Types, Application, Advantages & Disadvantages

Auxiliary reins for horses explained

Auxiliary reins (or side reins) are intended to support the novice rider. Of course, they are not immediately properly balanced, cannot ride the horse with the correct contact and in most cases the seat is also a problem. Correct hand position, correct seat, correct aids and then also looking where you are going. All of this can be overwhelming for a new rider at first. Auxiliary reins are intended to help to feel and learn the correct seat. Because if the horse is limited at the front by the auxiliary rein, the rider can initially only concentrate on the seat. In the best case, the horse should then arch its back and let its neck fall.

Whether triangular reins, reins, runner reins or chambon - the auxiliary reins are only strapped in after the horse has warmed up! In addition, auxiliary reins should be removed in the field. The exception here is the martingale, which, however, has a special position under the auxiliary reins.

Correctly used auxiliary reins are not inherently bad. Because they do what they are named after - help! The beginner rider and the horse.

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Horse with side reins

Side reins (side reins)

Every beginner rider knows the bridle. Side reins always consist of two individual "reins" that are attached to the left and right between the bit ring and the saddle girth. Make sure that the reins are buckled high or low on the saddle girth so that they are horizontal when the horse is walking with the head in the correct position. They must be set so long that the horse does NOT get behind the vertical when leaning correctly.

Advantages of side reins

  • give the horse a clear framework
  • Side and front edging
  • Rider can concentrate fully on the seat and let go of the reins

Disadvantages of side reins

  • no forward-downward stretch possible = horse comes behind the vertical and rolls up
  • elastic components (if present) lead to laying on top, horse comes onto the forehand


Side reins are suitable for beginners on the lunge or for the first riding lessons in a group. Where the rider's steady hand and the right influence are still lacking, the side reins can provide support.

Horse with triangle reins

Triangle reins (Vienna reins)

Along with side reins, triangle reins are a very popular form of auxiliary rein. They are also often used for lunging.

The triangle rein consists of a thick strap that runs between the front legs and is attached to the saddle girth in the middle. In front of the chest, the thick strap splits into two individual, slightly thinner straps. These are led from the inside to the outside through the respective bit ring on the left and right and attached to the saddle girth (or lunge girth).

If the head is correctly positioned, the strap should be slightly horizontal, just before it is vertical.

Advantages of triangle reins

  • Prevents the head from being thrown up
  • Stretching posture is permitted
  • for riders who can already limit the horse laterally
  • for riders who are not yet able to ride up to the hand

Disadvantages of triangle reins

  • hardly any lateral limitation
  • Horse gets behind the reins if it lets the tail drop too low
  • Forward-downward is only possible up to a certain point


Triangle reins are a good help for beginners who already have mastered lateral aids but still need support going forward. These auxiliary reins can also be used well when lunging, as they give the horse the opportunity to stretch to a certain depth.

Horse with running reins

Running reins (Phillips reins)

At first glance, the running reins remind you of a triangle rein. But unlike a triangle rein, the running rein consists of two individual leather or nylon straps. It is probably the most versatile auxiliary rein that you can use.

Advantages of running reins

  • can be used for stretching as well as for straightening
  • Design with snap hooks allows for quick fastening

Disadvantages of running reins

  • Horse can get behind the vertical and roll up
  • hardly any lateral limitation when buckled like triangle reins
  • Careful attention must be paid to the length of the auxiliary reins so that the horse does not curl up and become stiff in the neck


The various uses make the running rein a variable auxiliary rein. It can be used as support for beginners, as an auxiliary rein when lunging and as support for straightening up. The latter should only be done over short periods and only with an experienced rider.

The different fastening options

The Phillips reins are buckled up like a triangle reins for solving problems and for keeping the stretch. Both straps are attached to the bottom of the saddle girth and passed between the front legs. Now guide it from the inside to the outside through the respective bit ring and attach it to the saddle girth on the right and left.

In order to achieve a higher posture or more lateral limitation, one end is buckled higher up. The running rein is then guided from top to bottom (i.e. from outside to inside) through the respective bit ring and attached again to the saddle girth or a ring on the lunge girth at the level of the shoulder joint.

The effect is increased the higher the auxiliary rein is placed. However, the horse must always be able to keep its forehead-nose line in front of the vertical.


The martingale is – similar to the breastplate – more commonly seen on showjumpers and cross-country riders. In showjumping, it is used to “secure” the reins if the rider loses them in a fall. This prevents the horse from stepping on the dangling reins and potentially injuring itself.

The sliding ring martingale is designed to prevent the horse from throwing its head up. The martingale is buckled in such a way that the martingale fork sags slightly when the reins are correctly positioned. If the horse now raises its head, the reins are bent through the rings and pressure continues to be applied to the horse's cheeks. This pressure is not directed backwards, but downwards.

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Advantages of the Martingale

  • Prevents the head from being thrown up
  • Correctly buckled a horse-friendly auxiliary rein
  • Correctly buckled martingales significantly reduce rein pressure
  • also suitable for beginners, as the auxiliary reins catch restless movements of the hands and correctly redirect them to the horse's mouth


The martingale is not only a protection against a fall, but also a helpful support for advanced beginners. If they have already mastered the laterally limiting aids, but still have a restless hand or the horse cannot yet ride the hand, the martingale has a supportive effect. Since it only comes into effect when the horse lifts its head too high, but can still stretch forwards and downwards on the reins, the martingale is in our opinion one of the most sensible auxiliary reins.

