How to Make Barrel Reins

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Barrel reins are a necessary piece of tack for serious competitors.
Barrel reins are a necessary piece of tack for serious competitors. (Image: Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images)

Barrel racing is a high-energy, fast-paced event that pits horse and rider against the clock. Three large barrels are placed in a triangular shape in the arena, and the rider must guide the horse around the barrels and across the finish line in the shortest amount of time compared to that of the other competitors. Barrel reins are an essential piece of equipment; they allow the rider to direct the horse’s movement and stay on course. Crafting your own barrel reins allows you to customize your equipment for a perfect fit.

Things You'll Need

  • 3/16-Inch-diameter parachute cord
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Small propane torch
  • Leather work gloves
  • Heavy clamp
  • 2 Conway buckles
  • 2 Eye snaps

Protect your hands with a pair of gloves, and cut three 9-foot-long sections of parachute cord. Melt the cut ends with a small propane torch. This keeps the cord from unraveling as you braid.

Hold the cord sections side by side between your thumb and forefinger. Heat one end of the cords with the torch, squeezing the melted ends together with your free hand. Pinching the cords together holds them in place and prevents separation as you braid.

Clamp the melted end of the cord to a work bench, and start braiding the cord. Apply steady pressure as you work to keep the braid even, braiding the entire length of cord. Melt the remaining end of cord together as directed in Step 2 to secure your braided reins. Braiding the cord shortens it slightly, so the finished reins will be approximately 8 feet long.

Tie an overhand knot every 16 inches along the length of the reins. These knots make the reins easier to grip while the horse runs at top speed.

Thread a conway buckle over each end of the reins, and loop the ends through the bottom ring on an eye snap. Secure the end of the reins through the bottom of the conway buckles, and clip your newly crafted barrel reins onto your bridle.

Tips & Warnings

  • Parachute cord, conway buckles and eye snaps can be bought at most large hardware stores.
  • If you don’t have a propane torch, a large lighter or gas-stove burner works well for melting the cord.

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