A Look at Rein Tension During Therapeutic Riding Lessons

Rein tension can be a welfare concern that could result in both clinical and behavioral problems.
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Horseback riding’s benefits for people with mental or physical disabilities are well-documented. It helps to strengthen, balance, stretch, provide confidence and self-esteem, and improve coping skills and social interactions, to name a few. But what effects does therapeutic riding have on the horse?

Because a rider impacts a horse in many different ways, Kirstie Parker, BSc (Hons) Equitation Science, from Duchy College in the United Kingdom, decided to investigate just one as it pertains to therapeutic riding horses—rein tension. She presented her findings at the 11th International Society of Equitation Science conference, held Aug. 6-9 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“There have only been studies published of rein tension with able-bodied riders,” she began. “Objective assessment of the impacts of being ridden by non-able-bodied riders would be beneficial in terms of horse welfare.”

In her study she attached a Centaur Rein Tension gauge to the bit, noseband, or D ring (as the reins were attached to different parts of the bridle or halter in different cases) of 15 horse and rider combinations from two registered therapeutic riding centers. She recorded rein tension while riders were led at the walk for up to 30 minutes

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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