How to Get the Best From Your Horse with Good Rein and Leg Cues

Anyone who has ridden a horse can agree that telling a 1,000-pound animal where to go and how to get there is not as easy as it sounds. Being able to guide and cue a horse, especially in competition, takes a lot of skill, practice and ongoing education. Watch the video as Chris Dawson of Dawson Performance Horses visits with Dennis Moreland of Dennis Moreland Tack about the best ways to communicate with your horse through correct rein and leg cues.

One of the first things Chris points out is how softness in your hands is beneficial not only for improving communication with your horse, but also to improve the way your horse reacts or responds to the rein cues you give. Chris says horses will sometimes “tell on you” to judges by opening their mouth or reacting in other undesirable ways if you are pulling on them too much. To prevent this, an important thing to keep in mind when it comes to ensuring softness with your hands, is to use your reins as a way to guide them in a certain direction but use your feet to drive them there says Chris.

“I want to make sure, that horse, has time to respond to my hands and I want to use my hands for direction,” explains Chris.“ If I want to send my horse in one direction, I am going to use my feet to follow up and send that horse to where I’ve directed him with my hands instead of trying to force him there with my hands.”

By directing the horse with your hands and then driving them with your feet, Chris says you aren’t forcing the horse’s body through turns. Another way Chris says he likes to stay light with his hands is by using as little pressure as possible when he asks a horse to do something. He says that when you can train the horse to respond with just the lightest amount of pressure, it will carry over as you begin to increase speed or add maneuvers.

“When I ask a horse to back up and I take the slack out of the reins, I want to get his feet moving to the softest touch possible,” Chris says. “That will translate as we get to moving fast and he knows that just a soft touch is going to make him bend his hocks.

A vital component to communicating successfully with your hands is to ride with high-quality reins “With everything that goes into learning how to best communicate with your horse, it only makes sense to use reins that will accurately transfer your hand movements to your horse” says Dennis Moreland. “I cut all my split reins in pairs from hides I hand-pick just for my reins. I guarantee you’ll like them”. If you have any questions or would like help choosing which reins will work well for you, please give me a call at 817-312-5305 or email

Dennis Moreland Tack is a full-line manufacturer of handmade tack and we’re here to help you!