Tag Archives: horsescout

Is Elastic Fantastic? The Impact Of Elastic Inserts On Rein Tension


Horse Scout Bloggers’ conundrum toady: In conversation the other day I was asked about a horse which consistently tensed against his riders hands, his rider wondered what she could do with a pulling horse, and the conversation turned to the use of elastic reins to diffuse tension. The first port of call is always to seek advice from the ground with the help of a professional trainer but the question was an interesting one and I decided to investigate the arguments for and against.

I notice that, among others, Carl Hester sells them through his website shop under the banner “CARL HESTER FANTASTIC ELASTIC DRESSAGE REINS’ The website states that they are designed by the Olympic Gold Medalist to give an elastic feel from the hand to the horses mouth. Followed by a quote from Carl Hester – “As a rider and trainer my constant quest is to connect horse and rider with the ultimate ‘elastic’ feel, these reins do exactly that”

The bullet points for their use state that the elastic inserts

  • Encourage a soft consistant contact
  • Help improve hand position
  • Eliminate resistance in the mouth
  • Elastic insert for soft contact

And that they are:-

  • Training aid only, not permitted in competition
  • Horse size only in black or brown
  • Top quality British leather
  • Dressage rein has rubber grip on inside

I can certainly understand the thinking behind the design, particularly when teaching riders about the need to think forward at all times and not to rely on force or tension through transitions and that they may well help with the understanding of “feel” in riding.

Conversely I can also empathise with the IESC findings which indicate that, whilst they had a positive impact on tension in horses; riders can easily mistime their rein aids, not release sufficiently or apply to much tension (thus learning bad habits) because the elastic dulls/blurs the feel on the horses mouth.  Below is the report from the conference.

17-Aug-last year the 10th International Equitation Science Conference was held in Denmark.  This conference covered Equine Stress, Learning and Training and one particular topic was the impact of elastic inserts on rein tension.

They say: Elastic has been used over the years to achieve ‘give’ and flexibility in equestrian equipment such as girths and reins. The reins provide a physical means for the delivery of signals/aids from the human to the horse. Rein design with the inclusion of elastic inserts are designed to “diffuse tension, to avoid pressure on the horse’s mouth and to avoid sustained tension on the reins”. However researchers found that this design can have a substantial impact on the tensions applied particularly when making transitions during equitation.


The study bought to the table to argue this was was conducted by Hayley Randle, PhD, Academic Lead: Quality and Research at Duchy College and Hon. President of the International Society for Equitation Science and Alison Abbey Equitation Science programme manager from Duchy College, UK. Randle and Abbey set out to determine the effect of elastic inserts in reins on first, the tension applied for normal riding and a walk to halt transition, and second, the ability to release the tension in the reins.

Thirty female riders (note: the study does not seem to comment on the expertise of these riders) rode horses with either standard rubber or rubber reins with elastic inserts. Rein tensions were measured using a Centaur Rein Tension Gauge TM for left and right hands, with both rein types when taking up a normal riding contact and executing a walk to halt transition.

The results of the study demonstrated significantly different tensions were applied by riders with the two types of rein. Lower tensions were exerted on reins with the elastic insert than with the rigid reins in the normal riding contact condition, whilst higher tensions were evident with elastic insert reins than with rigid reins in the walk to halt transition. The time taken for rein tension to return to zero following complete release by the rider was significantly greater, and less consistent, with the elastic insert reins than with the rigid reins.

Since sustainable and ethical equitation relies upon the effective delivery and receipt of clear signals and timely pressure-release; rein tension and pressure-release should be used carefully and consistently in training. This study suggests that although elastic inserts in reins may result in less tension in general riding, they may alter riders’ behaviour in terms of the tension applied when executing a particular equitation task. Furthermore, elastic inserts in reins may have a deleterious effect on a rider’s ability to apply negative reinforcement accurately and therefore clarity during training.

The impaired ability to simultaneously release pressure may have a negative impact on equine learning and training, and consequently equine stress and welfare.  The consensus at the conference was that further research is needed into the incorporation of materials such as elastics.

On the Ground

Your Horse Editor, Julie Brown, says:

Carl Hester gave me these reins at Your Horse Live last year, as he thought they might be useful for my horse Boris – I was struggling to keep him in a consistent, soft outline. I sold Boris shortly after but recently I’ve been using them with my young mare Vespa. Being a baby, she sometimes tries to use my hands as a prop, particularly if she’s a little tired. To stop this and to make sure I wasn’t making it worse by pulling back, I thought I’d give these a go. The reins have an elastic insert that gives slightly, allowing for a soft feel. It’s impossible for the horse to take a hold which, in turn, makes sure the rider isn’t being too heavy either.

