Draw reins, or running reins, are one of the more hotly-debated horse training aids. Working on leverage, draw reins are used in both English and Western riding styles to encourage flexing from the poll and straight and balanced self carriage. The reins are a leather, web or nylon strap of about 15 feet that attach to the girth and run through the ring of a snaffle bit to the riders hands. Used properly and on occasion by an experienced rider, draw reins can be an effective training tool. However, used improperly, they can cause lasting problems to a horse.
Tack up your horse in a saddle and bridle with a snaffle bit. Unbuckle the draw reins at the buckle in the middle.
Attach the end of the reins to the girth. Most draw reins are designed to loop around the girth. Position the loop ends between the horse's elbow and the bottom of the saddle flap.
Run the reins through the bit rings from the inside to the outside, below the snaffle rein. Re-buckle the rein in the centre.
Hold the draw rein as you would a double bridle rein, with the draw reins on the inside, between your middle finger and ring fingers, and snaffle reins on the outside, between your ring finger and little fingers. Maintain more contact with the snaffle rein than the draw rein, using the draw rein only when needed.
Having a trainer on the ground when you are first learning to properly use draw reins is crucial. Warm your horse up well without the draw rein before introducing it to help avoid injury. When first introducing the draw rein, be attentive to signs of stress or panic, and release the draw rein immediately. Be sure to give plenty of forward aids with your legs and a soft seat to ride your horse into the contact.
Use draw reins as an occasional training aid, not as a constant crutch. After riding for five or 10 minutes with draw reins, try achieving the same feel without them. If another reminder is needed, use the draw reins for a few minutes before trying again without them. Allow your horse plenty of opportunities to stretch his head and neck down on a long rein, especially at the end of your ride.
Before using any type of mechanical aid to correct head tossing or severe resistance to rein contact, have your horse examined by a veterinarian to rule out any painful physical problems. Have an experienced trainer help when first learning to use draw reins. You might want to protect your horse's legs with exercises boots when first introducing draw reins.
Draw reins can cause more damage than good if used as a means to force a horse into a frame. Never use draw reins on a young or inexperienced horse. If overused or used improperly, draw reins can teach a horse to be heavy on the forehand and to lean on the bit. Draw reins are not permitted in competition.