There is a useful rein aid that I call the “indirect outside rein” because in involves using the rein on the outside of the bend in a direction away from the direction of movement. When I ask my students to use this aid, I say, “half-halt with the outside rein away from the neck.” Why is this so useful? Similar to the indirect inside rein, it can have a lateral effect on the haunches; however, it does so without having the “folding” or over-bending effect on the horse that the inside rein can have. The interesting thing about this aid is that it assists in moving the haunches in the opposite direction of the aid itself, thus it is useful in exercises like haunches-in, half-pass, and in pirouettes. When I was finally able to really understand how to use this aid, thanks to my own trainer, Hans Riegler, it seemed like magic!

Let’s look at some examples of how to employ the indirect outside rein. Imagine riding haunches-in right: the right rein and leg create inside bend, while the left leg is slightly back keeping the haunches in off the track. The outside rein passively supports the bend, preventing the inside rein from over-bending the horse, but it can also have an active role through indirect rein half-halts. With the left hand slightly to the left, away from the neck, little half-halts can help send weight towards the inside hind leg on the right.

The same aids apply to haunches-out (renvers) and half-pass, which are basically the same exercise as haunches-in (travers), but done on different lines in the arena. Because half-pass is basically haunches-in on a diagonal line, it is different from the other two in that there is no supporting wall to direct the horse. Here, one must use the indirect outside rein with particular care, because the horse may not have a clearly established sense of which direction to move, thus the indirect outside rein could confuse the horse as to whether it should move sideways (i.e. the horse might think it was actually a direct rein telling it to move left, when a diagonal movement to the right is desired). However, as long as the forehand of the horse is first clearly directed on the diagonal path, and the weight of the rider is moving to the inside, the indirect outside rein can be just as useful as in the other exercises.

The indirect outside rein is of particular benefit in all of these exercises because it takes some of the pressure off the rider’s outside leg to leverage the horse’s hindquarters sideways. I see so many riders laboring to push their horse sideways with their outside leg, and then ending up with their weight pulled to the outside by this strong leg action, so that they are effectively working against themselves. Half-pass should be about asking the inside hind leg to reach forward and inside, and to bear weight, not to leg-yield the haunches away from the outside leg. This is one reason that the Spanish Riding School does not use leg-yield – they want horses to reach towards the aids, not away from them. But more on that topic later . . .

This same desire to ask the inside hind leg to bear more weight is at the heart of the pirouette, whether at the walk, canter, or piaffe. The indirect outside rein can again assist the other aids of the rider to achieve this goal. The rider’s inside leg asks the horse to reach forward and under itself with its inside hind leg, while the inside rein directs the forehand to move in an arc around the haunches. The outside rein is the primary collecting rein, helping to check forward movement and send that energy back to the haunches, particularly the inside hind, which is where a slight indirect half-halt can help. And the outside leg? Again, too many riders try to push the horse around in a pirouette using the outside leg. Since the horse is not supposed to move sideways in a pirouette, this is rather pointless. At best, a supporting outside leg helps keep the haunches from falling out and supports the rhythm of the gait. However, if the other aids are all used with proper coordination, the outside leg is practically unnecessary.