One of my favorite questions to help riders with is “which split reins are right for me?”. When choosing between doubled and stitched, and harness leather reins, it’s important to know which type of rein will best fit your discipline, expectations and climate. You’ve also got to consider the functionality of each type, your personal preferences, and your hand and horse size.
To make doubled and stitched reins, I cut two strips of tight-fibered leather for each rein. After preparatory steps including adding leather to the tail ends for weight, I place one strip on top of the other (double) and stitch the 2 pieces tightly together. To finish the reins I edge, rub, oil, and rub them again. My doubled and stitched reins come in 2 weights: heavy and medium, 3 widths: ½ inch, 5/8 inch and ¾ inch, and 2 lengths: 7 feet and 7 feet 9 inches. You also have the choice of latigo leather on latigo, or harness leather on latigo.
The hides I cut for harness leather reins are consistently thicker and heavier in the shoulder and butt ends. The entire length of each hide is cut with the thicker, heavier areas becoming the tail and bit ends of the reins, which makes them naturally weighted. To finish each rein I edge, rub, oil, and rub it again. My harness leather reins are 5/8-inch-wide and available in light weight (X) and heavy weight (DM, XX, XXX and XXXX) models. The only other variation is the length which runs between 6 ½ feet and 8 plus feet depending on the model.
Split reins are excellent for training, ranching, showing and riding the trails. The width of rein you choose depends on the size of your hands and how the reins feel in your hands. In general, the ½ inch wide reins work well for smaller hands, the 5/8-inch reins work well for almost everyone and the ¾ inch reins are preferred by riders with larger hands or who want a wide rein to train in. The height of the horses you ride and the amount of slack you like to have in your reins are key factors when choosing length.
If you need drape, as in western pleasure, I recommend 7’9” doubled and stitched reins in ½ inch or 5/8-inch widths, or XXX or XXXX harness leather reins. These will provide an eye-catching drape and they’ll only get better with age.
For horses that are smaller, such as cutters, snaffle bit cow horses and many young horses, I recommend my 5/8 inch doubled and stitched medium or heavy weight reins in 7 feet. If you’ll be throwing them a lot of slack between your hand and the bit you may want to go with 7 feet 9 inches. In harness leather I suggest the DM, XX or XXX models. Both the doubled and stitched and the harness leather reins will feel great in your hands, provide excellent communication with your horse and the weight in the tail ends of the reins will keep them in place during quick starts and turns.
If you’re reining, you want to be able to take your reins up and let them out quickly during runs. This is where the ½ inch doubled and stitched reins, or the lighter weight Long X reins, come in handy. Both give you a long drape and are still easy to handle for those smooth but quick changes in rein length.
For ranching, trail riding, or any time you’ll be in the saddle for extended periods, the lighter weight of the X and Long X harness leather reins make them easy to hold all day. If you prefer a thicker rein the XXX or XXXX, depending on the size of your horses, are good choices. If you live in cold climates my doubled and stitched reins will stay flexible even in the coldest weather.
I’ve been making reins for 43 years. The handmade harness leather reins and doubled and stitched reins at Dennis Moreland Tack are of the best in the world. Call 817-312-5305 or write firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll help you pick just the right reins for you!
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