She goes on to say “The results weren’t instantaneous but after a few sessions I definitely saw the benefit. Even if Vespa did try to lean, she

wasn’t able to, and a nice soft contact ensued. They aren’t dressage legal, so Vespa needs to learn to take a nice soft contact no matter what reins I’m using, but I find that if I have a schooling session full of leaning and pulling and everything else fails, then using the reins really works. I can highly recommend them as a training aid to be used when needed.”

Having read articles for and against I think that they are a good idea in moderation, I think, like many training aids, they have a place.  I also think that training aids are not a panacea and that, ultimately, it is correct training, correct riding, goal setting and incremental training programmes which make a horse work well and a partnership successful.

They say “Patience is a virtue” the reality is that you will get virtually nowhere without Patience.

How can I balance a big horse? Core strength is the key to harmony.


Horse Scout blogger was pondering this question.  I am tall and quite strong , I run and do a fair amount of core training.  I also have very long legs! I was thinking how this affected what sort of horse I would search for if I was looking for horses for sale. More importantly what happens when a smaller person falls in love with a horse which, on the face of it, looks as if he is going to be “just too big”

Having a horse which is large doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be ridden by a large or strong person. They do, however, take much longer to become strong in themselves, so training will take proportionately longer. As your horse becomes stronger he will be able to carry himself better and become easier to ride. A fit, fully trained large horse should not in practice be any more effort to ride than a smaller one.

BUT: it would pay a small rider in dividends to be as physically stable and strong as they can be, not to force the horse in any way but to hold the movements, contain the power of the horse through a matched core strength. If you are strong you will ride the very best your ability allows….but better!

Being able to hold yourself athletically and cardially fit will allow you to sit big movements without tension. With fitness comes suppleness and being supple will allow you to absorb the movement through your own agility.

If you are looking to the long term future of this large horse you cannot rush his developmental or re-training and you definitely cannot force him into an outline. You need to focus entirely on steady progress towards self carriage.

On a large horse, as with any other, it is the quality of the movement that you are looking for. Really concentrate on setting up a movement, that means every corner, every transition with correctly executed half halts, and correct aids. Use every opportunity to encourage the horse to carry himself correctly and you will be on the road to building in the vital strength he needs to carry himself. Initially he will tire pretty quickly (and so may you) make sure you build in a good warm up and warm down routine and let him stretch and ride him long and low between exercises.

Keep all movements big to start with, start with 20 meter circles and only gradually reduce the size. Give him every chance to keep himself in balance. Do half circles loops back to the long side, two loop 20 then 15 meter circles will help shorten him and so will inward spirals on a circle using shallow lateral movements and changes of directions. Use corners as 15 meter circle quarters and work down to 10 meter circle quarters. On the long sides use gentle lateral movements and use these to move into a circle. Look for quality not quantity.

Simple pole work exercises will help strengthen and elevate paces and add variety. Keeping a horse interested (not confused) is key to progress. Follow routines i.e. warm up, train, warm down, but add variety within that program.

If you find the quality of the movements is degrading as your session goes on, stop, let him relax, rest and stretch. Start again and ask for something which he can perform well even when he is tired then call it a day and go for a stroll if he has not been out for long.

Grooming will help sooth tired muscles and help build your relationship with him. Work to a scheduled schooling program and build in time to allow him to let his hair down.

I think that if you are small it does not preclude you from buying a larger horse, but it does mean you need to take account of your own fitness and that of the horse. Take your time. Seek professional help to make sure progress is on target and that you are being consistent. Horse Scout has a wonderful list of trainers in every sector: Showing, Endurance, Eventing, Showjumping and Dressage so take a look and find someone fantastic to help you with your lovely big horse. Click here to find your perfect trainer





Lets Shout about – RoR Eventing Series – Horsescout has a perfect candidate for the series


RoR supports the retraining of racehorses and there are several Eventing Series.  The RoR Elite Eventing Performance Award in association with British Eventing, the RoR/NTF Retrained Racehorse Event Championship, and the new RoR Grassroots Eventing Series.

Horse Scout has a perfect home-bred ex racehorse candidate for the RoR Eventing Series for sale in Ringwood. Malenfant – £10,000 He has a proven track record: 3rd Larkhill BE100 7th Goring Heath 100. His advert says he is easy to do in all ways, Snaffle Mouth. No Vices. Real Amateurs Dream. Perfect for Grassroots Championships etc

Overview or the RoR Eventing Series

All horses must be registered with RoR and have raced in GB.  Riders also need to register with BE.  A rider does not need to become a full BE member to start with as they are allowed to run on 4 Rider Day Passes per year, after this riders will have to become a BE member. Horses can run on as many Horse Day Passes as required throughout the year.

