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Free Rein

This exercise is a skill I aim to create for all of my students, both horse and human.  Free Rein is the action, or more specifically no action, of your reins completely loose yet balanced over the horse’s neck.  Ideally, at the advanced level, you are able to drop the reins completely and let go, giving more attention to your balance and body language cues.  There are great benefits when including intervals of free rein, for both horse and rider. Having the ability to remain in a free rein position at all gaits is the ultimate portrayal of trust, confidence and balance between horse and rider.  In addition, by achieving this skill, you are well on your way to bridle-less riding.


For the horse, free rein brings more focus to the cues that are coming from your overall body language. Helping them to break down each request coming from his rider.  The horse becomes more motivated to respond to the body, rather than contact from the bit or rein, in turn making your contact cues lighter over time.   A horse that tends to lean or brace on the bit or reins is not concentrating as well as he could on where his feet are.  He is more focused on what to do with the contact and how to avoid it.  Take that away and he has to learn to carry himself.  When a horse braces anywhere, he is compensating in the wrong areas and creating a physical imbalance that can create havoc in other areas down the road.


Free rein can free our mind and teach us to embrace the feeling of trust in our horse.

Free rein can free our mind and teach us to embrace the feeling of trust in our horse.

For the human, it can free our mind and teach us to embrace the feeling of trust in our horse.  In many cases, this exercise needs to be done in stages and intervals in order to work up safely to achieving complete free rein at all gaits.  While in the free rein position, you can take the time to focus less on the feel through the reins, but more on the feel through your seat and the rest of your body.  Take this time to scan, exaggerate, and perfect your posture, tuning into complete balance through every piece both horse and human.  When you completely drop the contact of the reins you are practicing holding trust in your horse but you should always remain cautious and aware and ready to make corrections. Should you feel the horse begin to lose focus or balance, you can gather him back up, make adjustments and then return.

As an added challenge in Free Rein, when your strength and balance have developed, you’ll have the ability to stand in your stirrups just enough to distribute your weight evenly in the stirrups and remain centered and balanced through all gait transitions.  This also helps to conform the saddle evenly over the horse, perfecting your balance through each turn and change of request, and keeping him comfortable and happy along the way.

This exercise helps to develop a deeper sense of awareness for your entire body and the position it takes on over the horse.  While the horse is learning that you aren’t always going to hang on to him, he is building his own sense of trust and awareness of his rider through the exchange and adjustments of contact.

Along with building trust and confidence in each other, you are gaining strength and developing a deeper sense of Feel with your horse through all of your possible aids and lessening your urge to pull on those reins!

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