Direct Rein

Fine tune direct reining for a controlled and comfortable horse.

From Fundamentals of Horsemanship

Have you ever wondered how a barrel racing horse bends its neck and body and swoops tightly around a barrel? Or how a working cow horse turns the cow on the fence? Those fine-tuned skills are cultivated through a fundamental of horsemanship: direct reining.

Through honing use of a direct rein, you will establish clear communication with your horse from the saddle, and you will learn how to “allow” direction, rather than force it.

How Do I Do It?

The direct rein position is as follows: Pick up the reins in the middle, and slide your hand down the rein. Keep the rein between thumb and forefinger.


Get your copy of the industry’s most-comprehensive horse teaching tool, Fundamentals of Horsemanship.

Open your little finger toward the outside, and open your arm out to a height of 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock.

When you direct the horse, don’t pull the horse; just offer him a direction. Any firm use of the rein should only follow the aid of seat and legs. To teach the direct rein, open your inside leg and apply pressure only with your outside leg, just behind the girth.

Be careful not to lean toward the direction you are asking the horse to take. Leaning into a turn interferes with your horse’s movement. Think of pushing your turns, rather than pulling them.

Open your inside leg, and close your outside rein and outside leg. If you offer the horse a selection of doors, which are either open or closed, he will naturally choose the path of least resistance.

AQHA’s Fundamentals of Horsemanship will give you the inspiration, skills and confidence to create a more rewarding relationship with your horse.

The Breakdown

This exercise can be broken down into four steps:

1.    Focus: Look toward the place you plan to go.
2.    Seat: Transfer your weight to your outside pocket.
3.    Leg: Gradually close your outside leg to push the horse’s forequarters over.
4.    Rein: Lead the horse in the chosen direction.