draw reins and diet


New Member
Nov 21, 2018
i have an ex point to pointer (gelding) whos re-training is coming along really well accept the fact that his top line is extremly poor. He is currently being kept in at night with more than enough hay and also half a bucket of dengie original chaff aswell as spillers conditioning nuts (3 cups). does any one have any not to expensive feeds that will help him build muscle without sending him crazy!

Draw reins(not the double reined kind, the ones which attach to the girth then the bit) - i have been advised to hack out in draw reins to keep his head at a constant level (not tied down) to keep him engaged uphills so im not constantly having to ask him to work. does anyone have a different aid which could help? also would lunging him in the draw reins help?

thanks sorry for the lengthy one!


Well-Known Member
Jan 6, 2006
I'd keep well away from the draw reins, and the people who suggest using them. You'll be forcing him into a position he doesn't have the strength or balance to maintain & risk making him sore and resentful. Better to use his hacking to work him long & low so he stretches over his top & steps actively under himself, the chances are he'll even find that hard to begin with. You want to feel his back start to lift as he uses his abs to lift & support himself, and his quarters should feel active as he starts to step through. Draw reins all too often restrict the horse which makes it feel tense so it braces it's muscles & you end up developing the wrong muscles on an unhappy horse.

Feed wise that doesn't sound much for a tb. The poor topline may be a lack of correct work or it may be partly due to a lack of protein & maybe even general calories. By original chaff do you mean Alfa A or HI Fi? There's a big difference in feed value. I don't know the starch and sugar levels of Spillers Conditioning cubes, but I'd bet they should be fed at a higher rate than 3 cups a day. There are a lot of different feeds out there, if you don't want fizz look for low starch & sugar but a high DE for weight gain. You could also try adding oil or micronized linseed for added calories without fizz.


Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2004
Suffolk, UK
I agree with @carthorse draw reins are not the answer, I'm not sure what you mean by not the double rein type, that's how draw reins are used. The only thing I can think that goes girth to bit is a harbridge, different thing entirely but still not appropriate.

I'd agree on the feed too, 3 cups is very little, if you check the bag there should be a recommended feeding rate, probably something like 3kg (roughly 3 of the big round stubbs scoops) for a average size horse. Feeding less than the recommended rate could mean they aren't getting enough essential nutrients as it's designed with that feeding rate in mind so if you feed less you need to balance those nutrients with something else.
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Mary Poppins

Well-Known Member
Oct 10, 2004
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I don't think that there are any shortcuts when it comes to building topline. The horse needs to be built up slowly and carefully. Putting draw reins on a horse with no muscle is only going to make him sore. You need to get him working from behind and naturally stepping into the contact. Lots of hacking, especially up hills and polework in the school would really help with this.
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Horse addict
Lots of good advice above - head position should come as a result of him working from behind and lifting his back as he steps under - not by holding his head in position. This does not come quickly, it took 2 years of training 3 or 4 days a week to get Scully carrying herself properly with decent muscles.


Learning together!
Apr 30, 2010
Surrey Hills
Just to agree with everyone about the draw reins. If he is clever, he will learn to go with his head down but not bother to do the other things like lifting his back and engaging his quarters. Ziggy my pony has learnt to "bend" by bending his neck, dropping his head and stepping under, but he doesn't actually yield his rib cage at all, so it's back to the drawing board for me. My Ri has given me an excercise to do with him on the ground that involves him stepping back and to the side - he can't do it lightly unless he's working properly. It really is an uphill struggle with some horses!


Horse addict
I have the same issue, but it is me rather than the horse - I hold onto the inside rein contact too much and it is really counter intuitive :confused: strangely I don't have the problem if I put both reins into the same hand.

This pic helps explain the aid for bend .... apologies if I am teaching grandma to suck eggs but it might help ....



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Nov 10, 2014
I’ve only ever used draw reins to discourage rearers. Never used them to force a horse into an outline that needs to come from behind to be true.

Teach your horse to carry himself not just his head.


With out my boys life would be bland
Apr 16, 2009
I have a TB they can find long and low quite difficult as they can be straight up front. Working from behind and under has to be taught slowly and correctly or you end up with a horse bent at the neck but not working correctly.

You can’t feed for top line that takes work. Like us when you get fat it goes where it wants you don’t get a choice I would like bigger boobs but when I gain weight it goes on my hips!!!! What you can do is take the weight gain and use as energy to build the muscle up. Muscle is muscle, fat is fat one does not turn to the other but muscle burns fat.

I feed my boy alpa a with oil and calm. & condition. I have never feed the recommended amount as it is just too much feed even through he is worked five days a week and competes most weekends. This amount would blow his mind and my bank balance as a bag would only last a week! add micro linseed to help with weight gain.

Be careful with Tb and ones that have raced most have ulcers this could be why he is not gaining any weight. Feed low sugar and low starch and lots of hay.

Agree with others about draw reins