During a lesson with my OTTB, my dressage trainer recommended incorporating Vienna Side Reins and lounging once a week as a part of his exercise program. Reason being, they’re known for encouraging the horse to stretch forward and downward and to come through over their back and topline. My guy is lazy, and I typically end up working way harder than I should have to, so I decided to invest in a pair and give them a try.
Cost effective and comparable to traditional donut side reins, though, you can certainly find a higher quality pair, like Stübben’s version, that will drive the price up. I purchased mine through Dover for a well-worth it $59.99.
These work by attaching in a similar manner to a martingale: two reins come up in the middle of the horse’s chest and weave through the rings of the bit and attach back to a surcingle or girth. They’re a little more complex than side reins and not as easy to attach and detach. This was my one complaint – there’s not a simple way to hang them when they’re detached – but it looks like SmartPak has already come up with a solution.
After trying Vienna Reins, I can honestly say that I like them better than regular side reins, and my horse likes them more, too. It took him a while before figuring out that he could stretch his head and neck down, but once he did, he loved it. Vienna Reins give the horse much more flexibility and range of motion than side reins do, and though each serve a different purpose, Vienna Reins are much more suitable for horses that tend to hold a lot of tension in their neck and back by strengthening their topline in a more natural way.
All that said, Vienna Side Reins have now become a consistent part of my horse’s training, and though they are more common in the Dressage world, I think we’re going to start seeing them being used more and more by Eventers in the future.