RoR Grassroots Eventing Series – New for 2015

Former racehorses registered with RoR and raced in GB can qualify for the RoR BE Grassroots Finals in any BE90 or BE100 section throughout the country.  The final will be held at Upton on Thursday 16th July, in two sections, BE90 and BE100 and will both be at Open Classes.

To qualify for the finals, horse and rider combinations must finish within the top 50% of their section with a clear cross country round and less than 16 show jumping faults.

RoR Elite Eventing Performance Award 2015, in association with British Eventing (BE), will offer a first prize of £2,500 and a second prize of £500.

To encourage competition, all previous winners (1st placed horses) will no longer be eligible to win 1st place in the same competition in subsequent years.

Points will be accumulated by British Eventing from their tables for the 2015 season starting in pre-novice BE100 up to advanced, and will be awarded from 1st to 6th place.

To enter for the award, owners or riders simply have to register their horses with RoR and BE (using their racing name please). Provided the horse is eligible, the points will accumulate automatically through the year.

The RoR Retrained Racehorse Event Championship is sponsored by the National Trainers Federation (NTF) and held at Barbury.  All horses must be registered with RoR and have raced in GB.

The Championship is open to any grade of horse and will run as an IN on a specific day during Barbury which takes place from 9th to 12th July 2015.  Entries will be accepted on a first come first accepted basis.  The top 10 will be invited to show jump again on Sunday 12th July for the top money.  Together the sponsors have put up a £6,000 prize-fund for the final.

Contact Barbury Castle at E: holly@barburyhorsetrials.co.uk, T: 01672 516125, W: www.barburyhorsetrials.co.uk

Stunning “buckskin” young mare for sale – Westlands Farm Stud


Are you are looking for some thing quality and out of the ordinary?

Horse Scout has just the horse for you.

Westlands Farm Stud has a beautiful home bred 16.3hh British Warmblood –Lawmens Destiny a striking rising 5 year old buckskin mare by Lawmens Diago out of a Rubiquil mare. She gained a higher 1st premium and was 2nd at the BEF champs at Osberton as a 2 year old. She competed 4 year old event and dressage classes last year she was 3rd at Berkshire in the event class and scored 8.2 in the dressage class. She is easy to do in everyway good shoe,box,clip no vices she is a talented young horse and fit and ready to compete

The stud Farm is run by Claire and John have been at Westlands Farm for 12 years. Claire ran a successful livery business for 6 years before having her first child Johnny. When Claire purchased Diago in 2006 as a colt, she made a decision to keep him entire as he is a carrier of the cream gene. She always wanted to produce her own horse from a foal and show in hand so this is exactly what she did. When Diago was rising two years, Claire and John went to Holland to buy two brood mares. They purchased Wiganita and Zarenta, who were both in foal. Claire foaled both mares down herself in 2007. This is when Claire decided to make breeding her business for the future.

In 2007 Claire met Gary Ryland owner of stallion Bambas Legacy on the showing circuit, and after Bambas Legacy’s showing career came to an end he became an addition to the stud.

In 2008 Claire became a qualified AI technician and stallion handler and Charlene Lewis was working part time helping Claire with the breeding. Charlene now works full time as part of the team.

Zac Heydon joined us in 2009 to produce our young stallions and he is now a permanent resident offering an excellent backing and schooling service. He backs and competes all of our up-coming youngsters and is heavily involved with the stud.

In the last 5 years we have improved the facilities and successfully foaled down mares for clients, trained stallions for collections, frozen semen for UK distribution, sent home many mares in foal, and backed and produced youngsters. Our aim for the future is to breed quality modern sports horses with a difference and offer five star breeding facilities and care. We aim to have stallions and our home bred youngsters competing at international level.

With our amazing team of staff we see our goals being not too far away. They have regular updates on social media to keep their followers up to date.

Westlands has some quality stallions standing this season so if you are still searching for the perfect partner for you mare check these lovely horses out.

Lawmens Diago a modern sports horse stallion with excellent bone and a good hind leg. He has excellent conformation and an amazing Temperament which he passes to all his off spring.

Bambas Legacy a quality modern stallion. He has huge scope over a jump and is very honest. He is proving himself very well eventing.

Romeo is a beautiful dressage stallion with 3 amazing paces. He is competing at PSG with international rider Daniel Timpson And owned by Helen dart.

Enchanted – This lovely bay gelding has 3 lovely paces. He is rising 5 years old. Hacks in company. Good to shoe box clip. Been to his first unaffiliated dressage and was well behaved. He will excel in any sphere.

