Rein Bows Rein-Loops – Can they help with improving feel for contact?

loops

Image source: http://www.equiport.co.uk/products/horse/training-aids/reinbows-rein-loops-l14/

Very few rider’s errors are more damaging to the horse than a busy, insensitive hand and therefore the development of good feel of how much connection is too much and how little is of no help, is something many riders work on for years.

Although I dislike horse training gadgets, the rider training gadgets always have my attention. I am all for trying anything that helps improve and heighten awareness without negatively influencing the horse  and so when I spotted these rein-loops they intrigued me.

They are not completely unfamiliar to me as I have seen similar rein bows being used by para riders and I also known someone who used reins with several loops at different places on her very fizzy jumping mare. I decided to give it some thought and try a home-made version to test the “device”.

My observation are as follows (I didn’t use the loops pictured but made a pretty similar DIY version of them; my version wouldn’t be good long-term and I am guessing the rein bows rein-loops are much easier to clip on/off than my rather imperfect imitation):

– the device certainly helps with maintaining rein length. It gives a very defined hand position, steadies it and makes the rider more aware of the hand placing which I liked for my Foundation level riders who generally don’t ride with meaningful rein contact.

– it helps with relaxation of the lower arm, wrist and hand muscles. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that the rider no longer focuses on keeping the reins from slipping or perhaps somehow holding a loop feels “softer” and alike carrying something than when rein is held conventionally and invites a downward pull

– speaking of downward pull – this is another bonus I noticed. Riders were less likely to carry their hands too low or putting pressure downwards towards their little finger. I really liked this effect because downward rein pressure not only stiffens the horse through the neck and at the wither but also starts a vicious cycle of the rider haunching through their shoulder, sitting on the fork of the seat and “riding the head” instead of the entire horse.

– it was easier for some riders to understand and feel the concept of “riding the neck away” from them rather than shortening it in transitions. It seemed they were happier to relax their upper and lower arm in transitions perhaps due to the fact the loop gave them more “contact security” to fall back on if they wanted to hold.

– the riders had more awareness of “left hand being connected to the right hand” and so they tended to feel better for the position of the bit in middle of the horse’s mouth as well as for “carrying just the weight of the bit” and not pulling it up/out/down. I noticed better use of supporting outside rein and less tendency of inside rein over-use. That I found very interesting.

– the effect I didn’t like was that when the rider wanted to exert more backwards pressure they could and they would hold it for longer than with a single rein. I am guessing this is why in the product description the seller advertises that “Rein-Bows can be useful on horses that tend to lean and pull, as they prevent the reins being pulled through the rider’s hands. “. However, as I strongly disagree with using stronger pressure on pulling horses (except for when you are approaching a tree/car/train and you have no other option but hit it!), I see this feature as a counter-education for both rider and the horse. 

Horses that lean on the rider’s hands or pull on the reins need re-education by an experienced and tactful rider who can school them to use their body correctly under the weight of the rider. Using the loop reins in this situation would be like adding fuel to the fire. Pointless. Dangerous. Not even remotely horse friendly.

Based on my little experiment and considering the negative effect mentioned above I would not want to use those reins for re-training riders who tend to be “handy” and correct all body issue in the horse by manipulating the mouth as I found this device to be counter-productive in such situation. 

To sum up, I would personally be quite happy to use these periodically with some riders to train awareness and relaxation in the wrists, fingers and arms.

Has anybody tried this product? What did you think?

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