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Q: Can you tell me what Jessie Dudley-Apicella was using on Pam’s Little Star when she won the private driving championship at British Driving Society (BDS) East Anglia? It runs from the saddle pad to the poll, as far as I can make out. Is it a form of bearing rein? I have not seen one before and would be interested to know what it does.
JE, Lincolnshire

What is it?

According to young Hackney driver Jessie Dudley-Apicella, this is a specialist piece of kit
called a top rein. While it may look similar to bearing reins — which are not allowed in BDS competitions — it actually has the opposite effect.

What do they do?

“The top rein is designed to hold the horse’s head up properly — rather like a balancing rein,” explained Jessie, who uses it on her eye-catching pony Pam’s Little Star because she has a tendency to go on the forehand. “It encourages them to gradually build up the correct muscles. You can’t just put it on, though. You have to get the horse used to it slowly.”

What are the rules?

Jessie uses it at home as well as in competitions. According to the BDS, a top rein is acceptable for Hackney turnout classes but it must be fitted and used correctly.

The top reins should be made from rolled leather — not cord, as used in hackney show wagon classes.

Who uses them?

The reins are popular with many other Hackney drivers including four-times harness horse of the year champion Jean Claydon. Cynthia Haydon used them on her coaching team and private driving turnouts.

Where can I get some?

Jessie’s father, harness-maker Jeff Dudley, made the reins for her.

“It is a specialist bit of kit so you have to have one made,” said Jessie. “My show one costs about £80 and the clips cost around £15.”

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (30 October, ’08)