Do you think you know how tight you hold your reins? Think again. According to study results from a team of British equitation scientists, riders of all levels tend to misjudge the amount of tension they apply to their reins.

“There is a significant different between actual and perceived rein tension,” said Hayley Randle, PhD, researcher in the equitation science department at Duchy College in Cornwall, U.K. “And this is the most important message: If you’re the rider and someone’s telling you to do something, how do you know what you’re actually doing? And more importantly, as the trainer on the ground, how do you know that the riders actually comprehend what you’re telling them?

“This could give some insight into why there may be some difficulties in training,” she said during her presentation at the 9th International Society for Equitation Science Conference, held July 17-19 at the University of Delaware in Newark.

In their study, Randle and colleagues fitted a dummy horse head with a bit, bridle, reins, and a rein tension gauge at two different national equestrian events in the U.K. There, they asked 261 volunteers