Horsemanship How-to: Hold Reins Correctly


Hunter rider handsBoth English and western riders can sometimes be misguided as to how to hold the reins correctly. That diminishes their communication with their horse. When direct rein aids are used, a rein is held in each hand. In this manner, the rider increases contact with the right rein to turn right and the left rein to turn left. Unfortunately, some riders hold each rein as if they’re driving a horse in harness, with the rein held between the thumb and index finger. Holding the reins this way not only confuses the horse under saddle, but it undermines the rider’s control. Rein cues, including the command to halt, are weakened.

  • To hold a snaffle rein correctly (or anytime direct rein aids are employed), the rein should be inserted between the ring finger and little finger on each hand.
  • The rider then forms a loose fist around each rein, holding it flat against their palm.
  • With hand rotated slightly so the thumb is at the top of the fist, the rider then secures their grasp on the rein by pressing the slack or bight between their thumb and index finger.
  • Experienced riders may vary the manner in which they position their hands while schooling a horse with direct rein cues. Nonetheless, they will continue to hold the reins properly.

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  1. Wow! I’m a hunt seat rider/jumper, and I could really use this information! Lately my reins have been too long, so I can really use these techniques!


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