That Pesky Outside Rein

How not to bend your pony...

Something Jen blogged about the other day really got the dressage gears turning in my brain. She was talking about how when working on a circle in her recent lesson, her trainer was asking her to GIVE with the outside rein to encourage her pony to bend correctly.

Flashback to my last couple lessons during which MY trainer was telling me to put my outside hand forward while we were working on a 20m circle.


But also wacky and counter-intuitive. Sort of like ALL OF THE DRESSAGE we have been learning lately. MORE contact?! GIVE the outside rein?! Madness! All of it!

Thankfully the more I thought about it, and the more I chewed on Jen's post, the more it made sense to me.

When one thinks about the way a horse's body has to move in order to bend, the whole outside must stretch and lengthen while the inside contracts. This is basic physics.

So, it follows, to let the horse truly bend, they need to be allowed to take that outside rein around.

Which is totally the opposite of what everyone is taught when learning to ride a horse on the bit - strong outside rein! Don't let that outside rein out of your grasp for a second! Perhaps because giving the outside just enough requires a more subtle feel than just keeping the outside rein strong and steady.

In any case, I ventured (in a sort of crippled way) aboard my noble steed the last two nights, and I noticed a few things:

- When you are strongly holding every single abdominal and back muscle you own in order to protect your demented spine, your posture and rider-self carriage improves immensely. I think many minutes of planks are in my future...
- The concept of needing more bend before my pony can move off of my inside leg is starting to make sense in my brain. My trainer has said this to me a few times, and the giving outside rein thing is making it click.
-When I stopped trying to hold Dino on the rail or circle with my outside rein and let the outside of his body stretch into the bend, he was a lot easier to keep where I wanted him.
-It's really hard to ride with both a back brace and new boots on!
-If the rider is turning their shoulders properly to bend the horse (inside shoulder back), it follows that the outside hand will naturally move forward while the inside hand moves back. Neat!

So, there are my last dressage thoughts of 2014. Have a safe and happy New Year, everyone!


  1. I do the same thing. Love me some grabby grabby outside rein. Henry... not so much love for that habit.

  2. You're totally on the right track! When you get to increasing flexion in bend, you'll further explore this. It's a totally interesting communication dance between the inside and outside rein and inside and outside balance. Love that about dressage.

  3. I have to say, this is one of the things I love about riding and dressage. Every time I think I've got something down pat, a new level of sophistication comes up and I have something new and awesome to work on! My hanging rein is my right one, no matter what way I'm tracking. I'm not sure, but it probably has something to do with being right handed, twisting my body left all the time and thus setting myself up for incorrect bend, and trying to 'fix' it, so I too have been paying a ton of attention to my hand position and giving with that right hand. We'll get there someday!!

  4. I'm so glad all of that helped, and I can't wait to work on it further myself. Been gone way too long!

  5. reading this is just reaffirming to me that i need a lesson BAD lol... nice concepts tho - hopefully it helps out and improves your schooling!!


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