Reins provide an essential line of communication to our horses, and nearly everyone has been frustrated by reins that seem to slip through their fingers. Those are the moments when you get as angry as when your cell phone drops a call in mid-sentence.
So in this month?s field trial we tried five different brands that represent a range of reins with special grip, reins beyond the usual versions of leather reins. They come in a variety of styles, but in similar widths, and they range in price from a bargain $22.49 (the Kincade Sure Grip Web Reins) to a hefty $143.45 (Charles Owen).
What's Your Style'
The Charles Owen Red Line Reins, the highest-priced product in this group, are made for a specific purpose. They?re designed for racing; they?re made to stay absolutely secured to the bit and sit firmly in your hand with horses who pull like a freight train around a race course or a cross-country course.
The Red Line Reins attach to the bit by passing through a loop, instead of using a buckle or a stud hook. This ensures that they will not become detached from the bit, and they've been tested by Western Kentucky University to withstand the full weight of a horse, more than any other reins we tested. So they?re thick, coarse-looking reins that would be inappropriate in the show hunter or dressage rings.
ThinLine makes grippy reins that would be perfectly suitable to those disciplines, though. They?re made with a smooth ThinLine material, available in black or brown, so they don't really look like rubber reins. From even a short distance, it's extremely difficult to see that they?re not just plain, smooth-leather reins.
ThinLine reins will set you back $105. If you want rubber reins for one-third the price and don't need the perfect styling, you can try the Wintec Cushion Grip Reins ($31.45). Wintec is an almost indestructible synthetic product used in many kinds of tack and harness, and, from a distance, they could pass as leather. They?re perfect for training and could certainly be used in the show jumping ring and in the lower levels of dressage and eventing.
The Kincade Sure Grip Web Reins ($22.99) and the Courbette Sure Grip Reins ($86) are each versions of the classic German web reins, with leather knots to help you hold them. The main styling difference is that the Kincade reins, if you order them in the brown leather, add a little color by putting a red line on both the top and bottom edges of the web
bing (but not on the leather sections). If you order them in black leather, the webbing is dark gray. The other big difference is price. Both the Kincade and Courbette reins are suitable for any discipline except show hunters.
Hold ?Em In Your Hand
The rubber noticeably woven into the fabric of the Kincade Sure Grip Web Reins makes them a great choice for any riders who have trouble with their reins slipping through their hands. it's like a using a rubberized mitt to open a new jar in your kitchen ? so you don't have to use every ounce of your strength. These reins allow you to keep that lovely, light feel in your hands while maintaining the consistent contact that allows that feeling to happen.
The Courbette reins are also slightly rubberized, but they don't feel as sticky.
The ThinLine reins have a soft, squishy feeling in your hands, because the foam is wrapped around nylon instead of leather. These foam sections do not have t
he dots or pimples found on most rubber reins. While these reins provided excellent grip and didn't slip in our trial, we found the foam almost too soft, making steady contact feel a bit elusive. But they?re comfortable, and we can't imagine how you?d get blisters or rubs holding these reins.
The Wintec reins have the usual tiny depressions found on rubber reins and are comfortable to hold, but they?re not too squishy. If you like the feel of rubber reins, You'll like these even more.
While the Charles Owen Red Line reins have the same ??-inch width as the Courbette, Kincade and Wintec reins, they feel wider because of thickness of the rubber and the leather under it. They?re designed for jockeys or cross-country riders to brace against to hold a strong, galloping horse, and they would probably be too wide and uncomfortable for many women.
Will They Last'
Of course, the rubber on these reins will eventually wear smooth, and the grip will lessen. But with the reins in this trial, we're betting You'll have gotten your money?s worth before that happens. Usually, by the time the rubber does wear smooth, it will be cheaper to buy another pair than to replace the rubber.
If you have a cross-country horse, or even a show jumper, who is a heavyweight puller, the Charles Owen Red Line Reins are what you want. Because of their length and width, they?re basically specialty reins.
The Wintec Cushion Grip Reins and the ThinLine reins are each a softer-feeling variations on the classic rubber reins. If you're in the hunter ring, You'll want ThinLine, since they look like traditional plain reins. Otherwise, we think Wintec offers a better value.
Similarly, Courbette and Kincade are modern and grippier versions of the classic German web reins. If you want (or don't mind) a bit of color and want to pay 75 percent less, then pick the Kincade, which is our top choice.