Horse with Thiedemann reins

Thiedemann reins (Köhler reins)

The Thiedemann or Köhler reins can be seen as a slightly less aggressive version of the draw reins. They consist of reins with rings and the actual auxiliary rein. The ring is placed loosely around the horse's neck, the wide strap is led through the front legs to the girth. The two narrow straps are led from the inside to the outside through the respective bit ring on the left and right and attached to the rings on the reins. The Thiedemann reins must be buckled in such a way that they are only used when the horse puts its head too far forward or up.

Advantages of Thiedemann reins

  • only one pair of reins needs to be held
  • If correctly buckled, only works if the horse puts its head too far forward or up
  • should sag slightly when horse is walking in correct posture

Disadvantages of Thiedemann reins

  • If used incorrectly, it leads to a blunt horse mouth
  • offers no lateral limitation
  • "sharp" auxiliary reins that only belong in professional hands


The Thiedemann reins must NOT be used by beginners. It belongs exclusively to the fine rider's hands and is used only for short corrections. Therefore it is more likely to be assigned to the proofing tools than to the auxiliary reins. Wrong use of this rein can harm the horse!

Two horses with CHambon and with Gouge

Chambon & Gouge

Chambon and Gogue are used to teach the horse to lower its head when pressure is applied to its mouth and neck. Chambon and Gogue are suitable for horses who find it difficult to stretch and struggle to drop their necks. If the horse lifts its head too high, Chambon and Gogue press the neck and corner of the mouth. If the horse now lowers its head, the pressure eases. If the posture is correct, there is no help at all. In contrast to the chambon, the gogue can also be used under the rider.

The chambon may only be used when lunging, as the rider has to give in the reins very quickly as soon as the horse shows the slightest forward-downward tendency. Hardly any rider has this responsiveness.

Chambon and Gogue should only be used by extremely experienced riders. If the buckle is not fastened correctly, the horse may react violently. Only use these auxiliary reins when you are under supervision and only in exceptional cases.

Disadvantages of Chambon

  • offers neither the possibility to lean, nor a lateral limitation
  • Many horses roll up to avoid the pressure on the corners of their mouths and neck
  • Length of the auxiliary rein is crucial

Disadvantages of Gouge

  • Independent gouge: in addition to the disadvantages mentioned for the Chambon, a backwards effect
  • guided Gogue has the same disadvantages as a draw rein


Chambon and Gogue are not real auxiliary reins, but rather correction aids that should be used very carefully. They are neither suitable for beginners nor for "trying out while lunging whether it will do anything". A riding instructor or rider should always be present who is very familiar with this type of auxiliary reins.

As mentioned above, incorrect use can lead to a violent defensive reaction and, in the worst case, seriously injure the horse. These two auxiliary reins should therefore be used with caution and before use it should be considered whether health problems (tension in the neck, the ganache or the withers) are responsible.

Horse with neck extender

Wrong name, because nothing is being extended here!

Neck extender

The name neck extender is used to suggest that it encourages the horse to stretch its neck. However, the more the horse stretches, the greater the pressure on the bit and the poll. If the head is in a normal position, the neck extender is ineffective because it then has to sag.


It is often fastened too tightly. If the horse stretches downwards, the elastic strap tightens and the pressure increases. The horse then either hides behind the reins to escape the pressure - or lies on the reins and becomes lame. The neck extender can still have an upwardly limiting effect, but the name of this auxiliary reins is extremely unsuitable.

Horse with draw reins

Draw reins

Draw reins - the torture tool of the Rollkur. At least that's how most of the riders have these auxiliary reins in their minds. Unfortunately, the draw rein is often used in secret or not so secretly to force the horse upright and tight.

In Switzerland it is prohibited in tests and on warm-up areas in show jumping, in Austria also in dressage. Because far too often you see the wrong handling.

The draw rein is used to limit the horse's upward push. A rider must have such a fine sense and a fine hand that he immediately gives in when the horse gives in even the slightest. The pressure on the horse’s mouth is doubled by a draw rein! Basically, the rider must not force the horse into a position and fix it there. The horse cannot escape the draw reins!

Why do you want to use a draw rein?

Every rider should ask himself this question before starting out. Ask yourself why your horse is walking, how it is doing and in any case get a professional riding instructor. Are there any physical limitations in the horse, such as a stiff neck, sore teeth or tension in the withers? Does your horse manage to lift the load with its hindquarters and has it progressed far enough in training? The draw rein is not used to skip the steps of the training scale and to force you into a (fake) meeting!

Even the alleged inventor of the draw rein (William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle) only used the draw reins in conjunction with a cavesson and did not lead the auxiliary reins through the bit rings. Newcastle is often referred to as the spiritual father of rollkur and was not known as the most sensitive trainer. So be aware of the force you are exerting on the horse's mouth if you use the draw reins incorrectly.

Use draw reins correctly

Draw reins may only be used by extremely sensitive riders on horses who can already carry and gather themselves, but sometimes break out or make themselves very strong. The draw rein may limit the horse upwards, but never pull it downwards! If the horse runs correctly, the draw rein sags.

As with the curb or the use of spurs, the rider should first earn the use of draw reins. He should prove beforehand that he rides with a very fine, seat-independent hand.