Westlands also runs a competitively priced livery service for Part, full and schooling liveries as well as rehabilitation (hydrotherapy) and all stud services.

Spring Cleaning your stable – Is it 10 or 11 Top Tips from Horse Scout today?


Now the weather is getting better (apart from a few apocalyptic storms, of course!) it’s nearly time for the annual stable clean. Every stable needs a deep clean once a year, we all dread it but here are some tips and helpful pointers to make it that little bit less traumatic and more efficient!

It’s all in the preparation so here are Horse Scouts’ top tips and advice:

On a good warm, sunny day with no chance of rain follow our 11 tips (well, 10 really, the last one isn’t so much of a tip, it’s an order!)

1) First of all, tie those locks back into a bun or cover your hair (Silly shower caps are a great way to cover your hair – and look ridiculous – even if you do look like a cabbage patch kid), get yourself a pair of goggles and some old scruffs, the ones you don’t mind throwing away afterwards…

2) Get your tools ready before you start (and someone to help if possible to hold ladders, lift matting etc.) Here are some ideas of the kind of things you’ll need: ladders, barrows, good brooms, buckets, disinfectant, hose or pressure waster (pressure washers are a god-send, perhaps try to borrow one if you can!)

3) Take everything out of the stable before you start.  Don’t be tempted to leave your bedding in the stable otherwise you’ll only be worried about dust getting in it.

4) Give roof areas and trusses a good sweep or, even a hoover, to remove dust and cobwebs (I always empty afterwards; in case the spiders climb back out of the tube!)

5) Clean and check all light fittings and windows, we recommend some white vinegar to clean the windows, less chemicals for the horse and much cheaper and leaves your windows spotless! Or even better go chemical free an duse damp newspaper followed by a dry piece.

6) Clean out  buckets and/or water feeder thoroughly, remember to scrub. “Milton” is a good chemical to clean things your horse will eat/drink out of, it’s used for infants and is less smelly than bleach and less harmful. Another great one is the ecover range, no harsh chemicals and smells…

7) Disinfect the floor and hose down.  This can be done with a dedicated disinfectant or simply a mixture of water and bleach.  Allow plenty of time for your stable to dry after you’ve hosed it down and make sure it’s thoroughly rinsed, horses don’t like the smell of bleach 🙂

8) The grimmest part of the clean, are you ready?!:  Put a peg on your nose, scrub the rubber matting clean and hose down the underside whilst it’s out of the stable side … Yuk! (Or pay your little brother or sister £5 to do it for you!) You’re welcome!

9) Allow it to dry thoroughly – we mean really thoroughly!

10) Put everything back, only if you’re sure it’s truly clean, ie that there’s no smell of ammonia

11) Finally have a cup of tea and a bar of chocolate, check the Horse Scout Twitter Page and dream about the months of great summer riding ahead!



Professional Profile – Alison Kenward


Looking for a Clinic in Oxfordshire? – Alison Kenward

Alison Kenward is a trainer and professional competition rider based in Oxfordshire. She competes her horses Roughway Jack at medium and advanced medium level. Alison is a BHS Stable Manager, Intermediate Instructor and UKCC 3 coach.

A professional Trainer she has 21 years of experience helping riders to develop a partnership with their horse (s). It is important to her that training sessions are enjoyed by both the “athletes” and that every session sees development.

Psssst!….check out Horse Scouts blog on Core Fitness

She runs regular clinics in Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire. There is a varied clinic programme including test riding, riding to music, jumping and pole work. Alison coaches riders of all ages and abilities as well as training horses on the flat and over fences to Medium level Dressage, Novice Horse Trials & Newcomers Showjumping. Alison teaches private lessons lasting 45 minutes and group lessons lasting an hour. Alison also offers complete freestyle design & choreography clinics with Nick Reeve. Alison coaches teams for BD TeamQuest and is helping riders to prepare for the Pet Plan Area Festival series as well as the BD Summer & Winter competitions. Riders are welcome to come to Solitaire HQ for training, overnight and day stabling is available.

Please get in touch to discuss training with Alison and joining the Solitaire Riders Team.

Alison is currently a BD Group 5 rider and trains with Emile Faurie. Her horses are based at a private yard in Warwickshire and are looked after by Alison and her Mother, Helen and is preparing for the BD Summer Season 2015. Good Luck to Alison.

If you are looking for a trainer to help you Alison definitely sounds like a lady who can help.

Learning To Walk Before You Run


 While you are still learning about your horse and your own abilities and, indeed, even when you are very experienced indeed, Horse Scout has a wide range of Professional Trainers who can help you walk in harmony with your horse and take the first steps in a wonderful relationship which could last for years and take you to places you never dreamed of going.