View Full Version : Draw Reins
10th Jul 2002, 08:46 AM
I noticed that this subject has been discussed before, but was wondering if anyone can give me any feedback on draw reins. I have been riding for years and intermittently doing prelim/novice dressage when work committments allow. I recently started schooling a friends horse and the past few weeks have been going really well, the horse has started to soften, accept the bit and work off his inside hind-leg and we've been getting to point where I can ask for collection/extension and some of the more complex lateral work which as far I am aware he hasn't previously done. However, I rode last night, and it seemed like we had gone back almost to the beginning. He was stiff in the neck, had no correct bend and was really fighting through his back. It's has been a long time since I have had any problems with him. Anyway, I finished riding after 40 minutes of intense schooling in an attempt to loosen him up and when I was talking to my friend it turns out that this past week, she has been riding him in draw reins. Now, I have never used draw reins with any of my horses, and always thought they were a bit of a cheats way out. Is this correct, or can they have any benefits? Or, is this cause of the backwards step in the horse's schooling? Common sense is telling me, that if the horses neck has been pretty much locked in position for the last few times he has been ridden, then to suddenly not have the draw reins like last night, he may be experiencing some stiffness through his back and neck. However, my friend is an experienced rider and I would have thought she would have given this some serious consideration before going this route. Any ideas anyone?
10th Jul 2002, 09:23 AM
i think the draw reins are probably the cause of his stiffness. your common sense is right, and also, if he's at the stage where he's only starting to accept the bit and go nicely, he probably can't keep it together for a long time. if he's used to working, having a stretch and then working again, then draw reins forcing him to stay in that outline will have made him sore, and also unwilling to "give' again as he thinks he won't be able to move once he's there, so he'll fight you as you describe.
did you ask her why she was riding in draw reins? it sounds like he was coming on quite nicely without them. and has she noticed what the effect on him has been? hopefully she will see what it's doing and stop.
i'm not a fan of draw reins. my general feeling is that if you can't get a horse working correctly without them, then you aren't experienced enough to use them correctly. in some circumstances, used to show the horse what you want and then taken off, they can be useful, but they'd really be a last resort for me.
10th Jul 2002, 10:03 AM
Draw reins are definately a cheats way out...
but you know what???? those that use them are only cheating themselves...once your horse gets past training level it needs to be able to tuck it's nose correctly, and draw reins don't allow for that. YOu'll constantly be getting comments about incorrect bend as you move through the levels and it will always hold you back. Trust me, I know, the last horse i showed had been draw reined extensively when my barn got him. He LOOKED like he placed perfectly, but it was actually very incorrect, it was constantly an issue i had to work with to get him to tuck his nose correctly and develope muscles in the right places, draw reins won't develope the muscles correctly at all. Definately work on placement yourself, it may take longer, but it'll turn out all the nicer in hte end ;)
10th Jul 2002, 10:48 AM
Draw reins - yeuch! Yes I've used them - as a teenager when I didn't know any better. I made myself a promise of never to use gadgets when I bought Peri as an unbroken 4yo and have never broken that promise - although I will she has tempted me on occasion. They are a short cut to trouble particularly in the hands of an uneducated rider and cause more problems than they solve. In the hands of a master used once or twice for a specific purpose on a spoilt horse when all else has failed they have a use. My thoughts would be that your friend needs educating to ride in the way that you are educating her horse, then she will not be undoing all your hard work.
10th Jul 2002, 11:05 AM
Draw reins encourage the horse to bend, yes - but not from the poll where flexion is needed - they bend from further down the neck and without engaging the hindquarters. True flexion is achieved through riding the horse forward from the hindquarters onto the bit, not by forcing him back into an outline.
This type of outline also tends to result in the horse hollowing his back to escape the pressure of the reins, as even when draw reins are loose they still have an effect.
I've known several people who insist draw reins have a place and in experienced hands can help correct problems, but I feel that a good rider can correct those problems without draw reins and more effectively.
It sounds as though you were progressing really well before the introdution of draw reins; I think maybe talking to your friend to find out why she used them and explain why you feel they're not helping would be the best way to go forward from here.
10th Jul 2002, 12:08 PM
Thank you one and all. You have certainly confirmed my suspicions. I was also wondering what your ideas were on the use of spurs?
I am also a little concerned that the owner of the above horse is needing to use spurs to encourage engagement of the inside hind leg. So far I have not needed to use spurs with this horse and from my experience would say that the animal really doesn't need them. However, if she finding she needs to ride him in draw reins (and it is my suspicion that this week has not been the first week that this has happened), and he is stiffening up then is it possible that she is needing the extra 'omph' from the spurs to get that level of extra impulsion from the inside hind? Surely, if this is the case then the draw reins and spurs combined are going to keep undoing any good work I put in during the week?
I am not entirely sure why she is using draw-reins as no one else on the yard uses them, and certainly they are not having the desired effect. I am just wondering now, whether some of the other problems she has asked me to help school her horse for (such as moving off the leg without spurs) are now inter-related. And if so, how do I approach this subject with her without offending her!?!
10th Jul 2002, 01:02 PM
i have no issues with spurs *used correctly*. if her legs aren't as strong as yours, then maybe she needs them. on the other hand, if she's using them because the draw reins have stopped him going forward, then there's a problem.
i'd definitely ask her about it - how about "i found him very different to ride this week, stiff, fighting, etc, have you noticed it? have you done anything different?" that way you aren't going in all guns blazing, and when she says yes i've been using draw reins, ask her what made her think he needed them, as you've had no problems in that area. if she isn't as good a rider as you are, then maybe she isn't having the same level of success with him.
could you tactfully suggest that some lessons might help?
but yes, if it carries on, then the draw reins and spurs aren't going to do your training any good at all.
10th Jul 2002, 10:18 PM
Yes certainly the draw rein will cause a horse to back off and not go forward correctly. They also cause a horse to go behind the vertical, which is another way the horse is actually evading the bit. The draw reins are actually pulling his head into his chest and this is unnatural, so no wonder he has become so stiff throughout his back!. Has she seen you ride him without all the gadgets? Possibly a more tactful way to approach the subject with the owner is to watch her ride him in the draw reins and spurs then get on him afterward without them. Explain that he has become very stiff in the back. Ask an outside person at the stable to comment on how he has changed since being ridden in the gadgets? but if this doesnt work , the kindest way is to just tell her straight out.....its the horse who is suffering in the long term, not the owners feelings....she will get over it, im not sure the horse will!
29th Jul 2002, 07:55 AM
Thanks everyone for your advice. In the end I just told my friend that I thought the draw reins weren't helping and she stopped using them. The horse moved much better without them the following week and hopefully I have managed to persuade my friend that this is a good sign!
Still not sure about the whole spurs issue though - I guess I'll have to wait and see on this one. I am fairly certain that my friend needs them because of the draw reins and the fact that she isn't encouraging the horse to relax his back properly. I am hoping that by encouraging the horse to move away from the leg then my friend may eventually find it easier to get the response that she wants as well.
Again thanks to everyone.
29th Jul 2002, 09:11 AM
you could show her the light by suggesting that you do a joint schooling session at intervals so she can see what you have been working on, and how things are going. Then you can lead by example, and show how nicely he goes without spurs etc.
Having said that, she may have a weaker leg than you, especially if she has not had to use it because of the draw reins/spurs partnership.
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