What is “Plow Reining?”

Left hand holding both reins of a double bridle.

There’s an old pop song that goes “we live in two different worlds.” I often feel that way about horseback riding. The one world, the cow-horse world that I grew up in, is a place where reins are held in the left hand while the right-hand opened the gates, shook hands with friends, coiled a lariat rope, and waved to people driving by on the paved road. In the other world, I ride with people wearing helmets and gloves and riding breeches who always ride with the rein in each hand. The cowboys and horse trainers would do that on a young horse, they called it “Plow reining” but when a horse got educated enough to use doing ranch work, the reins were always in only one hand, usually the left. I got to thinking that two-handed must be the European way to ride. Then I saw Reiner Klimke riding in an old film carrying a double bridle in one hand and dressage whip held straight up in the other. Now we see Portuguese and Spanish working equitation riders with the reins in the left-hand, as they work with their Lance called a “garrocha.”

An old man offered his horse to a young person to ride one time, the kid picked up the reins in two hands. After a bit the kids comment was “he seems confused!” The old man said

“heck, he ain’t confused, it’s just he ain’t been plow reined since a two-year-old, he’s insulted!”

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