Top Tips on How to Give and Retake the Reins

Joanna Fisher
Joanna Fisher

International Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Joanna Fisher answers a question about..


How to give and retake the reins over the centre line during a test?

The judges are looking for a specific thing when marking this movement. They are looking to see that the horse maintains the same rhythm balance and outline over the period of time where the rider releases the reins, which is generally over the centre line, this movement is normally done in canter and on a circle, it can also be done across the diagonal but generally in canter at higher levels and at lower levels it is done in trot.

But how does one go about preparing their horse for this movement in a test?

I find the easiest way to prepare my horse for this movement is to begin on a circle in trot and put the horse into a very slight shoulder in which enables the hind leg to take the balance and the weight, whilst maintaining the correct bend, and then start by putting my hand forward for one stride and gradually as the horse gains confidence, rhythm and balance I can increase this to putting my hand up and forward for two to three strides.

This does take a few weeks until the horse is confident enough to maintain the same rhythm, the same balance, the same outline whilst my hand is forward and it’s always important to give praise to the horse when it maintains this , always remember, the voice is a free aid and horses like encouragement just like people do!

Then gradually as the horse builds up strength, you can start this exercise in canter on a circle putting the horse into a slight shoulder in so you have the correct bend and placing your hand up and forward for one stride and then two strides and then three strides.

Remember in a test the judge is looking for you to release the rein contact for around 3 strides so quickly putting your hand up and forward or only putting one hand up and forward is going to be spotted and you’re going to be penalised in your mark!
Good luck and always enjoy training new movements!

Joanna has written a collection of children’s books based on her horses over the years.

It has been published by award winning Candy Jar books and currently available in Waterstones and being read in schools. Click here to link to her website: She also has a dressage website which can be found at

For more advice from Joanna, why not visit her other blog posts here:


Do I need a dressage saddle to do dressage


How Can I make my Pony Stop Leaning on me?


Help My Dressage Circles are oval


What Age should I teach my horse flying changes?


How to turn a leg yield into a half pass


How can I teach my horse shoulder in?


How should I prepare for a dressage test?


Should I do Sitting Trot in My Dressage Test?


Swinging Quarters Are Ruining My Dressage Halt!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *