A Better Rein

People often talk about their horse’s better rein. But which rein is better?

Surely it depends on what you’re doing?

One of the mares I ride has the tendency to put her quarters to the right. Someone recently described the right rein as her better rein.

But I beg to differ. Yes, she is more flexible through her rib cage to the right, but on smaller circles you risk riding a pirouette as her quarters come in and she struggles to move the left shoulder around on the circle. On the left rein smaller circles are harder for her to remain in balance, but she is easier to ride around twenty metre circles because she moves away from the outside leg better. 

So it makes sense here that her better rein, or perhaps more accurately, her more flexible rein, is the right rein.

But if you move on to different movements it becomes apparent that a more complicated analysis is needed.

If you look at the leg yield then on the right rein the mare is more likely to fall out through the left shoulder and evade the movement. So you actually get a better leg yield from her stiffer rein because she remains straight through her body.

Moving onto shoulder in. On the right rein the mare tends to be a bit sticky with her left shoulder, being reluctant to move it off the outside track. Whilst the greater flexibility on her right means that you can get a greater degree of shoulder in, it is actually harder to set up because her left shoulder gets “glued” to the fenceline. So left shoulder in is easier to ride.

Logic dictates that travers on the right rein is easier too because the mare’s default position is quarters right. But renvers on the right rein will be the harder of the reins.

Canter on the left rein is her better canter because she is straighter through her body, because on the right rein her quarters come in and there isn’t as much room for her inside hind leg to come under so the rhythm is less three time. I find riding right lead counter canter helps straighten the mare.

Really, there are elements of both reins that I feel are better and elements that are weaker. It highlights how important it is to develop both reins equally so that the horse can perform movements easily and correctly in a balanced way in either direction. 

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