Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Allison Price
Horses should learn neck reining. This helps you feel confident in your horse’s ability to control. You can also use it to open gates, grab an item from your saddlebag or point out trail hazards, or pat your horse.
Q: Recently, I bought a Quarter Horse gelding that is 4 years old. He is a good-minded horse and has been doing well on the trails. He doesn’t yet know how to use neck rein and so I use a two-handed direct rein. I would like to teach him neck rein so that I can ride him unassisted when I want. Would you please share your method of teaching a horse neck rein?
A. Linda, neck reining can be a valuable skill for horses to master. This helps you feel confident in your horse’s ability to control. You can also use it to open gates, grab an item from your saddlebag or point out trail hazards, and pat your horse.
First, I will describe the reins and bits you need to teach your horse how to use neck rein. Next, I will describe the three types and methods of rein control. Then I’ll show you how to teach your horse to use neck rein.
[READ: Teach your Horse to Turn]
Reins and Bit
You can use either a single-piece rein to teach your gelding neck rein. Or split reins. Split reins should be between 7 1/2 and 3 1/4 feet in length.
You can cross the reins above your horse’s neck to allow you to hold the reins with one hand. This is known as a trainer’s grip. This will allow you to hold the reins in a way that makes it easier to return to two-handed reining if corrections are required.
Connect your reins to a smooth and full-cheek snaffle piece. Avoid using a shanked bit as it can cause too much pain during the learning process. You can use lateral pressure (side to side) or vertical pressure with a snaffle without causing any discomfort or pain to your gelding.
Although some people switch to a shanked bits once their horses have been trained to neck rein, I find a smoother snaffle bit to be a great option.
Types of Rein Control
Two-handed riding requires you to use an open, direct, and indirect rein. Below is a brief description of each type.
Open rein : Pressure applied to horse’s mouth with the inside rein (the one on the inside of the horse’s movement such as a circle), while steering the rein away from the neck.
Direct rein: Applying pressure on a horse’s mouth and guiding the inside rein towards your hip.
Indirect rein: Laying an outside rein (the rein that is outside a horse’s movements) against the neck of the horse. The neck rein is an indirect rein. Instead of applying pressure directly to his mouth, apply pressure to his neck in order to cause him to turn.
[READ MORE: Neck Reining]
Here are the steps to teach your horse to control his neck rein. You’ll need to execute Steps 2-5 simultaneously.
Step 1. Get prepared. Get your horse saddled, put him in his bit and reins, then lead him to a safe area. Once he is there, mount him. After warming him up, ask him to move to the left in an extended circle.
Step 2. Use a direct rein. Use the inside (left), direct rein to tip your gelding’s nose slightly.
Step 3. Use an indirect rein. You can also use the outside (right), rein to act as an indirect rein by laying it on the neck.
Step 4. Apply your leg. Apply slight pressure to your right calf with outside leg pressure as you give the rein cues.
Step 5. Use you body weight. Look in the direction you are guiding your horse as you give him these rein cues. This will cause your body weight to shift, and also signal him to turn the circle.
Step 6. Reverse direction. Invert the direction and go back to Step 6.
Step 7. Request the trot or lope. Once your mare is responding to your cues during the walk, you can repeat Steps 2-5 at the trot and then the lope. At each gait, circle to the left and right.
Step 8. Keep it consistent. When you are riding two-handed, ask your horse to turn. Apply inside rein pressure. Always place your outside rein on your horse’s neck and apply outside leg pressure.
Step 9. Ride single-handed. Apply only indirect rein pressure to your gelding and your leg aid. If necessary, grab the inside rein and apply direct rein pressure. He will learn at his own pace to respond only to the outside leg cue and indirect rein pressure.
Step 10. Be patient. Horses learn at their own pace. Your gelding may need to learn neck reining over time. Keep your horse safe and patient. Ask a certified trainer in your area for help if you have any questions.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!