How to Hold Reins Western Style

By Melissa Busse

Cheval t criniè 126 image by Jacques Ribieff from

When learning to ride a horse, it is important to have a solid understanding of the basics of riding. With this knowledge, you will express confidence to your horse and will be able to build a trusting relationship with the animal. One of the most important foundations to learn is how to correctly hold the horse’s reins. For any beginning rider, it is important to learn how to hold the reins western style. While there are many ways to hold the reins in the western style, most western riders learn to hold the reins in the split rein style. This is the most commonly seen style in western riding events.

Gather the reins into your preferred hand. You may feel most comfortable holding the reins in your dominant hand, the one you write with.

Hang the excess length of rein over the same side of the horse as the hand that you are holding the reins with. Adjust the reins in your hand by making sure they enter through the index finger-end and exit through the little finger-end. Turn your hand so that your thumb is facing up.

Slide the reins through your hand until you feel you have a comfortable grip. The hand with the reins should be held at about waist level, and away from your body.

Adjust the reins so that they are not too tight against the horse, but tight enough that the animal will be able to feel your movements as you use the reins. Having too much slack can make it difficult for the horse to respond to your movements, and holding the reins too tightly can be uncomfortable for the animal.


  • Lay your other hand anywhere it feels comfortable. Many riders choose to hold some of the excess length of reins with this hand.

    Once you have mastered holding the reins in the split rein style, try practicing other western rein styles. has detailed pictures demonstrating proper western-style reins-holding.


  • Do not attempt to lead the horse with the hand not holding the reins. This could confuse the horse.

Photo Credits

  • Cheval t criniè 126 image by Jacques Ribieff from


Melissa Busse is a freelance writer covering a variety of topics, including natural health and beauty, budget balancing and parenting. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art from Maryville University in St. Louis.