While I’ve ridden English-style pretty much all of my lesson history, I did do a significant stint with a Western Pleasure trainer. Not to learn WP, mind you – just because she was the best trainer at the time for the confidence level I was at, and she taught me quite a few other things as well.
The one I could have never expected was the pleasure of a good set of split reins.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a good pair of English reins. “Good” being leather – I hate the nylon ones, never have tried rubber – and long enough to be comfortable on the horse I’m on. I even like the standard braided reins, because they give me a nice easy way to set my rein length.
But split reins?
The first few times I rode with them, it just seemed like way too much… stuff… to reasonably ride with. I mean, there’s all this length, and what am I supposed to do with it? Then I had to sit down and ride out a correction on a stubborn mare, and I discovered the magical thing about split reins:
You don’t have to carry a crop.
You just reach down, grab a rein end, and whack behind your leg like you would with a crop. One pop, and done. There’s nothing extra to fumble with, because the rein comes back forward with your hand anyway. This? This was a revelation.
When I started riding up at Heather’s, I had an impulse buy moment at Tractor Supply and bought a pair of bright blue nylon split reins. They were… okay. I can’t say they were just plain awesome, other than the fact that they’re blue, because they kept catching underneath the saddle pads and just didn’t seem quite long enough for some reason. They did the job fine, but it just didn’t feel right. This year, for Christmas, I splurged a bit and bought myself a pair of 7′ leather split reins (that match my Courbette all-purpose saddle beautifully, I might add).
Oh, what a difference a pair of reins make! These reins don’t catch under the saddle, and they’re just the right length – which Heather’s mom’s mare Ishka found out twice already when she decided that my leg was an optional cue. I’m in love.