How Long Should My Reins Be

answering your polo questions riding Mar 24, 2022

Ever wonder what the correct length is for your reins while you ride? Remembering that this is the 'steering wheel' of the horse.

Here are my thoughts on rein length and why it is so important to get it right when riding.

How Long Should My Reins Be


So, just to jump into that last question then. It came in from Andy Martin and he just asked, 'One question among many I have is, how long should the reins be as an average, because I know it may be different for everyone. I have some people telling me to shorten the reins and others telling you to lengthen them. No one instruction is absolutely the correct instruction, but the has to be something that is always right.' Over to you Gav.

I think that's such a great question, to be honest, because it's something that, you know, I keep advocating that I never have one grip on the reins. I'm always adjusting length and if you're talking about how to hold the reins and how to adjust them correctly. That's really, really important. Okay.

But if you taking a general rule, your hands should be over the withers of the horse, in front of your saddle. So, if you too short your hands against the neck, okay. And if you too long, that hand is back behind the pommel of the saddle.

Now the reins that are too long, are as problematic as the reins that are too short. Because remember that every time you go to hit the ball, you lean forward and you let the reins go loose because they're too long, you can't do otherwise.

Or they make you sit back and hit the ball here, which is incorrect. So, I talked yesterday about that left arm and what it's doing in your swing. And you've got to keep a contact with the horse, by allowing that elbow to actually come slightly forward so that you still riding your horse here. And you've got contact with the reins.

But that hand has got to be just in front of the pommel, okay. Now the reason I think it's such a great question is, there is no one rein length that is going to be correct.

Because if you at a walk and your hands are in that position, okay, and you're wanting a nice, gentle feeling to the mouth, the reins are going to be a lot longer.

And as you get into a trot, you'll find you have to shorten them up. So, get your right hand, behind your left hand, grab the reins there, and slide your rein hand slightly up to keep it in that position.

Now you're get in to a canter, and again, just because of the gait of the horse, the reins feel long again. So, you would have to shorten up a little bit more.

So, actually there're three correct rein lengths, depending on the speed you're at, okay. But also remember that if you riding too long, your adjustments with the horse. Also your hand is moving so far that the horse gets confused, it starts to get unbalanced.

Where if you've got your hands where I'm telling you, there's a little bit of space, okay, between your hand and the horse's neck. And again, it depends on the horse, because if it's a very upright head and it's high head carriage. Your hands are going to be a lot near the neck, then on a horse, that's got a correct head carriage or low head carriage. Okay.

But if your hands are just in front of that pommel there, okay, on the horses withers. Now your adjustments, it's like driving a formula one racing car. You wanting that direct steering. When you've got the long reins like this, it's like driving an American saloon car with power steering that you've got to adjust far more to get the feeling of the direct steering.

Where that is changing what's happening to the car. Same with your horse. You're going to do this with long reins. Where with you short reins, it's that to correct the horse, and the horse is much more balanced and knows what you're asking, and it doesn't overcompensate.

And you start to get this feeling of the horse flopping from side to side. So, three rein lengths for the different gaits, walk, trot, and canter. And just keep that hand in front of the pommel, over the withers.