Fort Collins, Colo.
When Western riding, we use a Neck Rein and Bearing Rein to turn our horses, which is opposed to a Direct Rein, or what we used to call Plow Reining. Neck reining is faster, but the horse must learn how to respond to this move and this involves considerable training and time. This is not natural for a horse.
A neck rein applies pressure on the side of the neck to tell the horse to move away from the pressure. A bearing rein does the same, but it also pulls sideways and backwards on the bit. The neck rein is gentle; the bearing rein is powerful. For both, the horse must be trained to respond to neck pressure. Both should be used in short, light touches with a release or slack in between, never a long hard pull. That pull would make the horse open his mouth and perhaps throw his head around. Because these rein aids can be given with both reins held in one hand, they are used in Western riding, in polo and for any one-handed riding, like roping.
Leg aids help your horse understand what you are trying to tell him with the reins. In order to give a proper leg aid, you first need to have a good leg position. If your leg is too far forward or back, or waving in the breeze, your horse will not understand your aid. Leg aids should be given with the big muscle of your calf, not with your heel or ankle. This lets you give an “invisible” aid with the heels down. When I learned this, I was able to show horses that did not show well and with this aid I placed higher.
Asking your horse to swing his rear end one way or another is accomplished by one of your legs placed 3 or 4 inches behind the cinch (girth) telling the horse to move his hind legs sideways away from the pressure. This method is used to “steer” or direct his rear end. I always try to use leg aids to help my horse when reining.
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Roger Thompson is a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.
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