Stacy Westfall’s Favorite Reins

Why am I so picky about my reins? 
The reins in your hand are often the lifeline of communication with your horse when riding. Outside of my physical body, the role that the reins play in communicating and shaping my horse as I ride is critical. I spend more time touching this piece of equipment than any other.

For those reasons, I’m very particular about my reins. The weight, the width, the length and the way they attach to the bit are all important to me.

Why split reins?

I train and show primarily in split reins. I prefer split reins for most things because of the wide range of hand positions I can have which is why they are a must for me during training.

I use the same split reins when I show. (Side note: the reins pictured here are nearly 10 years old!). I use them for most events with the exception of mounted shooting and traditional dressage. When I was showing in mounted shooting I would train in split reins and show in a single loop. I actually used the split reins for the lower level mounted shooting events.

How They Attach:

The way the rein attaches to the bit changes the way the rein feels to both the horse and the rider. Over the years I have ridden with many different styles and in the end, I choose the buckle end as my favorite. The supple leather attaching to the bit has a smooth feel and the buckle is easy to operate.

My second favorite would be a water loop, which is another leather attachment, but find the small leather strings difficult to buckle, constantly coming loose, and dry rotting over time.

I grew up contesting and riding with snaps attaching my reins to the bit. At the time I wasn’t aware of highly refined riding so it didn’t bother me. Now when I jump on a horse at a clinic, I immediately notice the different feel. The metal on metal sends a different feel through the reins and at speeds can be felt swinging at the end of a loose rein. I dislike the subtle clunky feel when I pick up and release contact and I believe this is also experienced by the horse.

The Leather:

Straight off the shelf (or out of the box), these reins have an amazing feel. The folks over at Weaver Leather have cut them from Hermann Oak harness leather and then use a four-step finishing process. The result is a rein that immediately hangs well without strange twists and needs no oiling for years.
I’ve had some of my sets for close to a decade and any loss of reins has been my own fault. My only warning comes with keeping them out of range of hoses chewing on them. Aside from damage outside of normal use (being hung in a place where a horse can chew them)…these will last many years.

The reins are available in two widths: 1/2″ x 8′ or 5/8″ x 8′. I have smaller hands and prefer the feel of the 1/2’, others prefer the wider feel of the 5/8’. The eight-foot length is generous and if I find it too long I simply trim the end when riding some of my ponies like Willow.

The reins pictured above have naturally darkened over the many years I have been using them. If keeping the color light is important to you then you could consider a pair for work and a pair to keep out of the sun and daily use as these are the things that naturally darken leather. Personally, I love the well-worn look!

Ride with Faith,

Stacy Westfall

To view the reins mentioned by Stacy Westfall in this article, click HERE.


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