Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tack Time: Talking About Reins

First off: to reward our contest participants who were not lucky enough to win a Riding Ninja tshirt, the Riding Ninja store is continuing their Easter sale through the end of the week. Buy two, get one free on all items. Just enter the code "Buy2Get1" at the checkout. Store is here.

 Next, let's look at a fun tack topic: Reins!

There are lots of things we can do without, but reins are one thing most every rider has in common. Given that we spend more hands-on time with our reins than any other piece of tack, it's important to have reins you like. With the dizzying selection of reins available to the general public, I went ahead and pow wowed with fellow budget-challenged tack 'ho Monica from Chasing the Dream to make an authoritative list of reins types and uses and our opinions thereon.

Rubber Reins
 Rubber reins are generally leather at the bit attachment and leather at the buckle, with a strip of rubber where the rider's hands go. They are popular with jumpers and eventers, acceptable in the dressage ring, and all wrong for hunters and breed shows. There are many different kinds available.
Soft grip reins. Cute Cuna
-Soft grip-
SB: These are the best reins ever, imho. They have all the grip of rubber with the flexibility of a leather rein and unmatched durability. I oogled them until I could borrow a set, nearly stole the borrowed ones, and now own a set for two of my three bridles. They are easy on the hands, easy to clean, and oh so worth the money. 

thinline reins
-Thin Line-
Monica: I wish I knew what they were. They sound like rubber reins on a diet. Can I go on this diet?
SB: These were very well reviewed online, so I ended up with a couple of pairs. Truth? Although they are soft, I thought there were too slim for my hands to hold well and the thinline material was really, really easy to harm. For example, if you put flyspray on your horse, you can't use them. Problem? I think yes.

Finger tearing reins

-large pimple-
Monica: I had a pair of white ones for XC. After 4 years they got waaaay too sticky (all the cleaning-white gets nasty. And of course I used it for the dirtiest phase) and I had to throw them out. I think I cried actually since they were about $80. I didn't really like them too well either. Too thick, and when wet, they still slipped. Kind of the point of rubber reins. Perhaps tan ones would be better since they shouldnt have to be cleaned with soap, which probably led to the degradation of the rubber so quickly.
SB: These are a mixed bag. I have some nice Nunn Finer ones and they're alright, but the cheaper ones can be downright nasty. I actually had a new pair tear the skin off my fingers from the ridges in the rubber. Ouch! Once they're broken in, they're fine... usually. They are generally pretty inexpensive for rubber reins and the grip is pretty good. I never did use abrasive cleaners and I haven't killed a pair yet, so that's probably good.

-small pimple-
SB: I've actually never had these. Every time I touch them, I just think they're awful. I haven't even run into someone at our barn who has them, so use at your own risk, I guess.

-garish colors-
Monica: absolutely just awful. I remember using these when I was a wee child taking lessons, thinking they were the worst things ever invented. Not only were the colors gross, but the leather stops in between just got in the way of my little fingers. The thickness combined with that made it actually hurt my hands.

Laced reins

Popular with hunter riders, breed show people, and those who were raised in the 70s, laced reins are leather and have a section of lacing run through the area where the rider's hands go. I assume it's a throwback to the hunt field in pre-rubber days, but I know that laced rein lovers are as adamant as they are old fashioned.
Monica: I have a pair for my double bridle. They are literally 1/4in wide and IMPOSSIBLE to hold on to. However, with two sets of reins, its almost a necessity. I think that's actually the point of the curb bit rein, to make you forget its their until you absolutely need it! I would never use this for a jump bridle, or even in dressage as I find them too slippery and thin. I like some meat on my reins...but not too much.
Raised laced reins
SB: Ok, I admit it. When the hunter riders have fancy raised bridles and matching fancy raised reins, I get all giddy. I did cave a few years ago and get my own raised, laced reins. Guess what? HATE. That pretty raised part does not bend like a plain rein. I'm sure it's fine if you're used to it, but I am not ok with it. So. Pretty and go for it if you can. I can't.
Monica: Standard for most bridles until maybe 6 years ago I think. Not my favorite things (can you see a trend? Pickiest. rein. person. ever) since brand new ones take ages to break in, they are difficult to clean and sometimes hurt hands if  you have a strong horsey that pulls. Ahem, Mr. Pronto....& Yankee, as a baby.
SB: A nice, old, broken-in pair can be ok, but with the advancements with rubber reins, I just don't see the point. They are IMPOSSIBLE to clean, dirt gets in every crevice, and soap/condition always seems to leave a little bit behind. Ugh.

