If you’re new to cutting or thinking of getting involved in cutting you may have attended some shows or watched some live stream cutting to get a better understanding of the sport. If so, you might be wondering about all the different ways cutters hold and use their reins. Follow along in the video as Dennis Moreland visits with Clay Johns of Clay Johns Cutting Horses, Millsap TX about correct rein use in both the practice pen and the show pen.
A top priority of all riders is keeping the reins even between their hands and the bit. “I am always conscious of having the same amount of slack in each rein” says Clay. Uneven reins throw a horse off balance and may mistakenly pull it into or away from the cow. This causes confusion and makes cutting difficult for the horse. “You’ll see people looking at the tails of the reins to see if they’re even or not, but really, the important part, is between your hand and the bridle bit” says Clay. “Since pairs of reins aren’t always the same length (1 may have broken) and because one rein is on top of the other in your hands, it’s hard to get them even by looking at the tails. I can measure if they’re even by taking the slack out between my hand and the bit. If the pull there is even, you know your reins are even” advises Clay.
There are several ways to hold the reins when you’re riding cutting horses and which you choose is personal preference. “One way is to put the reins through the palm of your hand and close your fingers around the reins” says Clay. “The tails will come out the back of your hand.” Another way is to put your index finger between the 2 reins. “That adds just a little bit more control over the horse” advises Clay. “I hold my reins fairly loose in my hands and I have dropped that left rein. To keep that from happening I’ll double the left rein over my index finger and hold it with my 2 middle fingers and I’ll have 2 fingers (index and pinkie) between the reins that way.” Clay reminds “the thing you have to worry about is shortening the left rein when you do that. You’ve got to make sure the reins are even.”
To stop your horse at home you’ll want to lift the reins up with your rein hand and grab the slack (reins) with your other hand below your rein hand. Continue lifting the reins with your rein hand as you slide your other hand down the slack toward your horse’s neck. “I can’t stop like that showing” says Clay. “When I’m competing, I have to pick the horse up with one hand only, and it’s the same for turning to go back to the herd.” Another critical thing to remember is before you stop on a cow you need to make sure it’s a legal quit. “You need to wait for that cow to stop, or turn away, so you’re legally able to quit. I’ll touch the neck with my free hand to signal to my horse that we’re through” says Clay.
All these techniques for holding reins are legal for NCHA cutting. Riders can also hold the fingers of the rein hand open on the horse’s neck, if the hand is held close to the saddle. Clay says “although it’s legal to ride with your rein hand resting on the swell of the saddle, “I personally don’t like to see riders doing that because it puts the reins and your horse in a fixed position. You can ride with your horse better if your hand is free from the saddle.”
Trying all the legal hand positions to determine which you prefer while keeping the reins even and watching the cow are a few important pointers as you begin in the thrilling sport of cutting. As Buster Welch says, “cutting is a contest between a cutting horse and a cow and the rider has the best seat in the house!”
Since 1976, Dennis Moreland has been hand cutting and finishing bridle reins. This is Dennis’ 44th year in business! Dennis works closely with the tannery to get his harness and latigo leathers just the way he wants them for reins. Check out his harness leather reins and doubled and stitched latigo reins, they’re guaranteed to please. If you’d like help choosing just the right pair of reins give Dennis a call at 817-312-5305 or write firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll help you pick just the right reins for you!
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