In this feature video on Barrel Racing Buzz, Josey Ranch Team Member Ty Mitchell talks about the importance of rein length and hand positioning for your run. This is great little video you can watch online but here is a recap of the video:
Ty emphasizes that how much control and how much leverage you have with the bit is directly connected to your rein length and hand positioning. He noted that there is no money made on the back of the reins (hands in the middle). You need to spread your hands apart to get control. In order to keep forward motion in a run you need proper hand positioning. It all starts with your hands. Communication with your horse starts from your hands. He suggests a shorter rein for competition to minimize movement improved timing. (long rein = delayed reaction, getting behind).
He offers this suggestion for determining your rein length: when just sitting there on your horse you want to be able to take the slack out of the rein and have it just a few inches in front of the saddle horn. This is a good place to start for figuring out a more precise length. Slow work and practice you can have a longer rein. Before you start your run, slide your hands down the reins, four fingers wrapped around the reins you’re you want thumb tips pointing towards each other. Your hands should be about 12-14 inches apart (Ty says wide enough you could carry a plate of food). You don’t want your hands close together or touching each other. This could cause you to loose your shape, might even cause the horse to drop a shoulder. You want to keep your hands over the withers, in front of the swells of the saddle. You want to get your reins and hands in position before you take off for your run.