One- or two-handed riding – does it make a difference?

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The impact of riders and handlers on horses has come under increasing scrutiny as the technology to measure physical horse–human interaction has become more readily available. Reins are commonly used to deliver signals and instruction to horses through the application of tension and resulting pressure. To date all rein tension studies, such as those examining the influence of physical attributes of reins and their use in different gaits, have relied on two-handed rein use. Since effective rein use is crucial for the delivery of clear distinguishable signals and subsequently the discernible release of pressure when the required response is given by the horse, the aim of this study was to examine the effectiveness of rein use when held in two hands as most riding instruction dictates or when held in a single hand as required in some equestrian disciplines. Twenty female riders (28.2±10.1 years), self-rated as experienced, representing a wide range of equestrian disciplines sat in a general purpose saddle secured on a stationary fixed saddle stand with the stirrups set at their usual riding length. Centaur Rein Tension gauges were fixed to a solid box at horse head height and fitted with a standard pair of leather 5x20mm wide reins. Participants were asked to take up the rein tension that they would use when riding in trot. This was repeated 3 times per condition (using both hands and one-handed, using the riders natural hand of choice) using a cross-over design with a 30-minute wash-out period. Rein tension data (N) were analysed using parametric paired t tests. No significant differences were evident between left- and right-hand rein tension when using two hands (t59=1.89; P>0.05; left=4.73±2.65N;right=4.91±2.63N) or one hand (t59=0.20; P>0.05; left=4.21±2.32N; right=4.17±2.91N). Comparison of left–right hand difference in rein tension for two-handed versus one-handed testconditions was also non-significant (t59=1.24; P>0.05). Although there was less absolute difference between left- and right-hand rein tension when riding with one hand than with two hands, the use of the left and right reins is less consistent with one hand than with two. Greater understanding of the direct impact of rider rein use on clarity of signals relayed and pressure release achieved is essential to safeguard horse welfare. Reliable rein tension studies that include different riding styles are required to improve understanding of the rider’s effect on the horse in order to bring about changes in practice that will improve the welfare of horses used in equestrianism.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2017
Event13th International Conference of the International Society for Equitation Science : ISES 2017 Down Under - Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia
Duration: 23 Nov 201725 Nov 2017
Conference number: 13 (Conference website, link to proceedings)


Conference13th International Conference of the International Society for Equitation Science
Abbreviated titleEquitation Science in Practice: Collaboration, Communication and Change
CityWagga Wagga
OtherThe 13th international conference of the International Society for Equitation Science took place on 23rd-25th November 2017 at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia. This was the third time that the conference was in Australia (following Clonbinane, Victoria in 2005 and Sydney in 2009). Charles Sturt University is one of the few providers of degree level Equine Science education in Australia with ample equestrian facilities to host an international conference of this calibre, with the support of a wide range of sponsors.

The conference theme ‘Equitation Science in Practice: Collaboration, Communication and Change’ attracted over 150 delegates from 17 different countries and all Australian states. The theme was supported by an academic programme of 29 oral presentations and 28 posters. Delegates learnt about the role of the horse in education including breeding work, foal handling and contribution to the veterinary industry and survival of other horses. Each of the 3Cs (Collaboration, Communication and Change) were thoroughly addressed and the two workshops - Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (designed to develop an appreciation of the pillars of Equitation Science in order to identify future directions with valuable input from ISES Honorary Fellows all of whom have been globally recognised for their contribution to Animal Welfare) and Human Behaviour Change (designed to identify key areas where change in human practice is needed to improve horse welfare) were enjoyed by Practitioners and Academics, Students and Honorary Fellows alike.

The conference was fully and actively supported by senior Charles Sturt University staff (Prof Glenn Edwards, Head of School of Animal and Veterinary Science, Prof Tim Wess, Executive Dean of Science and Prof Andrew Vann, Vice Chancellor).
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