Stacy’s Stuff: SPLIT REINS
With so many choices in rein materials and styles…why would someone choose split leather reins?
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 just below this one.
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!
Article: Split Leather Reins, bit attachments and leather
Why I use this product:
The reins in your hand are often the lifeline of communication with your horse when riding. Outside of my physical body, the role that the reins play in communicating and shaping my horse as I ride is critical. I spend more time touching this piece of equipment than any other.
For those reasons, I’m very particular about my reins. The weight, the width, the length and the way they attach to the bit are all important to me.
Why split reins?
I train and show primarily in split reins. I prefer split reins for most things because of the wide range of hand positions I can have which is why they are a must for me during training.
I use the same split reins when I show. (Side note: the reins pictured here are nearly 10 years old!). I use them for most events with the exception of mounted shooting and traditional dressage. When I was showing in mounted shooting I would train in split reins and show in a single loop. I actually used the split reins for the lower level mounted shooting events.
How they attach:
The way the rein attaches to the bit changes the way the rein feels to both the horse and the rider. Over the years I have ridden with many different styles and in the end, I choose the buckle end as my favorite. The supple leather attaching to the bit has a smooth feel and the buckle is easy to operate.
My second favorite would be a water loop, which is another leather attachment, but find the small leather strings difficult to buckle, constantly coming loose, and dry rotting over time.
I grew up contesting and riding with snaps attaching my reins to the bit. At the time I wasn’t aware of highly refined riding so it didn’t bother me. Now when I jump on a horse at a clinic, I immediately notice the different feel. The metal on metal sends a different feel through the reins and at speeds can be felt swinging at the end of a loose rein. I dislike the subtle clunky feel when I pick up and release contact and I believe this is also experienced by the horse.
Straight off the shelf (or out of the Amazon box), these reins have an amazing feel. The folks over at Weaver Leather have cut them from Hermann Oak harness leather and then use a four-step finishing process. The result is a rein that immediately hangs well without strange twists and needs no oiling for years.
I’ve had some of my sets for close to a decade and any loss of reins has been my own fault. My only warning comes with keeping them out of range of hoses chewing on them. Aside from damage outside of normal use (being hung in a place where a horse can chew them)…these will last many years.
The reins are available in two widths: 1/2" x 8' or 5/8" x 8'. I have smaller hands and prefer the feel of the 1/2’, others prefer the wider feel of the 5/8’. The eight-foot length is generous and if I find it too long I simply trim the end when riding some of my ponies like Willow.
The reins pictured here have naturally darkened over the many years I have been using them. If keeping the color light is important to you then you could consider a pair for work and a pair to keep out of the sun and daily use as these are the things that naturally darken leather. Personally, I love the well-worn look:)
Video Below: to see these reins in use watch the video below.
Where to purchase:
Available at Stagecoach West
Great people, often lower prices than Amazon and free shipping with qualified order.
Disclosure: Some of the links here are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.