Horse Reins- Types and How They Work

- 2021-10-15-

Using reins to communicate with a horse is essential for riding; they help you control your horse’s speed and direction and aid in ‘starting’ and stopping horses.


Picture of reins attached to a bit of a grey horse.

Reins in western riding are slightly different from those in English riding. English reins are two-part reins joined in the center with a buckle.  On the other hand, Western split reins are two separate, unconnected reins.
Whether you will use one hand or both, Western reins can be knotted or connected with a slider (a small tie or band that keeps the reins together).
To summarize, here is how reins work:
  • Reins are used to tell your horse which direction to turn.
  • They also signal your horse to stop and even back up.
  • Advanced riders use reins to give subtle cues to their horse.
How Long Should Reins Be?

  • Standard English reins tend to be about 9 feet long. You also have longer and shorter options in them.
  • Reins can also vary in length for adults and kids. Kids’ reins or pony reins are about 48 inches.
  • Shorter riders can also choose the size of reins to fit their needs.
  • Use a set rein that lets you ride on a loose rein with relaxed hands.
  • The length of reins can also depend on the horse breed. For horses with long necks, you can use 10-feet long reins.
  • Standard western reins are in the range of 9 to 10 feet. Split reins are generally eight feet long.

What are Split reins?

Split reins are two straps attached to either side of the headstall or bit and cross each other in the center with their tails hanging down over each shoulder.

Split reins are ideal for one-hand riding, and when your horse drops its head, you can easily hold the reins. They are also easy to use to lead your horse, and the long ends can be used as a whip.

What is the purpose of Split reins?

  • To break young/inexperienced horses – you can adjust them to any range desired which makes it easier to help control a young horse’s head.
  • To ride older horses that know how to neck rein – 8-ft long split reins allow you to adjust the length to a comfortable width.
  • For western disciplines and shows like cutting, split reins are mandatory. The current trend shows them being used for western pleasure riding too.
  • You don’t have to worry about your horse stepping inside the loop of the reins when you’re dismounted.
  • In split reins, your horse can drop its head for a drink without you having to bend over to hold on to standard reins.