The Length of Reins is the Key to Your Horse’s Happiness

Laredo Dun It

The most common problem I see while traveling and coaching around the globe is the proper use of the reins. How long they should be? Most people assume if the reins are longer, then they are lighter, and this is better. This can be true until people pick up on their reins. When coaching I teach picking up the reins and reaching forward fairly short so that the contact is instant and light. If the reins are left long when picking them up, the rider will lose the instant contact and a lot of lightness due to the length of reins.

In rein management, I teach students not to use their little finger especially if they have strong hands. I instruct my students to hold the reins on the end of their fingertips. The rider’s job and mindset is NOT to make the horse put his head down, the horse will figure this out on his own if the rider is using the reins properly.

To summarize…while your goal is to keep your hands QUIET you should be prepared to rock the bit back and forth very gently if the reins become heavy. Don’t be forceful, let the horse decide it is ok to drop his head down and make sure the reins are at a comfortable length for him. Of course non of this works unless you are using your legs correctly. Knees bent, heels down, and ankles against the horse’s sides (plugged in), keeping the horse moving in front of your legs. This topic will be covered in much greater depth in a later article.

To book a private lesson with Bill Cameron on riding and rein management, contact

Going to a New Environment With Your Horse


One of the biggest challenges is to travel to a new environment with your young or inexperienced horse and keep them quiet and manageable.  Many horses become nervous and insecure when leaving the comfort of their stable.  It helps to have some kind of relationship with your horse to begin with but not totally necessary.

Your horse will react off of how you are with the horse.  What I mean is, one must move smoothly and quietly especially if your horse is acting up.  I have had great success over my lifetime with this strategy.

For horses that are extremely nervous and hypersensitive, I like to let them move. That is move their feet by walking circles or just leading them around.  I think when a horse can move anytime he wants he feels less threatened.  I will direct their movements but I won’t stop them.  Usually what happens is after a while they feel less threatened and realize they can stay and stand.  This is not the only method that works but in my opinion strategy wise, it causes the horse to think for himself and not put the rider in an adversarial position.

If I have a horse that I know is manageable and I can control him without too much physical interaction, I will choose a spot and will keep him in that spot by working my rope.  The idea is to have the horse’s attention on me and not everything else.

The handler’s awareness of what the horse is thinking is optimum. If you are thinking ahead of your horse, you can stop this behavior.  One must see things coming before they happen and a horse is very good about giving advanced warning.  Usually a simple light flick of the wrist flipping the rope will cause the horse to redirect his attention to me.  One must be very grounded and secure and not let yourself be caught up in the excitement.  Sometimes it’s not that easy.