Many of you may have noticed my reins are a little different than the “normal” reins you see used. In the ParaEquestrian sport of Dressage, we are allowed certain compensating aids. Compensating aids don’t give us an advantage over any other rider, but merely compensate for the physical or sensory limitation resulting from our impairment, thereby enabling us to ride a horse. It puts us on a more equal playing field. I use a number of compensating aids, but today I’ll focus on my reins.
I have no grip in my hands and cannot take my hands out of a fisted position; therefore, it was necessary to find a different way for me to handle the reins. I use a type of looped rein that goes around my wrist. The loop is on a buckle that locks in place when I pull back on it. With slight movements of my wrist, I’m able to communicate and tell Taco what to do. Since I ride in a double bridle, I have a single rein that splits off into a double connection to the bridoon (snaffle bit) and the curb. When I started training with Sara, she helped set up the connection to both bits off the single rein to allow for the maximum amount of adjustment off both the curb and bridoon to replicate riding with two reins when using the double bridle.
Because the loops are set with a buckle, I cannot adjust the length of my rein during my ride like one would normally. If I need something adjusted, someone else must do this for me. It makes it a little tricky as there are times when the length has felt perfect in the warm up, but when I go into the show ring, Taco gets more collected and active and suddenly my reins become 10x longer than they were in the warm up. Since I can’t adjust anything on my own, I have to trust him, and go with the flow.
Have I had any technical difficulties with my reins? Yes! But only once, and of course it happened at National Championships in the main show ring in front of three international judges! In the middle of one of my tests while doing a movement where my balance is greatly tested and I have to lean forward over Taco’s neck, the loop on the rein broke off the buckle. I had no reins and no connection to Taco, and I fell on top of him. Everyone watching had no clue what was going on- they only saw me fall on his neck. I panicked slightly, but was determined to finish my test. So I jimmy-rigged something together and finished the rest of my test, which was all in trot work. Taco really proved his worth that day as he stayed in the ring and listened to everything I told him!