-rubber lined-
SB: I have always wanted to try these--they're pretty like laced reins, but the rubbed on the inside gives them a lot more grip. I do wonder if they'd hurt my hands, but there's no way to know... 
Monica: would love to try I think! trying to convince the boy that I need them for my bday. Mwah ahahah.

Web Reins
Web reins.
-with stops-
SB: I snagged a pair of these because I was dealing with an annoying tendency to hold my reins at a different length. They're cheap and they did the trick, but I just don't like how they feel in my hands and they are at massive PITA to clean. You can do better. Take it from me.
-with stops & with rubber-
Monica: BEST. FANTABULOUS. LOVE. Like, I would date them if they were a person. I use them for dressage and they are perfect. Perfect grip, width, everything. Even the stops help me keep the reins even in my hands ( blast that cursed inside hand!!) and aren't too bulky. I will never use anything else in my whole life for flatwork.
SB: While Monica makes some good points, they are still hard to clean AND the rubber seems to wear out pretty fast. Maybe I've only been around the cheap versions? Hard to say.

Mystery Reins-
Monica: Not even sure WHAT these bad boys could be called but they are the mother of all perfect rein babies. They are cotton laced leather braided reins, tan. I love love love love love them. Did I mention that I love them? I bought them on a whim last summer after eyeing them for a few months and I have never regretted that $95 (the most I have ever and will ever spend on reins, by the way. I'm a cheap whore)!! I use them for XC and stadium (though I'm still looking for that pair of reins for stadium that is my miracle..in typical tack whore fashion, I want a set of reins for each bridle, for two reasons. I LOATHE changing reins, esp in winter, and I feel using them for two phases-practice & show, wears them out faster) and they are perfection. Even when wet they are not slippery thanks to the cotton braiding. Also the easiest to change from bit to bit. Expensive leather really is worth it. ABSOLUTELY recommend. trouble is, I've only ever seen them at my local tack store.

Blue nylon roping reins-
Monica: I initially used these for XC since when wet they arent slippery (Yankee sweats like a faucet in summer...and winter), but after Novice,  not practical since you have to slip reins for drops and they were too short. I love the blue color though, they matched :D

There are so many different kinds of reins and they suit all different kinds of people and sports. What do you use? What do you like or want to try? Anything I missed on this list that you think needs to be added? 


  1. I've never used a pair of rubber/rubber like reins that I actually liked... I like plain laced reins myself. Or plain flat reins.

  2. Yikes, what kind of fly juice are you using? I've had Thinlines on both bridles for over a year now at 4-6 rides/week and they've served me well through all weather conditions -- including bug season! They definitely are thin and very flexible, so that's not going to be your kind of thing if that's not your kind of thing, but I like 'em better than anything else I've ever used.

    Which includes the rubber-lined leather! I used a set of those as my I-am-a-hunter-transitioning-over-and-standard-rubber-feels-too-weird reins. They were fine at the time, but wore out/lost grip quickly (granted, I didn't buy the top of the line) and I was happy to move on to...it wasn't the soft-grips, but something very similar. Not worth it, IMO, unless you absolutely positively want the leather look.

  3. My fave reins right now are the ones that came with my Nunn Finer bridle. I actually kind of hate the bridle, but I really like the reins that came with it! They're rubber-lined but not too clunky. My super fly Pessoa figure 8 has braided leather reins and I actually avoid using that bridle because I hate the reins so much.

    Bottom line: I cannot be satisfied.

  4. I love the softline reins (I sweat like a maniac, even through gloves -- without gloves it's just all blisters all the time) and I have a thing for web reins when I'm trying to keep my hands in one place (it's good for me to have a visual reference that's easy to find) and I like the stops. One the subject of rubber reins, I really like the reins that come on racing bridles (I'm sure there's a more technical term here) but they are MUCH thicker which would seem cumbersome, but something about the weight and thickness of them makes it easy to feel secure on a greenie without accidentally using the horses mouth or front end for balance. And galloping with them is fun!

  5. You forgot split reins, which of course is just a Western thing, but I love my split reins. Of course, they come in every kind of leather (and nylon), but oftentimes they're just simple smooth leather.

    Also, you just sent me into a panic when you said that I can't use rubber reins in the hunter ring. Can I use the soft grips? That's what I have... Obviously I am new to hunterland...

    1. You -can- use them. That said, you want to be as conventional as possible, and everyone else is going to be in laced reins. My hunter friend assures me that rubber lined laced reins are perfectly ok and I think I trust her. ;)

  6. I'm so glad to hear you love the Soft Grip reins! I bought a pair to go with my jumper bridle but haven't tested them out yet.

