Use Yarn Reins for Gentler Hands

This trick will help you develop softer, more forgiving hands when you ride.


Are you too busy with your hands? Do you resort to grabbing the reins in an effort to force your horse on the bit? Here’s an exercise to help you develop a more sympathetic feel of your horse’s mouth. All you’ll need is some four-ply yarn.

Dressage on the trail
Do you need to work on having gentler hands? Photo: Skumer/Shutterstock

First, make a pair of reins from a strand of the yarn. Tie each end of the yarn securely to the rings of your horse’s bit. Next, tie your leather reins in a knot. They should be short enough so that the knot rests on your horse’s neck approximately where a martingale strap would sit. Now, hold the yarn “reins” in your hands and begin to ride. See how well you can communicate with your horse’s mouth using only the tension that the yarn will allow.

If you snatch and yank on the reins, you’ll break the yarn. That’s fine. Grab your knotted leather reins, settle down, and bring on some more yarn!

Of course, if your horse is a rambunctious puller, you’ll go through an entire skein of yarn in minutes. In that case, borrow a more suitable horse. This is an exercise for your benefit so that you can experience a kinder, gentler pair of hands.

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Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.



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