Attached to the bit or sometimes to the bridle itself, reins are used by a rider to change a horse's direction or to indicate to the horse to halt. Reins are long straps attached to the bridle on either side of the horse's head, but despite their simplicity there is a wide variety of reins available to suit different functions and tastes. Bridles are often sold on eBay, as elsewhere, with the reins already attached. However, different styles of riding call for different types of rein, and not all reins suit all riders.
When looking to purchase used reins on eBay, it is a good idea to become familiar with the array of options before selecting which to buy. For riders and owners who attend shows, it is important to remember that each discipline will have standard reins but for everyday riding, the ideal reins are down to personal taste. However, riding with the wrong reins can make for an uncomfortable experience and sore hands, so think carefully before making a decision.
Tack is expensive, and since many riders are on a budget it is better to buy good quality second-hand reins than cheap new reins, eBay offers used reins at a wide range of prices.
Reins can come in a range of lengths, but most fall into one of the three categories detailed below. Most reins are measured done up as if on the bit, to the central buckle at the hand end.
Horse (or 'Full')
Reins are often available in different widths. Buy reins that are comfortable to hold and that do not cut into the hand or feel unwieldy. It is advisable to handle a variety of different reins before buying online.
Horse (or 'Full')
Types of Reins
Reins fall into different categories according to whether they are designed for riding, driving (carts and traps), training or lungeing. There are also different reins for Western style and English style riding.
Split reins are used with Western bridles. They consist of two long strips of leather, one attached to each side of the bit. They are not joined together, meaning the horse is less likely to tangle its feet in them when tethered.
Roper or Contest Reins
Roper or contest reins are commonly used in the Western style of riding, often for roping events at shows.
Mecate reins are used with a bridle without a bit, and are made of a single piece rope that forms a closed rein.
Romel reins originated with the Spanish cowboys. Most often used by Western riders they are a closed rein that also features an integrated whip.
Closed Reins or Loop Reins
Closed or loop reins are made from a single piece of material - usually leather - that runs from one bridle loop to the other, behind the horse's neck and grasped by the rider. This single-piece construction makes it easier to hold onto and is usual for English style riders.
Usually laced, snaffle reins buckle at the centre. They are attached to the upper ring of a Pelham bit when used with a double bridle.
Curb reins are used with double bridles and Pelham bits. While Snaffle reins are laced, Curb reins are buckled.
Featuring both a snaffle and a curb rein, double reins are attached to a double bridle with bits such as the Pelham bit. They offer the ability to give subtler commands and are commonly used in dressage events.
Draw Reins or Running Reins
Draw and running reins are attached to the saddle, thread through the bridle and then back to the rider. This style of rein offers the rider more control over the horse's movements. However, there is some debate about their use among riders, some of whom believe that they are uncomfortable for the animal and can stunt horses' muscle growth.
These reins are designed so the rider can grip them without fear of them slipping through their hands. There are slip stop pieces placed evenly on each side. These also act as useful markers for beginners learning to hold the reins evenly on each side.
Looped Split Reins
Split Reins with loops at the hand ends - looped split reins - are popular among disabled riders. The loops might be made from different materials to the reins themselves, perhaps being softer, wider or more elastic according to the rider's needs.
Longlines are very long reins that enable the driver to control a horse from a cart, or from the ground behind the horse during training.
Reins can be made of leather, nylon, biothane or other materials.
The most commonly used material for reins, plain leather reins are reasonably economical to buy and look neat. However, they can be slippery to hold, especially in the rain.
Durable and non-slip even in the rain, nylon reins are a popular choice. However, they can result in rope burn should the rein be pulled rapidly through or from the hands.
Biothane is a synthetic coated webbing material that mimics leather in look and feel. Stronger than leather and easier to clean, Biothane can be a good choice of material for buyers of used reins due to its ability to withstand poor maintenance.
Rubber Covered Reins
A leather rein featuring a rubber sheath, rubber-covered reins give excellent grip but can be unwieldy to hold. The reins are difficult to maintain because it is impossible to check the condition of the leather beneath the rubber. This makes them more prone to snapping than other types of rein.
With rubber stitched to the inside of the rein only, these reins offer good grip while being smarter looking, less bulky to hold and easier to care for than reins entirely coated in rubber. These reins are popular with dressage and show-jumping competitors.
Continental reins are made of webbing, with leather grips stitched on at intervals. They are very strong and offer excellent grip in wet weather.
Reins may have a smooth appearance, as with plain leather and Biothane reins, or come webbed, plaited and with or without stops and rubber grips. Whatever their style, it is usual for the reins to match the bridle in appearance.
Very well-suited to dressage due to their smart appearance.
Webbed Reins with Stops
These are less expensive than smooth leather reins but are not as smart in appearance. It is recommended that the rider wears gloves with webbed reins.
These are made from five thin strips of leather, plaited into a single strap. Because they are labour-intensive to make plaited reins are often more expensive to buy. They give good grip and look smart but can result in burns if pulled through the fingers suddenly.
Laced reins consist of a plain rein through which holes have been punched. A thin leather strip is then laced through the hole to provide extra grip. These give good grip and are usually less expensive than plaited reins. A disadvantage is that the holes make the reins weaker, making them more prone to snapping when older.
The Bit Attachment
Modern reins have two main forms of attachment: Buckle and Stud Billet. Some Western reins, have a clip on one or both sides to allow the reins to double as a lead rope, although care should be taken when leading the horse from the bit.
Buckle reins are threaded through the bit from the inside to the outside, fastening with a buckle that sits on the outside of the rein. This makes them easy to undo but has the disadvantage that the buckle is very prominent.
Stud billet reins are threaded through the bit, passed through two leather keepers and fastened by the stud billet - a small hook. Fiddly to undo but neater to look at than Buckle reins, these are suitable for dressage and other show events due to their smart appearance.
Second Hand Reins - What to Look Out For
There should be little visible difference between the top side of the leather and the underneath - with both being smooth. Leather which is glossy on top but rough underneath is cheap and more liable to snap. When buying leather reins online, look carefully at the pictures provided and avoid purchasing reins made from cracked or dry looking leather that may snap under pressure.
While reins are a relatively simple piece of riding equipment, there is still a variety to choose from. The hand of the rider is an important concern in choosing reins, since a too-wide rein will cut into the hand and rapidly become impracticable for the rider. For smart showing or every day riding, leather is the most popular choice, although synthetic reins offer their own performance benefits.