The bight is the excess rein that extends beyond your hands to the buckle as you hold the reins. I am sure many of you know that, but just in case I thought I’d throw the definition in here.
I think there may be some tradition that requires the bight to fall to the right, or off side. Perhaps so as not to interfere with mounting from the left, another tradition, although completely practically developed out of riders carrying swords on the left hip. Perhaps the bight could have got caught up on the hilt at a gallop had it not fallen to the right? Or maybe it developed out of women riding side saddle, so the bight would not get caught up around their right ankle or something. And also, I may have read George Morris saying something about the bight falling over the reins instead of inside. Perhaps to help you keep those thumbs on top of your hands?
I do the opposite on both counts most of the time. An arbitrary or even unconscious decision long ago has turned to habit. Sometimes I try to flip the bight over the reins but it inevitably ends up back inside. Piano hands and all that. And I have the bight to the left, or near side. I do think that as I am mounting, the bight starts off on the right, but I flip it over to the left once I am in the saddle.
Although, I may have developed the habit of the bight being on the left so that it wouldn’t interfere with a pretty braid job on the right of the horse’s neck … but I’m not sure …
The habit of the bight falling to the left for me is so ingrained at this point that it feels really weird to have it on the right.
When holding the reins, where does the bight fall for you?
P.S. The cigarette card illustrations are from NYPL’s public domain content.