Building Balance: The Beginning of the Outside Rein
October 31, 2014
For me the outside rein is one of the most important aids a rider can have. The outside rein is the basic structure for collection. The outside rein is like building an exterior wall of the house. In order to protect and support the internal structures of a house, first you must build the outer walls. These outer walls create a structure in which the rest of the walls rely on for support. Riding is much the same. Have you ever wondered by a horse and rider combination looks terrific while traveling along the rail but fall apart the minute they circle. It is because the actual arena wall is holding the horse upright rather than the rider’s outside rein.
The purpose of the outside rein is foremost to establish control of the outside of the horse’s body, particular the outside shoulder. (The bend of the horse establish what is the outside of the horse and the inside of the horse. If a horse is bending to the left, the outside shoulder is the right shoulder and the inside shoulder is the left and vice versa.) I tell all my students that they need to make the outside shoulder stay on whatever pattern/track they plan for the horse. My students are to steer the outside in order to establish connection on the outside rein (ie: building the external wall). Once connection has been established to the outside, the rider must bend and soften the horse to the inside. This is accomplished by using a bit of inside rein and a strong inside leg. The rider’s inside leg must drive the horse’s inside hind up to the outside rein. This encourages the horse to power from their hind end and up through their back to their face.
Why is the outside rein the key to making this work? That’s simple. If you push on the inside shoulder with your inside leg, without having an external barrier, it only pushes the inside and outside shoulders out. What we are trying to accomplish is the squaring of the horse’s shoulders. Most horses are like people, they go about their lives in a crooked fashion. A horse has to be straight in the shoulders to be able to collect, this means both shoulders have to be “up” or “lifted”. Think of it like this symbol. / <<<if this was your horse it appears to have its left shoulder dropped lower than its right. What we want is this symbol. -- <<<This symbol demonstrates both shoulders “up” or “straight”. So we use the outside rein in conjunction with the inside leg to establish the “lifting” of the inside shoulder. How do this work? Well when we first establish an outside rein, it creates an outside wall, and when we add inside leg while holding our outside wall steady we create only one option in which the shoulder can go…which is to lift up. Without the outside rein, adding only inside leg gives the horse the option of either pushing out, or up. Out is the easier of the two options so that’s the one most horses choose. But when applying the outside rein at the same time as the inside leg, the outside rein cuts out the option of going out which leaves the horse with only one option; to lift its shoulder.
In the picture below, the horse is tracking on a circle to the right. The green color is the outside rein and the pink arrow show the rider's inside leg. Notice two things:
1) The track of the circle goes straight through the horse's shoulders, evenly. Which means the rider would be riding the outside front leg on that track, thus concluding the rider has strong control of the outside rein.
2) Another note it so see that the inside rein does not come across the horse's neck but rather widens to allow the rider to use a greater amount of inside leg. A horse always travels better away from the bend of its body, which is why widening of the inside hand increased success.
Of course the outside rein is just one piece to developing collection. Rythem and relaxtion are needed before this step even comes into play but that's something we can touch on next time.