Draw reins are double-length reins, traditionally attached from the girth, through the bit, and back to the rider’s hands. They are always used in addition to a regular rein. Draw reins effect a leverage advantage over a strong, stiff or willful horse and are designed for short-term schooling or control purposes.
Draw reins are common on the polo field and occasionally seen in the jumper ring. They are not legal in competition for hunters, equitation, dressage or combined training. They are not even legal in the warm-up area in the latter two disciplines.
Draw reins can be harmful and even dangerous if improperly used. Horses can panic or learn to evade contact by overflexing. Impulsion and submission should balance, but draw reins can artificially increase the submission side of the equation. Prolonged or improper use can have negative effects on the horse’s training and his physical development.
Despite these cautions, draw reins can usually be found hanging in any busy stable’s tack room for good reason. The temporary and prudent use of draw reins can circumvent particular problems with lateral and longitudinal yielding.
Leather Or Web
Draw reins are generally made of leather or web. Leather is more expensive, lasts longer and gives a nice traditional rein feel.
Most leather draw reins are spliced because of the difficulty and expense in procuring 96” of quality hide. As long as the splicing is offset so it doesn’t have to slide through the bit, there is no problem. A splice can also act as a safety break, in case the horse steps on the draw reins.
Cotton webbing has the economic advantages that we like in training equipment. A busy polo barn or a jumper rider who might use draw reins in the show ring would be wise to stick with good leather, but most buyers will want function, versatility and a low price.
Cotton webbing also helps the rider distinguish between the draw reins and regular leather rein in his hand or vice versa. If your regular rein is cotton web, then you may want leather draw reins.
Traditional styling is simple: double length reins with loop ends to attach to the girth, either between the horse’s legs (for longitudinal suppling) or on the side, under the rider’s leg (for lateral suppling, with varied placement; a lower placement can yield both lateral and longitudinal effects).
More contemporary draw reins designs include snap ends to double and single girth loops. Snap ends can be handy because they also can be attached to the chest ring of a breastplate, if desired.
When working over cavalletti or low fences, a breastplate attachment keeps the reins from dangling dangerously low around the horse’s legs. Snap ends can also be converted to a gag rein and can be endlessly versatile with longeing equipment.
We found double girth loops preferable over single loops, which are limited to between-the-legs placement. Our test models offered three different snaps, and we were surprised to find that the scissors snap outperformed the traditional bolt snap. The smaller spring strap snap was lightweight, but it was not large enough to hook to some girth buckles or surcingle Ds.
The very nature and function of draw reins insures that they will be going on and off in the ring. The bolt snaps clogged with sand. Sand does not affect the scissor snaps, which we also found easy to use with gloves on.
Reins are measured on one side. The average length of draw reins are eight feet (96”), which we found just right for an average 16-hand horse. Attaching draw reins to a breastplate ring saves length, which is great for big horses but leaves too much lap, which can get tangled around a pony rider’s feet.
Some retailers offer varying lengths, but we noticed that the standard or advertised lengths can differ from the actual product. Lengths reported in our product descriptions on page 14 include detachable loops.
In our field testing, we decided we preferred the 5/8” width. Draw reins effectively act like a curb rein. For this reason, they should feel like a curb rein, i.e. narrower than the snaffle rein.
We recommend Top Tack’s #ZDFL Snaps to their Girth Loops model as our overall choice and Best Buy. We really don’t want to spend over $25 on a temporary training rein, and this model has all the elements we like in four different lengths. Even the contrasting color can be useful for trainers so they can quickly distinguish draw rein from regular rein.
We did find mislabeling when it came to lengths, so be sure and confirm your order and measure. Top Tack said the problem would be corrected.
If you’re showing or playing polo and need leather, we suggest Nunn Finer’s rugged, traditional design as the top choice. State Line Tack’s Nottingham ($45.70) is our leather draw reins Best Buy. It offers extra length and comparable quality at a great price.