Chris Cox: Bridging Your Reins

Learn how to bridge your reins for effective communication with your horse in all maneuvers. Part 3 of 3.

In Part 1 of my series, you learned how to take up your reins efficiently in a movement I call the “choke.” In Part 2, I showed you how to use your reins to bring your horse’s head around to the side.

Now in the final installment I’ll show you how to bridge your reins for more advanced work. Proper rein management means good communication with your horse and a safer ride for you both. Knowing how to take up and handle your reins correctly also enables you to let your horse travel on a loose rein between maneuvers. This promotes his peace of mind and encourages him to move freely.

The goal throughout these lessons is to be able to use your reins smoothly yet quickly, in a way that makes sense to your horse and preserves the responsiveness of his mouth.

To Get the Most from this Lesson

  • You’ll need: A level work area with good footing.
  • Outfit your horse in a snaffle bit with a roping rein or, as I’m using, a mecate rein. Eventually you can use my methods with open reins, but it’s easiest to start with a closed rein. Mark the precise midpoint of your reins with a piece of duct or electrical tape.
  • If you do ride with a mecate rein, run the extra length of rein to the far side of the saddle
    horn, then tuck it into your belt. (For safety reasons, never tie or otherwise secure the rein to you in any way.)
  • Prepare your horse in advance by working him on the ground with a lead rope or however you ordinarily do to discharge excess energy and get him in sync with you.

–Photos by Darrell Dodds

Horseman Chris Cox has been helping riders build confidence through knowledge for over 17 years. He’s worked with a variety of breeds for different disciplines, including cutting, in which he also competes. Raised on a cattle ranch in Australia, Chris today conducts clinics and produces “Chris Cox Horsemanship” for RFD-TV from his home base, the Outback Ranch in Mineral Wells, Texas.

This article originally appeared in the July 2005 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.