Reins - and How They Connect Horses and Driver

Holding driving reins is very different from holding those for riding.
This is something you should consider to learn in a driving course from somebody with expertise. Once learned, you will see that everything is thought through, makes sense and is absolutely practical.

See here how you hold lines according to the famous "Achenbach" method, which is widespread over continental Europe. It was developed in Germany by Benno von Achenbach, the founder of a very practical, safe and comfortable approach to drive horses.

Basic HoldingmethodBasic Holdingmethod

Holdingmethod for General UseHoldingmethod for General Use

Holdingmethod for Work or DressageHoldingmethod for Work or Dressage

Watch Out For:

Lines are made of leather, best is russet leather and are usually brown no matter if the harness is black or brown. (Black leather stains the clothing.)

To hold them comfortable and safe enough they should have a certain width depending on the individual size of the hand of the driver. It is mentioned that e.g. women prefer a width of around 22 mm, men a width of 25 mm. The thickness is around 13 - 19 mm. The average length for single horses is around 4 m, for teams of four or a tandem around 7.2 m.

They have to be long enough, but not too long, because the driver's feet could be caught by them. If they are too short they could be ripped out of the hand.

If they are too broad, it becomes uncomfortable to hold them, too narrow ones are easier slipping through the hand, if the horse pulls on them and if they become wet.

It is essential to keep them in a pliable condition that you can hold them comfortably and that you are able to give more delicate and light "commands" through them to your horse.

On the horse's end are the billets, which connect them to the bit. The billets need to be controlled and watched carefully for signs of wearing and saliva should be washed down immediately after use.

They are made out of 3 to 4 pieces of premium quality russet leather. Those leather pieces are being spliced and sewn together.

Tips on Buying

If you buy reins have a good look on those splices:

On new gear they should never be in places, where they are going through terrets. The stitching will wear and become damaged after a certain time and may break there.
In used ones the stitching should be looked at carefully and if wear and tear marks are detected, you best leave them alone.

Illustration of Reins on a Single Horse Illustration of Reins in a Pair
Illustration of Reins in a Single Horse Illustration of Reins in a Pair

These Graphics show, how horses and driver in Single and Pairs are connected to each other. You can see that there are couplings and drafts and that the couplings change side.

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