It's always made me curious to read about the Europeans' preference of Vienna Reins over Side Reins when working horses on the longe. I've read countless articles and references to Vienna Reins, but rarely do I see videos or even photographs of horses wearing Vienna Reins. I know other trainers who talk about always working their horses with Vienna Reins, but I don't ever see this in every day practice. I remember being at an Ingrid Klimke clinic and she spoke of her preference for Vienna Reins. I find it a bit hypocritical, however, that many of the photos in her training books, etc, are of horses wearing side reins.
When I was growing up and learning to train young horses, my instructor, Sue Shirland, taught me to use draw reins tied to the saddle rather than using side reins. I always thought "this is just what you do." Maybe she taught me to do this because I had draw reins available but didn't have side reins, I'm not sure. In my own training, I moved to side reins because of their simplicity and since they are what everyone else seems to use.
Over the years, I've thought about the use of Vienna Reins with various horses and how I'd prefer to try them in order to get a better reach and stretch through the neck and over the back. I have purchased them in the past in hopes of liking them, but the ones I've used have been made for midget horses, I suppose, because they have never been long enough to fit and I've always returned them.
The other day, I was lunging Wheels and watching the side reins bounce around on the bit with his little head bouncing along with them at times. I thought about how uncomfortable they must make his mouth, since he's so sensitive, and made the comment to CeCe that I'd love to find a set of Vienna Reins long enough to try. To my surprise, a day or 2 later, Vienna Reins magically appeared in my tack box! Yesterday, I took the opportunity to try them on 2 different horses and had extremely positive results.
As with anything new, you have to begin with the equipment loose so the horse can get a feel for it and not be overwhelmed. They were barely long enough for one of the horses I worked and had everything set to the last hole, but he's very tall and long, so I think all the other horses will be fine with this particular set. I'll have to find out where CeCe got them so I can buy a pair for myself!
I liked the reins for a couple reasons. First, once the horse went up to trot, they didn't bounce around all over the place on the bit. They are much lighter and more stable than the side reins. Second, the horses had much more freedom of movement and could play with their necks more and experiment with their own frame and playfulness. All in all, I think I'm going to make the switch in my training practice and give up on the side reins. (As long as I can find some Vienna Reins that are long enough!)