Teaching Your Horse to Neck Rein

Last Updated on June 15, 2020 by Allison Price

Neck reining is basically a good skill for any horse to learn. It makes you feel secure in controlling your horse. Also, it gives you a free hand to open gates or retrieve an item from your saddlebag. You can point out a trail hazard, pat your gelding and many more. There are benefits when your horse learns to neck rein. We have provided the steps in this article on how to teach your horse to neck rein.

How to Teach Your Horse to Neck Rein

One of the useful skills is being able to neck rein your horse. It makes things like opening gates without dismounting. It can carry something, or swish away flies while trail riding easier. Aside from it is fun and easy, it’s also a safe thing you can teach your horse if you are not an advanced rider. How long your horse will learn depends on your skill and how quick your horse learns.

Mount Up

Mount your horse. Hold a rein in each hand as normal, then start at a walk. If you are used to riding in contact, you will have to slacken your reins slightly. So that when you cue with the rein against the neck, you are not accidentally pulling on the bit as well. Your horse should lead into the turn with his nose, not tip his head to the outside.

Guide Your Horse

Walk in a straight line. After that, turn a sharp corner of about a 90-degree angle. Your seat and legs aids as you turn the corner cue with the inside rein. Lay the outside rein against the horse’s neck. Lift your hand. So that the rein makes clear and positive contact against the mid-section of the neck.

Make Consistent Cues

Return your hands to the direct reigning position as you come out of the turn. Be careful not to pull on the outside rein where you are laying against the horse’s neck. It might confuse him.

Keep Sessions Short

Make many turns and always change directions. Think ahead of time how and where you want to make your turns each time you are on a straightway. Do this for 15 minutes over several days. Don’t follow the same pattern every time you ride. Your horse might learn the pattern and ignore the rein aids against his neck.

Change the Order of the Cues

Before putting contact on the bit, try making the neck rein cue first after a few sessions. As soon as the horse starts into the turn, release any contact with the bit. But leave the rein on the neck until you wish to stop the turn. Squeeze the inside rein slightly if he wanders out of the turn. This is to remind him of the direction. Do this for several more sessions.

Hold the Reins in One Hand

A cue with the inside rein is no longer needed when your horse is consistent in responding to the neck rein cue. Using your one hand, hold the reins.

Be Patient

 Be patient with your horse. Some are fast learners but some take extra time to learn their lessons. Likewise, you are teaching yourself as you teach your horse. Take it slow and take things one step at a time. Once the neck rein cue has been learned, you can already have a smooth turn. You only need to practice occasionally.


Below are the tips on training your horse to neck rein.
  1. The purpose of the inside rein is to guide the horse in the direction you want to go. It is called the leading rein. The leading rein on a left turn is the left rein. But the leading rein of a right turn is the right rein.
  • Your legs and body are an important part of the cue whether you are reining with one hand or two. Don’t concentrate so much on your hands that you forget everything else.
  • If you work in a fenced ring or an arena, your horse will likely be more attentive. Other horses hate being in a ring though. Work wherever you feel safe. Your horse will be most attentive.
  • Ride with an intention. Avoid being inclined to be indeterminate. Your horse will be quick pick up your inattentiveness and inconsistency. They may not take your commands seriously.
  • Instead of a gradual or circular turn, you may want to work rather in sharp corners. With that, your horse will know you are making a definite turn rather than wandering around.

Types of Rein Control

When you ride using your two hands, use an open rein, a direct rein, and an indirect rein. We have defined these three terms:

Open Rein

Applying pressure to a horse’s mouth using the inside rein while guiding the rein away from his neck.

Direct Rein

Guide the inside rein directly toward your inside hip. While doing that, apply pressure to a horse’s mouth.

Indirect Rein

Laying the outside rein against the horse’s neck. You are applying pressure to his neck to cue him to turn rather than applying direct pressure to his mouth.

Choosing the Right Bit for Your Horse

Finding the right horse bit can be a difficult process. So, here are a few general best practices you can follow.

Go as gentle as possible. Try to find the gentlest horse bit possible. The one that will still allow you to communicate at the level you need with your horse. Most riders opt to start with a snaffle bit. Then, they move on to a curb bit if needed as they get more riding experience. If you’re an experienced rider or you go to horse shows. You may choose a more sever horse bit.

Try the bit out before buying. If possible, try the horse bit out before buying. It’s hard to tell which bit is going to work best for your horse until you’re actually using it. Most of the time, riders have to go through many bits before finding the right one.

Ask the horse’s previous owner about the right bit. If you are in touch with the previous owner, then ask which type of horse bit they were using. Ask also how the horse responded. If the horse was sold to you with a bit, use that bit to start with.


Neck reining is generally a way of steering the horse by giving it cues with the reins. It allows someone who rides to control the horse with one hand. Aside from that, it is also a necessary skill for certain types of riding.

Allison Price
Allison Price

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!