She just got into horses this last year and has been taking dressage lessons in Florida. Dressage riders typically ride collected up on a short rein, so it's been a challenge for her to adjust to riding on a totally loose rein.
Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with collecting my horse up, but I think it's also very valuable to learn to ride with no reins. I've found that beginning riders tend to want to balance themselves on their reins rather than their seat. Removing reins from the equation for a time allows students to realize that they don't need to be in the horse's face to direct him--they can begin to use their body to guide him.
Below are two terrific examples of horses performing on cue without reins. The first is Stacy Westfall--a professional horse trainer who specializes in reining. She was the first woman to compete in and win the "Road to the Horse" competition. In 2006 she won the American Quarter Horse Congress Freestyle Reining competition on the black mare, Whizards Baby Doll, riding both bridleless and bareback. The video of this ride went viral on the internet and brought Westfall to the attention of the non-horse world (Wikipedia).
The second is a video of a dressage rider that showed up a few weeks back on my Facebook news feed. I don't know anything about the rider, but I found the ride very impressive since, with my admittedly limited understanding of dressage, trainers are usually encouraging riders to use the reins to collect up more and more. This horse is able to perform all the maneuvers with just a simple cord around her neck.
C., I know you've been following my blog for the last several months, so you knew something like this was coming! Hope you enjoy!