Draw Reins – Part Two

Last time, I spoke about the usefulness of draw reins and the problems that can occur when you overuse them. I love to use them, as I mentioned in my blog “Draw Reins part one” when I am going to train the lope transition.


Once again, when you’re teaching a horse, especially a young one, you don’t want to be pulling and reefing at their mouths, it is going to be hard enough for the horse to learn and absorb the lesson on soft hands (which the draw reins give you) as opposed to “direct” hand to mouth contact.

This is a no brainer for me if I’m training a young one, however, I will use draw reins on older horses too for this lesson…just because a horse is a 6 year old or over, it is not a given that he should be ridden with a shank bit, you can put him in training gear at home, it will only help to sharpen him up.


You will notice in the above drawing the draw reins have been drawn between the horses front legs. This is ok if you are training a dressage horse but it is not the correct way in my opinion to connect them on a Western trained horse. Placing them between a horses front legs like so is the best way to put your horse on the forehand.


Your Gear

  • Smooth Snaffle, bridle
  • Draw Reins
  • Work Boots (at least on the forelegs)
  • Your Western Saddle and pad
  • Girth
  1. I talked last time on using a smooth snaffle for the lessons in draw reins, this is still the case here, especially now as you will be “upping the anti” with the lope transition only here. This lesson is only focussing on the actual transition into the lope not the lope itself . So stay in the snaffle.
  2. Draw Reins...of course.🤔
  3. Work boots are always very important when riding your horse for a myriad of reasons, especially young horses when they are still making bone and their joints are still opened etc. In this lesson especially because you will be moving the forehand around a fair bit. You don’t want your horse to be knocking his legs around and standing on himself, marking and hurting his legs.
  4. Now you don’t necessarily have to be riding in a western saddle if you don’t have one, however
  5. The girth must be the type with a ring that sits directly underneath the horse. Note: This is if you prefer, to clip the reins to the underside of the horse. I prefer to clip them back to the rigging or “D” on the saddle. (There are legit. Reasons for doing it this way as opposed to going underneath). That doesn’t mean to say I don’t hook the reins underneath – it is very dependent on the horse.
Saddle Rigging

A must do before trying out the lope transitions with draw reins…

A very wise move before trying out the lope transitions with draw reins is to hop over to my blog page on “Teaching Your Horse Calisthenics”.

You need to know how to move your horse around from four main moves fluently before you can expect a good flowing transition into the lope from the walk.

Having read “Teaching Your Horse Calisthenics” you will see where parts of the Calisthenics comes into play for you. Naturally, you will be using the calisthenic manoeuvres individually here. Moving the shoulder is one of these manoeuvres your horse should know.

Move the shoulder

To begin, you will need to know how to move your horses body parts. These manoeuvres should be taught individually.

You want to be walking around (I will use the left lead leg here), turning that walk into a shoulder exercise by counter arching to the left, don’t forget to have slightly more pressure on the left rein here as well, you want to be able to see his left eyelashes as he’s moving to the right.

Once you have moved the shoulder around in a circle starting out at the walk first as it is easier for both you and your horse when trying it out for the first few times.

Once you are both relaxed at attempting this at the walk you can then try moving the shoulder from a standstill. Nearing the end of your last 360° turn, shift the hip over…you have got to move the hip over to the left – remember, I am staying with the left lead here.

Remember, you’re using your left leg up at the girth, pushing your horses shoulder around to the right. So when you go to shifting his hip over to the left you want to take your left leg off while simultaneously moving your right leg back to move his hip to the left.

You need to hold his face, still taking more left rein than right but do take up the slack on the right rein here, you don’t ever want to do this move on a loose rein, hence, the draw reins, they’re handy to help you without undue pressure on your horse’s face.

So now, you have him set for the lope transition. BUT you’re not going to lope off, you’re going to hold his frame like that and walk off for around 6 or 8 strides without changing a thing that means your pressure on your already “on” right leg, your amount of pressure on his face does not change.

Got it? I hope so, I hope I have explained the moves I have in my head well for you all.

If not, re-read the couple of paragraphs, AND learning Teaching Your Horse Calisthenics.

That key word again… Repetition!

Remember repetition. Once you have gone through the motions the first time, do it over and over again in that same lesson. When you feel your horse is doing his moves quite well – Reward, (don’t go overboard with reward), a pat on the neck will suffice.

If you feel your horse is NOT putting in an effort, well there is another “R” word I use and that’s Reprimand!!!!!!

