Joyce Swanson’s Training Map Part II – Difference Between the Inside and Outside Rein

In the previous article, I emphasized a straight horse and rider. A rider is more effective using his large muscle groups; seat and legs rather than his small muscle groups, hands.  A secure seat and effective legs are paramount to good horsemanship.  Hands should be secondary because there is much more value in riding the body of the horse than the head and neck.  This is an absolute must in creating a willing partner.

Inside Rein Riders Cannot Develop a Correct Half Halt

I previously mentioned specific problems associated with overusing of the inside rein. Remember, tipping the head or pulling it over in line with the inside shoulder threatens a horse’s most important balancing tool.  He is not bothered at all by your efforts to create a bend in his frame with your legs.  One aid causes discomfort, the other one comfortable, supple sides.

Years ago I paid a small fortune for a clinic with Charles DeKumfy during which he repeated over and over again that the inside rein was only for flexion.  At the time I was mentally, physically and hopelessly riding the inside of my horse until a brilliant mentor of mine took the time to explain the dynamics of DeKumphy’s expensive lesson.  The following was one of many light bulb moments in my journey.

In the following diagrams, picture an aerial view of your horse’s bent frame on a circle.  If you extend the action of the inside rein in any position it misses the body of the horse.  When you are sitting on your horse with long split reins, extend the bight of the rein from its origin in your hand to see where the action of the rein is directed.

Joyce Swanson's Training Map Inside vs. Outside Rein

In the first three examples, the action of the inside rein misses the body of the horse, thereby only influencing the horse from the wither forward. It is futile to try to half halt with this rein. It just keeps over bending the neck. Every backward action of the inside rein also pushes your horse’s hips out of position. Some horses that are chronically ridden this way will exert strong fighting pressure with their hip to the inside to resist the assault of the inside rein on their balance.  The hind legs can’t track up because of the backward action of this rein against the horse’s natural forward gait. This is what the term “rein lame” refers to when cadence is lost.  It is mentally frustrating to your horse and over time can result in physical damage such as sore backs and bog spavins.

The action of the outside rein in the fourth diagram demonstrates its tremendous effectiveness as it travels back through the rider’s hip and connects to the horse’s hips.  The outside rein is the only rein a rider can effect a half- halt with to manipulate the hindquarters of the horse. This very powerful aid sinks the hindquarters into the ground which is indispensible for collection and lateral work.  It is an elastic band that can create torque as the rider’s outside hand softly curls around it to secure it.  The rider’s upper body should rock back slightly and grow tall in the saddle to drive the horse forward from behind.

The outside rein harvests impulsion by monitoring forwardness and cadence created by the driving aids.  Please don’t think of it as simply a push-pull equation.  There is much more feel and finesse required. That is why understanding this powerful tool and using it correctly is a journey.  We have now covered the first prerequisites for correctness: accuracy, straightness, shaping your horse’s body correctly with legs and seat and understanding the very different roles of the inside and outside reins.


Authored by Joyce Swanson | Copyright © 2014 – Reproduction is strictly prohibited without written permission

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