John O'Leary





I am convinced that I must be the only one on the Planet that see's the pain of Horses that are ridden in the British Horse Society fashion, a system that is handed down across the World, via Pony Club, Military and Mounted Police. The ridden Rein handling fashion is the culprit for the terrorization of Horses everywhere and is a disgrace.

As a prolific 'Problem Horse' Trainer of 50 Years, I find it quite incredible that People cannot see the damage done to Horses everywhere by People hanging onto Reins like a 'Dummy' or 'Worry Beads'. This failed habit without logic is responsible for nothing but negativity in Horse Training with some of those being:

  •  Unhappiness on each and every occasion they are ridden

  • Learned helplessness.

  • The teaching of ridden vices such as Head chucking, reefing and more


  • The progressive diminishing of the integrity of the Mouth (brakes)

  • An obvious judgment by the Horse that the Owner is not worthy of respect or friendship....would You like someone who incessantly pulling inside Your Mouth with a Lump of Steel......FOR NOT REASON???

  • 'Jig Jogging Horses'

  • AND of course all of the ridden evasions that Horses dream up to attempt to communicate to the non listening Human.

    ...I have a couple of questions to You.......

  1.  If standing around chatting to Friends, waiting for the next Class, resting or other, why would anyone be constantly pulling against the Mouth of a Horse?????? has already parked!!

  2. If on a 'Pleasure Ride', warming down, riding to or from an arena or more, why would anyone be pulling against the Mouth of a Horse THAT IS ALREADY WALKING?????????????????

Did I mention rearing Horses??????....


I am not a rabid 'Greenie' when it comes to the training of Horses but have learnt that if You want the very best relationship with Your Horses, like our Horses, you should ride as we do and that being...........

"When training or competing in the 'English Disciplines', RIDE THE HORSE COMPLETE AND PROPER DRESSAGE. Round, On the Bit, Supple, Straight and all the rest. Accept no incorrectness.......BUT at all other times, 'RIDE ON THE PLEASURE REIN', so what is a 'Pleasure Rein'?



** For a Horse to be relaxed on a 'Pleasure Ride' it has to lower it's Neck. Horses ridden on the British Rein, cannot do so and therefore can never be relaxed. (which of course is one of the contributing factors to there being so many accidents in the UK)


Pictured on left an Australian Lass visiting Britain and on right, two British ridden Horses, ***Note the happiness of the Horse on the left!!

This Photo, sent into me by two Australian Ladies/span>

certainly and admirably from my point of view, shows the 'relaxed, Happy Horses' but my point here (yes, being pedantic) is that these Reins are longer than I use or would recommend. Especially if those Learning to ride are concerned, So how do we arrive at the perfect length of Rein, that gives:

  • Relaxed Horses

  • Hands not bouncing off Mouths, and...

  • Still having CONTROL WHEN NEEDED

  • Maximum control, in case of.....this is not easily learnt and quite technical


The perfect example comes from the Queen, seen here alongside a bad example.

for further actual examples, please see some of my 'starters' on their first rides out into the World.


Yes, the Chestnut above was Rearing a Week before and the Buckskin is in it's first Week of ridden Life so yes, You have to have a 'Pleasure Rein' but not Miles long Reins either, so You soon learn the depends upon the length of YOUR arms!!



The answer is


Yes, of course, we all have the luxury of letting the Head go way out with 'Old Faithful' but trust me, even they will meet the most frightening thing possible and "do the Bolt', therefore, the speed of Rein Handling is also a crucial factor in teaching Novices as much as the length of Rein.

THE FRONT BRAKES DO NOT HELP YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...contrary to all the brainwashing of the British systems. Trust me, two Reins do not help (you pull, they pull back, force meets force, they are stronger), especially with Kids of Ladies due to the strength factor, so read this.......

 IF YOU HAVE 'AIR BRAKES' Life is safe for You.

Swinging off the Mouths of Horses for no reason ruins the front Brakes and caused Rearing and Bolting.

So Folks, please have a think about it. I write these articles after meeting an dealing with Thousands of aggrieved Horses an Owners, a huge percentage of their problems easily traced back to this subject.



Hi I have read your article online about horses that reef and more than likely do this as their rider is putting unnecessary contact on the reins. My problem is. I take my horse out trail riding (he's very lazy) I ride him on the buckle and I have no contact with his mouth as it is not needed but he still reefs at the reins and it drives me nuts! How can I stop this? I know he hates contact, he would be worse with contact but doesn't stop when he's on the buckle. Please help. Regards. Kelly.

HI Kel

There are 3 causes for this:

  • The English Disciplines, Hacking, Pony Club, Dressage, where they won't let the Reins go no matter what.

  • (F.E.I. Horse who just reared in his Test)

  • The Racing Industry.

  • People who Trail Ride on a Contact

Take this Photo, these Horses are

  • Above the Bit

  • Unhappy Faces!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Leaning

  • Not having fun

  • Losing their Mouths

  • Learned resistance

  • Learned helplessness by being punished for already being good horses

  • Setting up the only cause possible where these horses would ever run away, FRUSTRATION

put simply, Horses despair as to their fate for 'relief', the foundations of all understanding in Horse Training.....never comes.

In Your case, You are doing everything right but without me riding with You, I wouldn't know if the Horse is actually finding Your Hand, despite Your admirable attempts.

The 'reef' and the incessant 'Tug' become almost a vice, like pawing or weaving. It can only be stopped via a 'Head Check' placed at the appropriate length for the chosen style of riding at the time....i.e.. at the true pleasure rein length in your case, where the Horse simply runs into the Brick Wall and learns that it is not a good idea to attempt reefing.

It is the movement of the Hand of the Rider, where the Horse as it reefs, moves the Hand through the Air, forward but STILL WITH THE CONTACT that never goes, that keeps them doing it. In this case, to be technical, the Mouth never gets a relief, it only gets endlessly penalized but always shows promise. The Head Check however, will see a Horse have to 'Bounce off the Contact' as it hit's the wall and gets the opportunity to glimpse relief.

The only other fix is to enable Rein control whereby the Horse simply CANNOT find the Hand, meaning extended reins


at the trot and Canter, DO NOT accept resistance, re-mouth the Horse and ride it completely ROUND. (here is a Starter - first ride out of the arena)





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