Now hold on, before you hit the delete button, I have a reprimand for everything.

My reprimand is…NO REWARD! As Sergé the Meercat would say “simples”!

If it’s as good as it gets…

Instead of a buddy pat on the neck, I go for the repetition deal. Sometimes, depending on the horse, they just don’t finish on a good note for you to reward them and you can’t stay out there all night waiting until you get a good move.

I zone in on an “I tried hard” move. Even if it’s not picture perfect, if you don’t throw a reward in there somewhere, they won’t get the gist of it real well.

I don’t know if many of you guys ride youngsters, they are the best, even if they get it wrong, I wait for the slightest “try” in them, I’ll give them a pat and quit them. The next day, they always put a smile on my face because they come out into the arena nearly dying to show me how good they are, then they keep on showing me even when I am not asking for anything!

Build on it

The first few times especially if the horse is having trouble taking the lesson in, even a few days later, I will stick to the side I picked on day one. Keep moving the shoulder to the right so that you are working the left lead until he gets it.

Horses can become very confused if you change their lead leg from one day to the next if they haven’t got it down pat.

Once they do get it, you can go ahead and change lead legs whenever it takes your fancy.

It’s not about the Gait

So fast forwarding a few days or even a week maybe, you can then move them up to the jog.

Its the same principle as the walk, the only difference is, I will move the hip to the left, slide my leg forward a tad, so that they will be side-passing into the jog.

Why the sidepass?

Remember, if you have read the blog Teaching Your Horse Calisthenics, or read my book “From Go To Whoa” you will remember that by side-passing into the jog cleans it up. Rather than dribbling along getting faster at the walk before they step into the jog. Careful, it can be classed as a break-of-gait.

Good thing I’m not a judge because if there is one thing (well there is more than one), I hate to see horses when asked to jog moving up from the walk just get faster and faster in the walk until they finally take that step into the jog – pet hate!

Even if you strike it lucky and the judge doesn’t see your sloppy transition, if it’s not corrected this will, without a doubt put your horse further on the forehand. When he dribbles into it, he is actually leaning on his forehand. You won’t usually see a horse that is balanced and off of his forehand dribble into a jog, he will click on up into the jog very easily and graciously.

I use this on a straight-away as well on a horse that has been inadvertently let to do just that….to dribble into the jog.

Again, it’s not about the gait with this lesson it’s about getting the horse to do a nice transition. Mainly for the lope although, it costs nothing to clean the jog up while you’re at it.

Introducing the Lope Transition

I find the more you loosen those reins, the more he’s going to fang around, either walk or jog step off “like tomorrow will do” before he eventually lopes off.

By now, your horse should have a bit of an idea on how to position his body for you, if you have been repetitive at teaching him his moves he should be starting to be flowing straight into the moves and be quite supple.

It’s the same deal again where you’re going to position your horses body for the left lead transition.

Only this time you really do want your horse to lope off. He may not initially, he hasn’t been loping off from this position for maybe a week or two so it’s now your job to introduce the lope transition to him.

Set your horse up in the same way – some 360° degree counter arcs to the right, moving his shoulder. Sliding your right leg back, feeling that hip shif over. Holding the left rein slightly firmer than the right, you DO want him to lope off looking like a banana.

I find the more you loosen those reins, the more he’s going to fang around, either walk or jog step off “like tomorrow will do” before he eventually lopes off.

Once you have brought your horses face around slightly to the left. DO NOT soften the grip, you need to lope off like that. Holding your horses frame in this position believe it or not is going to make it easier for him in the long run.

Hold, kiss, use your right leg/spur to ask for the lope. In a perfect world lol, you should get a sensational lope departure with him all framed up, not with his head in the air hollowing out his back and trotting into a big old canter but a lovely, smooth, lifted transition.

Remembering to lunge your horse before the lesson or if you’re more inclined to hop on and long trot them around the arena in serpentine to loosen them up and get them in the zone. Nothing worse than a fresh horse when you are trying to teach them something

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I am a retired professional horse trainer, active Certified rider coach, I coach riders and their horses throughout Australia and New Zealand, I am the author of the book From Go To Whoa - Training Your Own Horse, I am also a Certified Nutritionist and a professional Keto Coach. I am a keen fisher woman and I love the gym where I weight train 4 days a week. I travel Australia full time now with my husband and our Jack Russell Doug, booking and holding clinics and lessons throughout the country for many remote horse riders as well as not so remote. I love coaching riders and their horses along with helping people with nutrition and the ketogenic diet.

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