There was an NRHA rule change in 2017, which allows the rein slack – the excess rein not between the bit and rein hand – to be rearranged while the horse is moving on the pattern, not only when stopped within the pattern as was previously demanded. As an NRHA alliance partner, the change was also adopted by AQHA.

Before the rein rule was modified, the old rule stated that the horse had to be sitting still anywhere on the pattern before you could fix your reins.

You can only fix the slack by reaching behind your rein hand. The correcting/free hand can have no contact with the reins between the bridle bit and rein hand. However, you can move behind by reaching under or over the hand holding your reins.

This was changed because some horses won’t run straight to a stop or won’t stay in the circles if your reins aren’t adjusted correctly. Rein ends don’t weigh enough to always stay where they should be during a reining run, but they do weigh enough to send mixed messages to a horse when out of place.

If a rein flips and creates a kink where it attaches to the bit, the only solution is a quick prayer and a shake of the rein hand. Riders are still not allowed to touch the rein between the hand and the bit, because that is considered 2 hands on the reins.

We should all practice reinsmanship at home so we have the confidence to make flawless, covert corrections while on pattern in the show pen.

One of the most common issues riders experience is the ability to adjust their rein length with split reins. With only the index finger between the reins, loosening the hand and feeding additional rein will extend the rein length. To shorten the reins, the rider must creep the fingers (hand down) towards the horse’s head (both are legal).

You can’t pull slack with your off hand when showing with split reins. (ie you can straighten the slack end of the reins, but you can’t hold it and pull to adjust rein length.)

Make sure your reins are short enough that your horse can’t step on them, because if your reins are dragging the ground, to the point where it is dangerous and a horse could step on the slack, you can be scored a zero.

A good rule of thumb is when the rider lifts the rein hand toward their body connection can be made with the horse’s mouth. But when your hand is down, there is a comfortable loose slack.

“Cheating” the inside rein or making it shorter is a showmanship trick to help a horse who doesn’t steer as well as you’d like and is legal as long as only the index finger is between the reins.

Another NRHA rule involves dropping a rein. A rein dropped while in motion is scored zero and the judges excuse the exhibitor from the arena.

If the rein is dropped and the horse is standing still, however, the rider can pick up the rein with the rein hand only with no penalty.

Be sure to practice adjusting your reins correctly at home until you get very dexterous with them!


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