Draw Rein Dilemma

I feel that lately I’ve seen numerous negative opinions floating around the internet lately about draw reins and their use in the equestrian world.

Even wikipedia seems to feel pretty strongly about their use:  While a regular rein is the strap that attaches to the bit and is held by the rider, these types of reins slide through the bit ring adding leverage to the rider’s hands and arms, allowing the rider to force the horse’s head into a desired position.

I just wanted to throw out my two cents, and see what other people out there are thinking.

My two cents:

two cents

I do use draw reins on my mare. Not every ride, never to jump, and not to use as a short-cut. We tried O in the draw reins a few months after she arrived to try to guide her into a forward, comfortable frame. She is naturally heavier on the forehand, and this encouraged her to reach into the contact and use her back end. My standard for using them is to start off with the draw reins in contact, and walk, trot, canter. Usually O will soften and relax to carry herself around.

Then I drop the pressure and let her stretch down and we do it all over again, walk, trot, canter. It is a learning tool, and one that I think does a wonderful job for us. Could we do the same thing without it, yes…does it give me a bit more leverage, yes….do I use it as a crutch to cut training corners…NO.



Please note that because my horse has a lower headset we do clip the ends of the reins to the sides of the girth versus between the front legs. Works well for her.

Roughly how we do our draw reins.

Roughly how we do our draw reins.

With that said, I also have seen horrible examples of people using draw reins on their horses. Yes, I hate it, but I don’t think it should take away the value they can bring in the correct hands! Feel free to share your opinions, but please don’t blast me for mine.

18 thoughts on “Draw Rein Dilemma

  1. The first few years I had Bobby, he’d go in them a couple of times a month for a tune up ride. It never broken him, it never scarred him for life. I think they’re a tool that’s often misused, but they’re certainly not the devil that everyone thinks they are.

    • Exactly. I have and do use them on Cosmo. He has been inverted for so much of his life he needs help figuring out to use himself correctly, but we don’t need them very often. I think they are great for tune-ups and serve as a helpful tool, but certainly can be bad in the wrong hands.

  2. I’m a ‘less is more’ type of rider. That being said, I don’t mind the variety of tools available for people to use. All horses are different. Some horses need a different style of training that others. Who am I to judge if I don’t particularly know that horse or rider? I do, however, know of one particular young girl at my last barn who rode in draw reins (and still rides in them) every single time she rides. In effect, she uses them to force his head where it should be. That I don’t agree with. But I’m not her, and it’s not my horse, so I have no right to tell her what to do. It just inwardly makes me twinge every time I see her ride.

    • Ehhh, yeah sounds like I wouldn’t be a fan of her either. I think that they are great for a ‘tune up’ ride as Carly mentioned, but people tend to fall back on them too often sometimes. But I also agree, that each horse is different, so hard to judge!

  3. I have never used them myself and don’t plan on it for quite a while yet, mostly because I don’t trust myself or my hands. I have to concentrate on having soft hands a ton.
    However, I have considered them before and really think it would help my Lady to go in them a few times to help her understand the correct position. 🙂

  4. I’ve been a proponent of draw reins for a long time as long as you know how to use them and don’t use them all the time. I’ve implemented them for several horses and I find they are a good tool to encourage a horse to stretch down and carry himself. I will usually keep them just loose enough that the pressure is still on the main rein and then tighten my pinkies and rotate my wrist a little when I want to add the extra leverage. Sometimes I need to shorten them up for a little while and then gradually let them out so the horse “gets it” but I do like them.

  5. I have used them on my mare as well. My mare is very strong, likes to duck onto the forehand to avoid engaging her hindend, and really just pulls me around the ring. Rather than fight with her, I would rather she fight with herself. The drawreins, attached to the side of the girth, helped her realize she can’t lean on me to carry her around the ring, she has to carry herself. She improved dramatically after using them for about 3 weeks, and I haven’t used them since. It is important people know how to use any training tool correctly and if they don’t they shouldn’t use it. I absolutely despised side reins until I learned their usefulness and how to properly use them. I now lunge in side reins any time I lunge. If you know how to use a training tool effectively and properly, they can be magical! If not, it can be an utter disaster.

  6. I don’t use them anymore, but when I rode for the jumper barn we used (more like had them if we needed them) almost all of the time. There were two main riders/bosses in the barn. The horses of the rider that knew how to flat a horse correctly and only put the draw reins to use when it was necessary, were so soft, supple, and fun to ride. The horses of the rider that constantly used them as a crutch were usually stiff and resistant. Not to mention they had more soundness issues. This rider wasn’t some idiot, but a two time Olympian. Yet, he had absolutely no idea how to use draw reins correctly (or just didn’t care). Honestly, he kind of ruined me on them. I’m not completely against draw reins, but I don’t necessarily think they should be the first option when a rider is having problems just so it’s easier. I’ve seen them in the wrong hands more often than the right hands and too many horses develop more problems than they had in the first place. I guess what I’m trying to say is there is such a huge grey area that it really just depends on each individual case, it’s not as black and white as good or bad.

  7. Draw reins are tools, and tools in the right hands can make wonderful things happen. People just need to know when they are educated or uneducated enough (knowing if you are undereducated can be tough with most people’s egos)

  8. Great post! I was taught to use draw reins by a very good trainer, and use them willingly in situations that I feel they will help. Obviously they aren’t for every horse, but it’s our job as horsemen/women to determine the best tools for our creatures. 🙂

  9. Much as I detest seeing a horse ridden in the same training aid every. single. ride, I love draw reins for a horse that’s heavy on the hands or pokes its face in the air. I actually feel that they are among the gentler training aids since the pressure is not so directly on the bit as it is with side reins or even ordinary reins. Also, it’s close to impossible for a horse to lean on the hands in draw reins, so it teaches him to carry himself.
    I’ve used draw reins on most of the horses I’ve ridden, usually not for more than two weeks at a time, and not during every session in those two weeks, either. I use them to tune up schooled horses when they get heavy on the hand as well, usually only for a week or two, as well.
    As many have said, they’re like any tool – great in the right hands, bad in the wrong ones.

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