Relinquishing Control? Dropping the Reins at all Paces

Riding Level 4: Dropping the Reins

There are many times dropping the reins is useful or necessary in mounted combat. Historical manuals show pommel strikes, grappling, cross-bow, off-hand, and half-sword plays at walk and canter.  And, of course, horseback archery is always done without a hand on the reins.  Some images show the reins looped through the left elbow (image on right) and others show them hooked over the saddle pommel or to the rider's belt (above). However, you may not always have time to achieve this during combat to achieve this in combat, so it's vital you are comfortable simply leaving them on the horse's neck as below.

At Level 3 we asked you to canter on a longe-line without reins.  For the next level the test is:

9. Drop reins & regain at all paces.

With the all the work you've been doing on the loose rein at this level, dropping the reins altogether is not a big leap.

Requirements at Level 4

You will not be asked to perform intricate movements, turns or downward transitions without reins.  You may be asked to drop and regain the reins in the middle of a 20m circle, but nothing more complicated than that.  Here's what we  are looking for:

  • You should remain confident and relaxed with or without the reins at all paces
  • Your horse should not speed up or slow down when you drop the reins
  • Your horse should remain on the path you've chosen, whether that's a straight line or a circle.  Some drift is allowable, but we want you to still be in control of your horse's direction.

Making it look easy

Like most aspects of riding, the key to this is practice.

  • Make a habit of dropping your reins periodically during your warm up or cool down.
  • If you are the only rider in the ring, practise upward transitions without the reins.
  • If you are nervous at first, place the reins over the pommel of the saddle and hold onto the pommel with one hand.  That way you can easily regain the reins without looking.
  • Even though you won't be tested on them, try downward transitions.  Still your seat, bracing your pelvis against the horse's movement and sticking to the saddle with your upper thighs (rather than calves).
  • Try simple turns using your leg and seat aids alone.  Often having a target, such as a cone or barrel to turn around makes this easier.

You may be surprised how much influence you have over your horse, even without your hands!

Ongoing & Upcoming Classes

Mounted Combat Fundamentals

This 6-week series of classes is intended to give you the basics of swordplay from the ground to prepare you for fighting from horseback.  Participants at this level will practise from the ground and the falsemount to achieve the combat skills needed to attain the rank of Green Spur. Students who have their Riding and Horsemanship Level 1 and who attend all five classes can reasonably expect to attain their Green Spur by the end of the series.  Once you have your Green Spur, you can sign up for Intermediate Mounted Combat, and can spar in our regular Playday event, as well as competing in our annual Carosella tournament.

Sundays 1pm – 3pm
23 Apr – 28 May
cost: $135 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Clinton Fernandes

Register here, or bundle with Riding & Horsemanship and save $36.

Beginner Riding & Horsemanship

If you’ve never been on a horse, or if it’s been a long time, here’s the place to start.  When you arrive at the barn at 11am, you’ll begin with a horsemanship lesson, familiarizing yourself with the horses and their tack, as well as how to groom, handle and tack them up.  Then you will have a riding lesson, working through the requirements of Riding Level 1 — the prerequisite to most of the fun stuff we do on horseback!

Saturdays, 5pm – 7pm
22 April – 27 May
cost: $300 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Stephanie Laversin

Register here, or bundle with Mounted Combat Fundamentals and save $36.

Riding & Horsemanship Level 2

This course is intended for riders who have taken classes through the program and are comfortable tacking up their own horses.  Riders should arrive at 9:30am, to tack up and warm up their horses before starting their riding lessons at 10am, followed by Horsemanship Level 2 or 3 lessons at 11am.

Saturdays, 5pm – 7pm
22 April – 27 May
cost: $300 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Stephanie Laversin

Register here, or bundle with Mounted Combat Fundamentals and save $36.

Riding Level 3+

This class is intended for independent riders who have achieved Level 2 or higher.  Riders are expected to be tacked up and warmed up prior to class.  Your own helmets, boots, and half chaps are recommended, as are safety vests for the occasional cross-country class, weather permitting.

Saturdays, 4pm – 5pm
22 April – 27 May
cost: $200 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Stephanie Laversin

Horsemanship Level 3

These classes cover the material for Horsemanship Level 3, including grooming, tack-fitting, nutrition, farriery, vet & first aid, conditioning, and shipping.  A level 3 assessement is included at the end of the series.  These series are only offered around twice a year, so don’t miss it!  Level 4 classes will begin in June.

Saturdays, 5pm – 6pm
22 April – 27 May
cost: $100 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Kate Landels

Beginner Horseback Archery

Whether you are an expert rider or archer, or a complete beginner at both, this is your starting point.  You will spend about an hour and a half on the ground learning the techniques of Hungarian archery from the Kassai school.  After that you will begin shooting from horseback while our handlers lead your mounts past the targets at the walk.  Experienced riders may have the option to try shooting at faster paces without handlers if they are competent and comfortable at the walk.

Sunday 7 May, 10am – 1pm
cost: $149 + gst
prerequisites: none

Intermediate Horseback Archery

If you have taken our Beginner course previously and have a minimum of Riding Level 1 or the equivalent this course is for you.  Riders with Level 1 will walk and trot, Level 2 Riders will be able to shoot at the canter.  Last time we practised multiple targets on canter circles — what will we get up to this time?

Sunday 7 May, 2pm – 5pm
cost: $75 + gst
prerequisites: Riding Level 1, Beginner Horseback Archery

Youth Riding & Horsemanship

This course for kids aged 6-13 will introduce your child to ponies and horses in safe, fun, and friendly series of six classes taught by Pony Club qualified instructors. Each class contains a riding lesson as well as a horsemanship lesson, where students will learn to handle, groom, and care for ponies and horses. Curriculum follows the Canadian Pony Club D level lessons and will prepare students for testing Academie Duello Mounted Combat Riding 1 or Pony Club D Level.

Thursdays 4pm – 6pm
30 Mar – 4 May
cost: $300 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Kate Landels

Ongoing Mounted Combat Mastery classes

These 2-hour sessions focus on the weapons skills needed to progress from Green to Blue Spur.  Regular tuition includes classes taken entirely from the ground (no riding skills necessary).
Sundays noon – 2pm
cost: 2 hours tuition
instructors:  Jennifer Landels

You can register for classes in person at the front desk, by calling 604 568 9907, or online here.


Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.