Rein Holds for All Styles of Horseback Riding

Whether you ride English or western, learn how to hold your reins correctly.

This western, split rein hold with a leverage bit is just one variation of many rein holds for different disciples and bridles.

There are several different types of rein holds. They are based primarily on two things: what you’re going to be doing with the horse and the type of bridle you have in the horse’s mouth.

The Snaffle

A snaffle bit works off the corners of the mouth.

When you have reins that are set up in a western format, you can hold your split reins in what is called the bridge.

This puts the excess of either rein on the opposing side of the horse’s neck, and the two reins are held in the middle where they overlap. Place the reins in the palm of your hands so that tops of your hands are upright. At this point, you can either place your pinky beneath the excess of the rein on either side or grasp them around in a fist.

This allows you to work the horse’s mouth on either side.

ForEnglish, the slack of the reins will be together, usually held together at the ends with a buckle.

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The bight of the reins (the connected end portion) is off the right side of the horse’s neck – underneath your right rein. Each hand will hold a single rein. This is similar to how you would see a jockey hold the reins. Again, the pinkies can be on the outside of the reins or on the inside, grasping like a fist.

There is another type of rein hold called the trainer’s rein hold. This is oftentimes used when a trainer is teaching a horse to go between a snaffle to a curb.

This is the introduction into neck reining. The reins are placed similarly to the western bridge style with the slack of either rein on the opposing side of the clasp across the horse’s neck. However, only one hand holds the rein at the bridged portion with this style.

This allows for direct action when rotating the wrist or the hand can move farther up the neck to practice neck reining without direct contact on the bit.

The Curb

The curb bit works off of leverage versus direct pressure like the snaffle.

The reins are attached to the bottom of the shank. This creates leverage. Whenever there is direct contact with the bit, there is action.

For a western hold, the bight, or excess rein, is on the same side as the reining hand. If holding reins with the left hand, the bight needs to be on the left.

Position the hand right in front of the pommel of the saddle so that there is plenty of room to neck rein. Position the hand in a fist with the top of the hand facing upward. Your pointer finger should be between the two reins with the rest of the slack running through your palm.

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With a romal, unlike split reins, are attached at the bottom either by silver, rawhide or some other decoration.

In a romal hold, the reins are held as if the rider is holding an ice cream cone. The hand should be in a fist with the thumb upward and the slack of the reins in the palm starting the pinky side and coming up through the gap on the thumb side.

The free hand either holds the tail or quirt portion of the romal or it is placed on the thigh.

There are a variety of rein holds, depending upon the bit used and the discipline. These are a few of the most common western and English riding holds.

Watch this Video

Christy Landwehr of the Certified Horsemanship Association discusses and shows the various rein holds for both western and English disciplines.