Aren't non-elastic side reins too rigid?
Isn't it better to use elastic side-reins?
Is it advised to use side reins with a young horse before he learned to feel the contact with the rider's hand?
Is it wrong to think that the rider's hand is lighter than the side reins when it comes to give and take contact?
What is your opinion? as rigides

The questions are numerous this month. This is truly a good subject.

Non elastic reins have to be made out of supple leather, they must be adjustable and tied to the girth below the flaps or to the surcingle, and to the rings of the snaffle with a regular snaphook. The reins must not be stretchable. Elastic acts like a harsh hand: when the horse pulls, there is not enough resistance. The lack of firmness teaches to horse to use strength. And when the horse gives in, the elastic pulls back to "un-stretch" and builds up pulling strength. A non-elastic side rein resists without stretching, and gives in at the very second the horse gives in. Therefore, the non-elastic side reins are never harsh. They do not make mistakes. They are firm when they have to resist and they always give in at the right moment.
Non elastic side reins are like a very good hand.
Donut side reins are acceptable, but they are not as good.

Can non-elastic side-reins be used with a young horse?
Yes, for the above reasons. Non elastic side reins, contrary to the hands of numerous riders that are not always firm, light and well timed, do not make mistakes. The hands of a beginner, insensitive, tactless or unskilled rider are rarely gifted.

The non-elastic side reins are like a gifted hand.

They allow the horse to be rounded, balanced and into place. The young horse acquires muscle tone without having to carry the extra weight of the rider. The young horse learns about the rider's hands, to respect and to yield to them. The side reins prepare and confirm a confidant contact with the rider's hands.

If badly adjusted, side reins are useless or even damaging, the horse will fight them like bad or inexperienced hands. Trying to position the horse's head with side reins the first time you use them is a big mistake. Very reactive horses, hot blooded horses, very stiff or uptight horses could react violently, go backwards, rear and fall over, or jump straight up (ballotade).
As soon as the side reins are very loosely adjusted, I repeat, immediately and without rushing, push the horse forward on a circle in the trot.
Frame the horse well. If needed, ask someone to assist you by holding the whip and staying behind the horse's haunches, about 6 to 10 feet away from you, inside the lunging ring.

Make sure you obtain a calm trot without having to push the horse too much. Observe your horse's reactions. When he relaxes, halt and reward. Proceed the same way on both reins.
Then, little by little, adjust the side reins, possibly over several workouts. The inside rein should be a shorter by an inch or so. Modify the length of the reins and their placement on the girth.

The adjustment of the side reins depends on the horse's conformation and his degree of training.

Golden rules:
- proceed progressively,
- side reins must never act with force,
- the horse's head must never be below vertical.

Do not position the head too high. The poll should be too low rather than too high. The adjustment is perfect when the horse carries himself, shows a trace of collection, is correctly bent, head in place, active and relaxed on a soft contact. A soft contact is just the weight of the leather.

Use the side reins when starting a young horse, and at the beginning of a workout with a more advanced horse after he warmed up freely on the lunge. In a general rule, non-elastic side reins are the only tie downs to use.

Observe, feel and experiment… You will find the right adjustment and the workout will profit your horse while he enjoys himself as well.

Your reactions...

A thought about non-elastic side reins…

The non-elastic side reins are like a gifted hand (as said on your website…). A gifted hand would then be a motionless and cold hand? How horrible!

The hands must be steady compared to the horse's mouth, not compared to a random point like the surcingle's hooks (except when the horse is resisting, then the hands resist and rightly so become like non-elastic side reins).
I think non-elastic side reins are the best way to permanently put a horse behind the bit. I prefer by far the elastic side reins (because the stretch and coil of the elastic compares to the acts of the rider's fingers when asking the horse to yield the poll and mouth!)… and even better, I prefer my hands that are controlled by my brain!

Awaiting your point of view, sincerey….

Let's talk some more about the work with non-elastic side reins.
The term "non-elastic" seems to bother you…
First, I must specify that work on side reins is only done on the lunge.

Did you ever try to stretch one of those elastics with your own two hands? Try it, you'll see how hard it is. Weightlifting is not part of the equestrian world!
These elastics can absolutely not be compare to the subtle moves of the rider's fingers. When the horse gives in, the rider's fingers give in. Elastics are punishing because they continue to pull back.
As for the non-elastic side reins, they give in the instant the horse gives in. Reward is instant. If the horse tends to pull on them, they resist without ever using a greater force. It's called firmness.

When the side reins are well accepted by the horse and when they are perfectly adjusted, there is no more leaning on the surcingle. The horse carries himself, he is placed on the bit, the poll is the highest point, and the contact with the mouth is just the weight of the leather (of the side reins). In short, the expression "non-elastic side reins" should be "forgotten". I could even say that it becomes a "lowering of the side reins", like the expression "lowering of the hands", " descente de mains".

If the side reins put your horse behind the bit (like you said it does), it means they were badly adjusted. If too short, the side reins do put the head below vertical - behind the bit indeed! The rider's hand controlled by his or her brain can be very subtle… but they can also be ignorant, rough or simply clumsy.
When perfectly used, non-elastic side reins are fantastic tools. A gifted hand is a blessing to a horse.
Wrongly used side reins are a nuisance. Harsh hands (or ignorant hands, but that can be improved) are a calamity to a horse.
In horseback riding, procedures, methods, actions and aids only have value when done by skilled riders. A skilled rider is tactful, knows how to observe, feel and adapt.

This is what I observed, what my Master, Nuno Oliveira taught me, and what I try to practice on my horses.

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