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Long vs. loose rein

From: KevinC

Dear Jessica, I really enjoy horse sense, thank you for doing this for all of us! I have a dressage question, that my instructor and I are having an argument about. What exactly is the difference between a long rein and a loose rein in a dressage test? I think that a long rein can be loose or tight, and my instructor says a long rein is always a rein with contact, and you can only let the rein go really loose if it says "loose" rein not "long" rein. My friends don't know either, and we all want to go to some dressage shows in the summer, so what do you think about this? Am I right or is my instructor? Yours sincerely, Kevin

Hi Kevin! Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying horse-sense.

I'm going to have to side with your instructor on this one. For dressage purposes, and really for any purposes, you should be able to know the difference instantly between a LOOSE rein and a LONG rein. A LOOSE rein doesn't necessarily mean that you are riding holding the buckle -- it just means that the reins are long enough for there ro be a clear loop or sag in the reins between your hand and the horse's mouth. A LONG rein (which can be longer than a loose rein, in some cases!) is, as your instructor correctly says, a rein with contact -- you should have a soft, stretched feel and look to the rein between your hand and the horse's mouth.

So if the test calls for "free walk on a long rein", you will NOT do well if you throw the reins at the horse -- you need to let the horse stretch his head and neck forward and down, so that you keep the same contact on a longer rein.

Good luck at the shows!


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