In the leather rein category the two main choices are split leather and single loop reins. Split leather reins are two individual leather reins, typically eight feet long. Each rein attaches to the bit individually and the rider holds both in their hand when mounted.
Even typing it out makes it clear that there is a little more going on here than a single loop rein…which is one continuous connection forming a loop.
So if split leather reins are more…
More length, more weight, more complicated…
Why choose them?
Here are three times I find them useful.
I use split reins when riding young horses because I can adjust the length to any range I desire. When I first mount up on a horse early in the training I keep the head bend around towards me. This requires me to shorten the rein on one side while lengthening it a lot on the other.
Once mounted on green horses I often keep my hands wide to encourage bend and shoulder freedom. This often means keeping each hand over each knee. This width is easier for me with split reins.
When I’m riding an older horse that knows how to neck rein I LOVE riding in split reins. This is what they were ultimately designed for. The eight foot length allows me a range of lengths but most of all it helps me adjust the length.
The long ‘tail’ of the rein, the part that is hanging below my hand and away from the bit becomes a slight weight. This means that when I want to change the rein length I have a form of ‘contact’ on both ends of the rein. Contact on one end is the horse. Contact on the other end is the weight of the rein. This is how I can easily adjust the rein length without using my free hand.
Traditionally the free hand might have been holding a rope…but I more often find myself holding a cell phone, a snack or a drink!
Many western events REQUIRE split reins. Reining, western pleasure, horsemanship, and cutting typically require split reins. Be sure that you check the rules before you show for what rein is required as well as the correct or allowed way of holding or adjusting the reins. In the NRHA (National Reining Horse Association) if you touch the rein with the second hand or slip an extra finger between the reins…you’re heavily penalized.
I wrote another article on split reins talking about how they attach to the bit and what leather I like. You can find it here: https://stacywestfall.com/stacys-stuff-split-reins/
All of the reins shown are made by Weaver Leather. I’ve had this pair of reins for over 10 years! Now that’s an awesome investment…and I’ve enjoyed them every day too!