Neck rein

A horse responds to neck rein techniques when it has learnt that a light pressure of the right rein against its neck on that side means for the horse to turn left, and a light pressure of the other rein against its neck on the left side means for the horse to turn right.

The horse should look in the direction he is going. Head tossing and turning the head to the outside of the turn are clear signs of bad training and/or faulty rider technique. When riders neck rein, they hold both reins in the left hand (if they are right-handed), and hold their lariat or other needed tool in their right hand. Moving the left hand slightly to the left tells the horse to turn left, and moving the left hand to the right means for the horse to turn right. The reins should never become so tight as to take the slack out of the reins when neck-reining, the only exception being the young horse in training who may need a reminder to look where he's going. The correct way to teach neck reining relies on perfecting the horse's responses to weight and leg aids while slowly introducing the feel of the rein against the neck as a cue. A horse that has been well trained to neck rein becomes so responsive to legs and seat that it is very easy to simply take the bridle off completely — a move sometime seen in reining competition when the riders attempt to gain extra points by showing off a bit. Occasionally trainers will use sloppy and incorrect methods such as crossing the reins under the neck or using reins with tacks or pins in them, but this poor level of horsemanship is thankfully not seen as often in western riding today as it was in years past.

In English riding and other systems where the primary means of communication is light pressure between the rider's hands and the horse's mouth, light pressure is always maintained on the bit. In neck reining, the reins are left slack unless the rider needs to tell the horse to stop. It is interesting to note, however, how many well-trained English horses seem to already know how to neck rein without being taught — further proof that the skill is primarily an outcome of encouraging responsiveness to the legs.


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