Soft Hands, Happy Horses!

A product review on “Rein-Aid®”
By Julie Goodnight

From my perspective in the center of the ring, teaching horsemanship clinics all over the U.S. for children and adults, English and Western, recreational and performance riders, most horses are only thinking about one thing: “When is the next time I get hit in the mouth.”

The Rein-AidŽ is an ingenious device designed to benefit both the horse and the rider. The Rein-AidŽ has an elastic shock absorber built in and comes in two forms: as a set of English reins (very high quality reins, I might add) and also as an insert that buckles between the bit and reins. The benefit of the Rein-AidŽ comes from the elastic connection which slows down the pull on the rein from the rider, allows the rider to begin to develop that elusive skill we call “feel” and allows the horse to relax and accept an elastic contact from the rider’s hands.

We tried out the Rein-AidŽ in both forms, as reins and as inserts, on a few different horses, including a Thoroughbred Dressage (Level 2) horse, a young QH filly just started under saddle and an old grumpy beginner’s school horse. All three horses seemed to enjoy the device for different reasons. The Thoroughbred was able to relax into his frame a little easier and even seemed to play the elastic to lighten the contact on his mouth and therefore carry himself better. The youngster softened a lot with the slower pull on the bit the Rein-AidŽ offered. And the grumpy old man was a little less defensive about his mouth than normal. I was pleased to see that he was every bit as responsive to the reins as ever and I am certain that with a beginner rider jerking and jabbing on the reins, the grumpy old man’s day would be much easier.

I hear a lot of debate on whether or not it is possible to teach a rider “feel.” While I believe that “feel” is certainly a talent that a person may have or may not have, I also believe that you can teach feel and that along with developing balance and other riding skills, riders can also develop better feel. But “feel” is a very difficult concept to teach to riders.

The elastic in the Rein-AidŽ acts as an insulator between the rider’s hands and the horse’s mouth. The elastic connector helps the rider get a feel for riding with a giving contact. In fact, once the rider can hold a steady light contact, the rider can use the elastic as an aid to show how much contact she is holding. The elastic piece is strong and it takes a fair amount of contact to stretch the elastic to its end, where the solid rein takes over. As the rider learns to ride with a steady, giving contact, she can experiment with not stretching the elastic at all and the instructor can watch the elastic piece to see how much contact is being applied. Once the rider can ride with a steady light contact that does not stretch the elastic, she is probably ready to graduate to standard reins.

The Rein-AidŽ is a valuable training tool for both horse and rider. It is an affordable device that has twice the value since it helps both horse and student. The inserts cost $36 and the full reins sell for $99. You can find out more about Rein-AidŽ at www.rein-aid.com or by calling (800) 773-4885.

Reprinted with permission by The Instructor
- the official publication of the Certified Horsemanship Association

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