Do Riders Maintain Consistent Rein Pressure?

A rider’s rein tension can vary within the same stride, which could have equine welfare repercussions, researchers said.
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Swedish researchers have confirmed that rein tension varies from one well-trained rider to another, especially at the walk—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, perhaps more importantly, they’ve also learned that each rider’s rein tension can vary within the same stride. And that, the researchers said, is worth considering.

“I don’t think everyone has to aim for the same rein tension,” said Agneta Egenvall, DVM, PhD, professor in veterinary epidemiology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Husbandry, in Uppsala. “But I really think that we can educate ourselves better in how we use the reins during the stride.”

In their study, Egenvall and her fellow researchers studied six professional dressage riders’ rein tension while they each rode three of their horses (so, 18 horses total), some of which compete in Grand Prix events. The horses worked with short reins at walk and trot in a familiar arena as the researchers collected rein tension data with custom-fitted rein tension meters applied to the horses’ bits.

They found that rein tension varies considerably among riders and horses at the walk—the “mother of all gaits,” as Egenvall called it, for its high variability and unevenness from one horse to another. “It’s a fascinating gait,” she said. “And I think riders use its variability quite differently

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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