  7. I only ride western so for me it is either, leather split reins (the older the better) a cotton braided 10 ft roping rein which is really nice for trail riding or just farting around. Also good for trail riding (I think) are rope Mecates. I like Mecates because I get to decide how much is rein and how much is "tail". I have a set of 8 ft braided ropers, but they are nylon and not comfy to my old lady hands which are always dry from farm work.

    1. I almost did split reins, but I really don't know anything about western.

  8. True confession time: I've never used anything other than laced reins. I'm starting XC this year, and I know it's time to branch out, so thanks for the write-up! This will help a lot!

  9. I am in love with my beta reins, which I realize are pretty much an endurance/trail-only thing, but they are AMAZING. They're a bit heavier than I'd like though, and definitely heavier than your typical leather or rubber reins. Grippy, but not so grippy that I can't let the reins slide through my hands if need be. Comfortable enough that I can ride without gloves, haul on pony-face a few times, and not instantly be feeling it in my hands. Extra bonus: they're cheap! My newest pair should be running me close to $40 including shipping and some extra color.

  10. Calfskin reins with hidden stops made by ADT (I think there's one or two other brands that make them now). Come in brown and black and are FABULOUS! I use them for both hunters and dressage, mostly dressage. Never have to wear gloves, even with a puller.

    Also regarding laced reins. I never liked them either, tore up my hands. But that was because I had only tried inexpensive brands. But now I have laced reins that were SUPER easy to break in: SmartPak's Harwich (fancy raised bridle set) and Courbette's (x-fine plain raised bridle set). I use the Harwich daily and Courbette for shows. ADT also has a lovely set with their Imperial bridle. Quality totally makes a diff. Also I don't clean with soap, but with Effax LeatherCombi (liquid) so I never have goo stuck in the laces.

    I also love Nunn Finer's soft grin rubber reins (mine are royal blue) which I use on rainy days.

  11. I am a lover of webbed reins...my friends prefer the rubber on the inside.

  12. I love plain, thin leather reins for flatwork. They slide through my hands a bit, but I feel like I have a lot more control.

    I just started using rubber reins (the ones that came with my Micklem bridle) and I'm not really a fan. I need something thinner. I did feel some amazing rubber reins on a Toulouse bridle before - I'm going to go see if I can find them to purchase them. They were awesome - thin, but grippy.

  13. Good grief, I never knew there were so many different kinds of reins! Welcome to the world of Eventing, I guess (I've always done Hunters). In my riding career 98% of the time I've had laced or plain leather reins. Either kind is okay with me, really, but I do ALWAYS wear gloves. Can't stand to ride without 'em. I believe there was some horse I rode (always been a lesson student) who had cotton web reins with stops in them and I didn't much care for those. I might like rubber-lined, though, if it was wet out...

  14. I really like plain leather reins for dressage. If I have stops, I hold the reins at the stops, even if that's not where I need to hold them. Doh!

    I just recently inherited a pair of super-soft rubber reins that I've been using for foxhunting, and they're pretty awesome. I've avoided rubber reins because they're usually so thick and stiff, but these aren't. I've used cotton web reins with stops for years for XC, since they don't get slick and I can dump them in a bucket of water to clean them.

    Laced reins are the wooooorst. Too hard to clean.

  15. I use thinline leather reins for Maestro, and webbed reins for my other two.
    I actually love the thinlines, but I agree- they can get slippery pretty darned quick when horse sweat is involved!
    I used to have rubber reins (still do somewhere...) but I never liked them much. Too thick, and I still found they got slippery during an XC or SJ round. They were expensive ones too!

  16. I got introduced to the soft grip rubber in endurance... and I refuse to go back! Best reins ever. OMG.

  17. I love the Nunn Finer Soft Grip reins. I have 2 pairs for my Jump and XC bridle and right now I am trying out leather reins with stops that came on my dressage bridle. I don't think I like them. I'll have to save up to get a new pair sometime later.

    You can get the soft grip reins from the amish (they make some nunn finer stuff) for way less on ebay (59) (i think you can also call bartville tack)

  18. I love, love, LOVE my soft grip rubber reins! I've got two pairs now and eventually I want them on all my bridles.

  19. LOVE the soft grip rubber. I was recently introduced to rubber lined, and now use them for dressage. They're really great, but I wouldn't be tempted to use them without gloves.

  20. Henry is supper heavy and I love love love my rubber reins- good grip ;)

    Good review btw!


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