins which are not attached to each other or tiedHolding Romal Reins together in any way. Each style of reins is held in a different way. Romals are held in either hand, with the reins coming from the bit to the bottom of the hand (little finger) and the thumb lightly over the rein. No fingers are allowed between the reins. The extension of the romal is held in the free hand on the opposite side of the rein hand, and that hand is usually held against the leg. Holding Split ReinsSplit reins are quite different. Again you may use either hand though the left is the most commonly used, but the split reins go from the bit to the index finger, which is often between the reins. The extra reins then hang untouched on the same side as the rein hand. One finger is allowed between splits, or no fingers between, but more than one is reason for disqualification.

If you have not been holding the reins correctly, it can feel very awkward and uncomfortable to change. Practice before the show, so that you can shorten or lengthen the reins easily without using your free hand.


Doris Eraldi of Eraldi Training in Potter Valley specializes in Pleasure horses and Equitation riders. She can be contacted at 707-743-1337, or by e-mail dyan@eraldi.net or visit her web site at www.eraldi.net






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