Are Your Reins Too Long?

We recently had a customer call to say they didn’t like the E-Z Ride Stirrups with Cage. The E-Z Ride Stirrups with Cage have been on the market for quite some time with lots of happy customers, and are designed so the rider’s foot cannot slide all the way through the stirrup, and it is considered a safety stirrup. So I asked, “Why don’t you like them?”

E-Z Ride Stirrup with Cage

The rider had a very good reason. Her horse turned its head around and was biting at the stirrup – no idea why. While biting the stirrup, the horse actually got his teeth caught on the cage! After he ran sideways for a bit, he stopped and let his rider disengage his teeth from the cage. No one was hurt. Whew!

Safety has to be the number one priority with horses. It’s important to develop safe habits while riding and being around horses. We sometimes become a little careless, or I should say carefree, when we ride our horses. We know them, we trust them, and we know what they can handle. However, the Martians can still land – unpredictably. And when they do, train wrecks can happen.

I have ridden with trail riders who give their horses a long rein, and allow them to move their heads from side to side looking at the scenery. I’ve heard the term “wag” their heads for this behavior. While this is ok on a limited basis, basically, I feel a horse should keep its head straight and look in the direction of movement at all times. This might require continuing to correct the head position by returning it to straight ahead repetitively, but it is safer in my opinion.  It results in less tripping, and the horse can see what’s ahead, and perhaps avoid a surprise. It’s also a better way to cover the ground. A horse that is made to travel straight will stay in forward motion with less energy, it’s just more efficient.


Riding with the slack out of the reins, keeping your horse’s head straight can prevent mishaps out on trail.

This horse that turned his head around to grab the stirrup had too much freedom and the reins were most likely too long. I’ve never heard of a horse getting his teeth caught on the stirrup, but I have heard of a horse catching the bit on the stirrup or other part of the saddle. This can also result in a serious train wreck. And it’s avoidable by not letting the head get turned that far around.

While we are discussing the head having too much freedom, a long length of rein also can allow the horse to grab bites of grass as you go down the trail. Then it can get out of hand as the horse is constantly reaching for the grass, stopping forward motion, and yanking the reins out of your hands at times. Too long of reins can also make it more difficult to stop a spook. When you have a proper rein length, you can often stop the spook just by re-establishing contact quickly, and preventing a 180-degree spin of a badly spooked horse.

In short, (pun intended) -keep the reins at a reasonable length. It’s a habit that can prevent an unpredictable mishap.


5 thoughts on “Are Your Reins Too Long?

  1. I had my horse saddled and ready to go for a ride, not yet bridle but tied to the trailer. I was called away for a few minutes. Evidently my horse also grabbed the ez ride caged stirrup and got her teeth caught. She really panicked, my daughter had to “kick” the stirrup out of her mouth to free her.


  2. Horses can get their jaws caught in stirrups without cages too, anytime a horse has enough freedom with its head to bite a foot or a stirrup, an accident can happen. Prevent the accident before it happens.


  3. Sarah, I agree 100% ! Horses who are looking around are not admiring the scenery. They are looking for danger—this is their instinctual behavior to protect themselves. The longer they look at something, the more they believe it is going to “get them”. We have to ride every step! It becomes part of your muscle memory and you can still go down the trail chatting and laughing, but your body and your reins are still in charge.


  4. Our paint gelding was saddled but tied to the trailer while I was getting the bridle out of the tack room. In just a minute he had reached around to nibble on whatever he could find and got his mouth caught on the western stirrup. Thank goodness he was very calm natured since it took some effort to get him free.


  5. My horse, Jaxs got his teeth caught in the cage safety stirrup while I was on the ground visiting with a friend. He is a good minded horse and gave to pressure so we were able to free him quickly. My horse once again reminded me to always be in the moment and be mindful of my horse.


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