Rein Traction: How Much?

Most of my human pupils come to me from one school of equitation or another, whether they realize it or not.

Those with a Western or colonial stock-style background are using essentially no contact (at least when they have the luxury of an arena).

Those with a “Dressage” frame of reference have – almost without exception – inadvertently internalized Prussian conscript equitation so completely it will takes weeks of deprogramming to recover them!

The latter are used to holding several pounds in each hand (to hold their horse back), while (confoundingly) nagging with their legs (to keep their horse going forward – in spite of being held back), in hopes of effecting Steinbrecht’s sense of ‘appui’ – which aims to have the horse “tight as a bowstring” between the hand (“hands” in their case) and heels.

Neither is effective for (actual) high school/academic/Baucherist equitation, and, generally, unbeknownst to both types of riders, the original ideals of the equitation they think they are pursuing is actually – get this –  IDENTICAL to the the equitation they disparage! I digress.

Traction should never sum to more than the amount created in gently lifting the weight of the a rein with a finger.

Within this small spectrum we have ample means of conveying our hand is “open” and/or “following” and/or “vectoring” left or right, and/or “blocking” to brake, stop, or reverse.

By default, the “0” point of pressure should remind you of …

  • When you led someone, or were led by someone, to a dance floor – presuming they did right; presuming you did … and presuming a ballroom, not a mosh pit
  • When a parakeet sat on your finger
  • When you realized something was nibbling your fishing line – just before its doomed attempt to steal your hook

So how much pressure is ideal? None, really. At least – to be technically correct – not very much, and not very often, nor in a pervasive manner, as generally implemented by the German school. Just enough to be “there” – creating your end of a “live” rein between momentary, fractional _+/- adjustments to effect heading, bend, speed, and degree of collection.

When there is no reason for “traction”, then there is no traction! The horse is “at liberty on parole”, as long as he keeps doing the last thing he was asked to do correctly.