All natural horse care in the west of Ireland

One Rein Riding
Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Single rein riding is the step that riders and horses should learn before being ridden on two reins. It is not a replacement for riding on two reins, it is just an intermediate step that most people tend to skip.

If you already ride on two reins, then you just need to go back and see what single rein riding can give you that you might be missing.

You will learn what it feels like to ride on a release and to ride a horse that is relaxed and soft.I think that once you have ridden on a single rein, you will never ride on two reins quite the same way again. And this is a good thing.

There is a difference in how you connect to your horse that you cant get if you never take that step of going to one rein for a while.

Here is an interesting article by Meredith Ransley (Quantum Savvy) on one rein riding.

The Road to Horsemanship True advocates of good horsemanship agree that horses should have options and this applies just as much to riding as to ground-skills. One of the most common questions that arises when students first reach the ridden part of the Quantum Savvy programme is, "wouldn't it be easier / safer just to ride with two reins rather than one" The answer to that is yes! and no!

Horses should have options and while riding with two reins may seem easier and less frustrating for us, it also means that we can cover a lot of things up. Having two reins suggests that we can get more control over our horses. In other words make him do as we ask. This takes away his options. The more gadgets we use, the less options he has. As for safety, riding with one rein is certainly not something we recommend you do without plenty of preparation first. And that entails first establishing respect and communication on the ground.

While a horse's instinct is to run, ours is to dig in and hold on. Here's a common scenario. A horse takes fright and feels the need to flee to safety - comfort is to run. The rider is scared by the horse being scared and instinctively grabs the reins to haul the horse in. The horse feels the extra pressure, becomes even more uncomfortable and feels less safe, grabs the bit in his teeth and bolts away, with the rider pulling away on the reins for all she's worth.

Just about all horse owners have seen it or had it happen to them. Truth be known, if a horse really feels the need to flee, nothing will stop him.

The fact is, that pulling on two reins gives your horse something to lean on and power up against, making him even stronger and more capable of running, bucking, bolting, shying, you name it, than ever. Just by pulling on two reins you are helping him to engage in a negative way! Teaching your horse to bend laterally with one rein, will disengage his hindquarter and take his power away, thus giving you control of his flight response. Until we can be trusted to over-ride our instincts to grab under duress, we are much safer riding with one rein so that we can't pull on two.

While many people believe that a bit is for brakes and control, as discussed earlier we can now see why this is merely a myth. Add to this the fact that the jointed snaffle bit, which is the most common bit in use, is a lateral flexion tool (meant for using 1 rein at a time) and not a vertical flexion tool which causes extreme pain to the roof of the horse's mouth in a nut cracker action when both reins are pulled on.

It is important to learn that one rein is for control, two reins are for communication and that a bit is for refinement of communication.

There is another myth that states that you are not safe unless you are riding in a bit. We would like to put it to you in another context. Riding in a bit does not make you safe! In a very real sense, you are not safe until you can ride in a bit. By that we mean that by the time you are riding in a bit, you have done a lot of preparation and you have such a great relationship with your horse, that you do not need a bit for brakes or control. Then you are ready for a bridle again.

The majority of our riding in Level 1 of the Quantum Savvy programme, is done with one rein, in a safe area. In Level 2 we ride more often with two reins, usually in the form of a hackamore, not getting into a bridle again until near the end of Level 2. This may seem like a long way off right now, however by the time most people get to this stage, they are no longer concerned whether they ride in a bridle or not.

Be safe, be smart, prepare yourself and your horse first by developing your ground-skills and relationship, and then get ready to learn to ride like the wind, experience the freedom of no-contact freestyle riding, develop an independent natural seat and to stay in time with your horse's every step. Enjoy the ride of your life!

- by Meredith Ransley

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