Going Continental?

My reins are beginning to wear a bit smooth, so I’ve been contemplating getting some new ones, and am thinking that I move away from my rubber reins on my snaffle bridle towards plaited or continental reins.

Rubber reins were the staple piece of tack in our tack room when we were younger, and I remember many a time wrestling with air end to try and pull rubber martingale stops over the thick rubber grips. I moved away from the norm when I discovered the joy of half rubber reins. They were so much thinner in my hands. Not that I have small hands, but I enjoyed the closeness of my fingers around the reins.

Somewhere I’ve lost this; perhaps it’s because every bridle comes with full, bulky rubber reins, or perhaps it’s because become accustomed to using them on riding school horses and other peoples. Who knows!


Anyway, I cleared out my spare tack box over the weekend, mainly because it consisted of green leatherwork. After washing and oiling it, I was surprised by how many spare pairs of rubber reins I have. When I get new ones I don’t throw the previous ones away, just in case the new ones break, but then I end up with half a dozen worn pairs!

So I’m now on the search for some more durable reins, which won’t develop smooth patches. Today I saw some rubber grip reins, but they seem softer, less bulky, and more long lasting, so they may be a good option. Especially if they have good grip and don’t become slippery when wet, as they would be useful going cross country.

I once loaned a pony who wore continental reins, but they were the old fashioned cloth ones which were a bit floppy and always looked dirty! Now though, I’ve seen some nice leather continental reins which seem to be good grip, although you’d have to remember to avoid soaping them so they didn’t become slippery in your hand! For those who struggle to either hold the reins at an equal length, or to hold their hands level, I find these reins the best (without going down the childish coloured reins route) for being able to check hand position and rein length. However, I’ve seen people struggle with micro adjustments of the reins – perhaps the leather notches encourage you to make big adjustments so that a notch sits under your thumb, or perhaps the notches just aren’t comfortable in every position. I think the key to good continental reins is to have subtle notches, which means that leather ones are superior as the fabric ones are quite thin and flimsy in your hands.

Until recently, I haven’t had much experience of plaited reins, but one of my clients uses the modern style and they strike me as being quite a happy medium between continental reins and plain leather reins. The plaits provide grip and you can see to a certain extent whether your reins are level, but they are easier to adjust by small intervals. The older style reins, which are just big plaits of thin leather are soft in your hand, but always seem quite slippery to me.  

So what reins does everyone use, and why do you prefer this type?

2 thoughts on “Going Continental?

  1. A Life More Horsey Feb 9, 2016 / 8:13 pm

    I love my plaited reins, they have wonderful grip, look good and I have a closer contact than with my rubber ones. Definitely a winner!

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