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Pessoa Rein~ Georgina Roberts



As helpful as gadgets may be, there is no replacement for good schooling and conditioning. Both horses and riders ultimately need to learn how to balance themselves, develop correct muscles for sustained quality, with the rider developing accurate sensitive aids. Artificial aids can assist where there is a fundamental problem and the rider is less than experienced, helping to speed this process up by allowing both parties to get the correct feel for such work. Never assume that your groom knows how to use a specific gadget – always be educated and supervise their use.


The Pessoa Rein is the only full-body gadget, i.e. does not focus solely on the neck and head position. It cannot be used while riding, but is highly effective on the lunge. It works by teaching the horse body awareness, connection from back to front, suppleness, lightness, and to push and engage the hindleg. 


It is particularly effective for horses that struggle to work through and over the back, whilst staying light in the contact. Try imagine it as teaching the horse to be “contained” in a forward bubble of movement; the second the horse leans on the bit, it will literally pull its own hindquarter further under itself. If it pushes out instead of under with the hindleg, it will immediately feel the light pressure of the rope around the hindquarter; it will also pull slightly on the bit, which is why it is important to instill the forwardness from the ground, that they never learn to correct “backwards”. It one of the best aids to use for regular lunging, and once the handler knows how to fit it very little adjusting is needed in a session – all that the handler needs be responsible for is maintaining the ratio of balance and forward tempo, and knowing which rope goes where!


There are several different fittings for the Pessoa, depending on the horse’s level of training. By far the most common way for attachment is pictured: above the hock, clipped midway on the surcingle, through the bit rings, ending between the front legs. This encourages the horse to work rounder and lower, stretching the topline to encourage the “rugby ball” shape. With a more experienced and balanced horse, they can warm up like this and then have the end clips moved up to the top of the surcingle to simulate the position of the riders hands, encouraging the horse to work in a slightly more uphill frame through the wither, while still in self-carriage and pushing from behind.


The feeling of containment, whilst one that we encourage more and more throughout a horse’s life, is initially a very claustrophobic one for a flight animal. Too tight, and the horse may panic and throw itself over. Too loose, and the dangly ropes are not only ineffective but a tangling risk.

Horses can learn to lean quite comfortably on themselves and may need to be pushed forward more to lighten in front. On the other side, a horse that is particularly shy in the contact will tuck his nose in and suck away from the bit, not pushing forward, as he might not like the lack of steady pressure on the mouth.

The Pessoa, being on a pulley system, can also slide a little to the horse’s favourite side. It may need to be shifted back into the correct place when changing rein, and if the horse consistently shifts it due to severe one-sidedness, then long-reining (where the handler can control the straightness directly) will be a better option.

Horses also commonly kick out at the feeling of something toughing their hocks – try not to panic, but gently push them forward. If they are reluctant to go forward, make sure that it is not too tight to begin with that they feel they can “go somewhere”, and try maintain the rhythm until the horse relaxes into the frame. If the horse wants to shoot forward away from the back rope try keeping his head bent slightly in towards you and not letting the circle get too big. If the horse is particularly sensitive about his hindquarters you can desensitise him first by lunging with a crepe bandage tied from the girth, around the hindquarters, and back to the girth. This arrangement will not change pressure with the frame, thus allowing them to get comfortable and confident working like that before upgrading to the Pessoa.


Colour code the ropes in the beginning if you have trouble remembering which goes where! Also remember to only put it on once in the lunging arena in case the horse does panic. The ends of the ropes can tend to fray, so to ensure longevity tape them. Make sure the pulleys turn easily and don’t jam, and once you and your horse are confident, don’t be shy to experiment with other settings: it’s a great way to develop an eye for how small changes can alter the biomechanics of your horse.

Side Reins ~ Georgina Roberts




There are different types of side reins but the most common have an elastic insert. They buckle around the girthstrap / onto the appropriate height surgingle ring, and clip onto the bit. They can be fitted higher or lower depending on the frame that the rider is hoping to achieve.



A horse that is fidgety or snatchy in the contact. They can pull against the contact but there will only be resistance until they give in to the pressure. It also encourages them so be still and confident in the contact as it is not erratic and stays steady.



A horse that hangs on the contact would be better suited to something more mobile, like the Pessoa rein (see next month of Equilife) as a side-rein will just encourage this. Also unsuitable would be a very physically immature horse lacking in topline – they need more substance before they can sustain a frame, and as the side-rein is primarily to improve connection they would benefit more from something that encourages a greener “long and low frame”, such as the Halsverlenger (or neck elastic).



Many people who do not like side reins have fitted them too tightly to begin with and the horse has panicked. They should be fitted slightly loosely to begin with that the horse may just get a hint of the contact on the other side, and gradually shortened until the poll is the highest point and the face is on the vertical. A side rein that is also too loose will have no benefit.



(pictures) Ideally the horse should be lunged off of a lunge cavesson, that the horse is purely getting a rein aid from the unemotional and consistent side rein, which will encourage the correct feeling. Remember that just as with riding, the side reins should be completely disconnected intermittently to allow the horse to stretch it’s neck and have a “free walk” to relax before being reconnected. Also remember as with any true connection, it is essential that the horse is active and forward in the work that the energy comes through from behind and ends solidly but lightly in the hand. If the horse is hiding behind the vertical and creates a slack in the side rein, this is an indication that they need to be pushed forward more positively.



Do not apply the side reins too tight to begin with or the horse may panic and rear up on feeling so restrained; horses are claustrophobic by nature and this is their instictive reaction. Also beware letting the horse lean on the side rein, thus becoming dead in the contact. Do not lead horses out of the stable with the side rein on; let them walk freely to the arena and then put them on, so that if they do brace against it you can encourage them forward and into the contact.